Former champions almost fell to fourth tier
19 May ~ Eintracht Braunschweig are back in Germany's Bundesliga for the first time in 28 years. One of the league's founding members in 1963, Braunschweig won the title in 1967 but since the mid-1980s have been languishing in the second and third divisions. Now the city in Lower Saxony, where football was allegedly first played in Germany, can look forward to welcoming the likes of Bayern Munich and local rivals Hannover 96 next season. From the opening-day win over favourites Cologne it has been a remarkable season for the Lions.
That match set the tone for their unexpected success and they remained unbeaten for the first 14 games of the season, earning the status of Herbstmeister (autumn champions) at the halfway stage. Though their form in the second half of the season has not been quite so strong, they have never dropped out of the automatic promotion places. A last-minute free-kick from Damir Vrancic at Ingolstadt secured their promotion with three games to spare, 13 points ahead of third-placed Kaiserslautern.
The main man behind this success story has been manager Torsten Lieberknecht. Having played for Braunschweig from 2003 to 2007 and then become manager of the youth team, Lieberknecht took charge of the first team in May 2008 with Eintracht on the brink of relegation to the fourth tier. He kept them up on the final day of the season and, after steady improvement in the next few seasons, Braunschweig won promotion back to the second level in 2011. Following a comfortable mid-table finish last term the team have cruised to promotion – a feat that even surprised their boss, who said that at the start of the season their aim was consolidation.
Braunschweig do not have a great deal of money, nor do they have any household names in their side. But what they do have is a strong fanbase, a talented manager and a lot of spirit, not to mention Congolese striker Domi Kumbela, whose 19 goals this season played a big part in their success. They will need to draw on all of these strengths if they are to survive in the Bundesliga. Joseph Rutter