Half an hour by U-Bahn from Frankfurt there's a little city called Darmstadt. It isn't as big as Frankfurt, Wiesbaden or even Mannheim, but it has something very special; one of the coolest stories football has ever told.
Darmstadt is a small place, quick to travel through, too quick to notice. Even though the ICE stops in Darmstadt once or twice a day, it isn't close to being important or even relevant, nor is it historically important. It is a very usual German town with the usual things. There are buses, trains, trams and S-Bahn, cars, buildings, beautiful churches and a football team. The latter is something very odd however, as the team from the city half an hour from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof has made the most incredible journey. This is a club that not too many years ago played fifth tier football in Hessen, Germany. This is a club that had no money to spend, no actual future or prospects, but it had one thing; a rich history. Or at least a richer history than most other clubs in the fifth tier of Hessen.
1981 was the last time this heroic little club played Bundesliga football and when they were relegated it looked like they would go right back up, but they didn't. They fell right through and found themselves in a tricky situation without money or good enough players. But, just like Bournemoth has done in England, they somehow managed to pull themselves together through a consistent string of marvellous performances against teams they perhaps should have lost to. Likewise, here they are, ready to take on the world and they are almost clear of relegation in their first season in Bundesliga since '81. The manager Dirk Schuster has somehow made it possible and it seems like he is a man capable of miracles, because that is what this is. It's a miracle.
A few seasons back when they were new to 3. Liga, they signed Dirk Schuster as coach and one of the first things he did was to sign stalwart defender Aytac Sulu from Austrian club Altach. The defender has now scored 11 goals in 111 league appearences for die Lilien from Hessen. Darmstadt were promoted from 3. Liga with Dirk Schuster at the helm in 2013/2014 and in 2014/2015 they finished second in 2. Bundesliga through a sensational free kick from left winger Kempe. The goal equalized the score at home against Kaiserslautern, another promotion candidate, and it was enough to promote the club to Bundesliga for the first time since '81.
This season started off brilliantly for Darmstadt as they went the first games of the season unbeaten, but has since dropped in form and the recent win at home against FC Ingolstadt, who finished first in 2. Bundesliga last season, was only their second win at home this campaign. However, their record away from home has been notthing else than spectacular. They have now gone six games unbeaten and seem to be rid of their relegation woes, which is remarkable considering the fact that almost every expert predicted them to finish 18th in the league. However, as often happens, they have surprised us all. And it has been an amazing journey, a fairy tale that continues.
As the massive self-proclaimed self-proclaimer I am, I have already proclaimed myself a hipster and I must admit that I predicted that they'd finish 15th this season, but more on that later. Oh, and it feels certain that Sandro Wagner is the reincarnation of Hercules. Or at least Hercule Poirot. Nevermind.
Axel Falk, editor and not the reincarnation of Hercule Poirot.
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