Bundesliga: Bochum relegation heroes: “We have made history”

Bundesliga Bochum relegation heroes: “We have made history”

Bochum’s Tim Oermann, Ivan Ordets, Erhan Masovic and Anthony Losilla celebrate after winning the penalty shootout. Photo

© Marius Becker/dpa

After the first leg, hardly anyone would have bet a cent on Bochum. Now VfL remains in the Bundesliga – after a historic relegation drama. There is deep sadness in Düsseldorf.

Deep in the west, beer flowed in Bochum’s Bermuda Triangle entertainment district until the early hours of the morning. After one of the most exciting relegation games in history, the VfL Bochum players were overwhelmed by their comeback, which they no longer thought possible. No one was really prepared for a celebration in the locker room of the Düsseldorf European Championship stadium; the T-shirts with the print “You, Us, in Year 4” were still lying in the car.

“Let’s be honest,” said sports director Patrick Fabian. “Nobody out there would have thought anything of us,” said the 36-year-old after VfL had made up for the 0-3 defeat against Fortuna Düsseldorf in the first leg and secured their place in the league and their fourth consecutive year in the Bundesliga with a 6-5 victory in the last second on penalties.

In 25 relegation matches, there had only been one penalty shootout before – in 1988. No team had ever made up a three-goal deficit in the elimination matches. “Now we are here and we have done it. We have made history,” said interim coach Heiko Butscher, who had even had the penalty shootout on the agenda with his players in training. “These are the side stories. We did it in training and the shooters were clear,” explained the coach, who also said that the team was down for two days. “I thought every night about how we could still do it,” said captain Anthony Losilla.

Congratulations from Gündogan

There were also congratulations from a prominent former Bochum player. “Incredible! What a relegation duel! Congratulations to my youth club for staying in the league… what a comeback!” wrote national player Ilkay Gündogan from FC Barcelona on X.

The scenes that unfolded in the stadium on Monday after Düsseldorf’s Takashi Uchino missed the shot were surreal. The Düsseldorf supporters had worked on their promotion choreography, marched to the stadium and sung about their return to the Bundesliga. But the cheers then broke out in the Bochum block, and many Düsseldorf players were in tears. Perhaps there was too much talk about the celebration location and the promotion party at the town hall – ultimately the team failed due to their own nerves.

For the Bochum team, who were subjected to heavy criticism after the first leg, it was a very special experience under these circumstances. Especially for coach Butscher, who will probably work as U21 coach in Bochum again. “I’m happy that I was able to be part of this story. A lot has been thrown at me. It’s a little bit of satisfaction because many people no longer believed in it,” said the 36-year-old.

Of course, it is a goal to work in the Bundesliga as well. “I know what I can do and that I am a very good coach. I have so much humility in me. It doesn’t have to be next year, it could also be in five years,” said Butscher.

Despite staying in the league, not everything is rosy on Castroper Strasse. The future of managing director Fabian is also uncertain. The long-time Bochum professional was annoyed by criticism from his environment and internally. “Criticism is one thing. All the other untruths that are spread – I thought VfL Bochum was different. We have to do things differently. Bochum always needs the community,” said Fabian.

Tears also for the coach

The Düsseldorf team will need a few days to process everything. “They can take as much time as they want. Today was tough,” said Fortuna’s coach Daniel Thioune. The otherwise cool coach was himself feeling ill. “Half of the boys could be my sons. They were totally disappointed, they cried and as a coach you have to wipe away a few tears.”

Board member Klaus Allofs promised for the coming season: “We’re attacking again.” The best players, such as the loaned Christos Tzolis and Isaak Johannesson or Ao Tanaka, may not be able to stay in the second division because of the missed out on the extra millions in television money. Allofs still believes in the next chance. “It was another step forward. Now we have to make sure we stick with it,” he said. “Then the day will come when we get promoted.”

dpa

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