THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

For the first time the second tier will have more title winners than the top division

5 August ~ For the first time ever, Bundesliga 2 hosts a higher number of former national champions than the top division. Tonight, Kaiserslautern and Hannover 96 contest the inaugural match of the new season. A pairing like that wouldn't look out of the place in the Bundesliga given that those two sides share no less than six national championships between them. Indeed, preceding the set-up of the Bundesliga, Kaiserslautern and Hannover met in the 1954 national final, the rank outsiders from the north thumping their more illustrious opponents 5-1.

They are not the only former giants currently in the 18-team second tier, though. During this season, they will play Nuremburg (last champions in 1968 but, having amassed nine such trophies overall, still second in the all-time standings) and Stuttgart (League winners as recently as 2007).

TSV 1860 Munich and my team, Eintracht Braunschweig, as well as Kaiserslautern, have won national titles during the Bundesliga period. Hannover, Fortuna Düsseldorf, SpVgg Greuther Fürth and Karlsruher were champions earlier. And two promoted clubs, Erzgebirge Aue and Dynamo Dresden, won the East German league a multitude of times.

This amounts to no less than 11 former national champions at that level – more than can be found in Bundesliga 1 (a mere ten). Part of the reason is revealed by looking at early Bundesliga end-of-the-season rankings: while the first seven years (1963-70) yielded seven different champions (including Bayern Munich winning what, at that time, was only the clubs's second title) the subsequent 46 years of titles have been shared by only eight teams, more than half of those, 24 in total, going to Bayern.

With the current distribution of wealth pretty much cemented, continuously well-run sides such as Mainz 05, Augsburg or Freiburg have almost no chance of emulating the successes of the older Traditionsklubs. Among current non-champions, only Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig have access to the sort of funds that might given them a chance to rectify this situation.

The top few clubs – those that nearly always end up in Europe – shouldn't have cause to fear being drawn into a scrap near the bottom. Below them though, there's quite a number of teams whose proud history tends to create an illusionary sense of entitlement that makes them (and their supporters) ill-suited to battling it out with other also-rans, which leads to overspending, rash decisions, sackings, and, in quite a few cases, even relegation. We may yet see this season, if recent strugglers Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt are the next such teams from the Bundesliga to drop down a level. Peter Schimkat

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