Few business trips from Eintracht Frankfurt have hit such a wide arc. “I would like to take my soccer shoes with me,” said Karl-Heinz Körbel, a Bundesliga record player, brand ambassador and head of the Hessian Bundesliga club’s football school. The 67-year-old, meanwhile, has recounted the circumstances of losing the European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final on 14 April 1976 in West Ham United (1: 3) so often that “Loyal Charlie”, who otherwise plays only on the traditional team, prefers to do it himself in the Europa League semi-final between West Ham and Eintracht (Thursday at 21:00, RTL). To compensate for the failure of 46 years ago.
First, the bus from the Dorchester Hotel to the Park Lane Stadium was stuck in traffic for hours, so coach Dietrich Weise instructed his players to wear the yellow jerseys on the bus, which Körbel still believes were “the most jerseys ugly in which we. have ever played “. After that, the winner of the German cup could not resist the match of English power in a “mud field” (Körbel) in Upton Park, which has since been destroyed.
The “Czechs” have been playing in the London Olympic Stadium since 2016, where two representatives of the upper middle class of the Premier League and the Bundesliga are already dueling, two who to some extent have admitted that the strongest clubs have surpassed them financially. Their only triumphs on the international stage are long ago: West Ham won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 against 1860 Munich (2-0), Eintracht won the already renamed UEFA Cup against Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1980 (2 – 3, 1-0).
“Now there is no fatigue, now there is joy,” says coach Glasner
Its successor, the Europa League, is now highly regarded by two traditional brands with a large fan base. West Ham, seventh in the Premier League, is the team with the fewest goals conceded, having eliminated Europa League specialists Sevilla FC and Olympique Lyon; Eintracht, ninth in the Bundesliga, is still unbeaten and has cheated Betis Sevilla and top favorites FC Barcelona. After the sensation in the “game of the century” at Camp Nou, which was accompanied by great support from the fans, coach Oliver Glasner was furious about the “emotional reward that you can not buy for any money in the world.” These days he added: “Now there is no fatigue! Now there is joy, now there is enthusiasm, now is the time for the final.”
Board spokesman Axel Hellmann even sees an entire region in a frenzy. Balancing heart and mind is not so easy for some officials. President Peter Fischer, for example, abused the English hosts at the ZDF sports studio, who wanted to prevent the situation in Spain at all costs after 30,000 Eintracht fans in their white T-shirts hijacked the Camp Nou.
This time the guest is entitled to exactly 3000 tickets – and there should be no more German fans in the stadium. “This is the worst stupidity,” Fischer complained about the English “Zero Tolerance Policy.” He is ashamed “that we are already being threatened today: whoever we catch in the stadium and says is Eintracht, we will throw him out.” The always thrilling fisherman announced that there will definitely be more than 3000 Frankfurters in London. “There were always 10,000, 15,000 people in the cities – that’s normal for us.”
And then there was the financial aspect, the head of the supervisory board, Philip Holzer, extrapolated: “From our point of view, a participation in the semi-finals of the Europa League is as valuable as entering the group stage of the Champions League.” Coincidentally, the first class would go out if Frankfurt also won the final on May 18 in Seville – there is no other option for international participation after few appearances in the league’s daily life.
Without UEFA reforms, CEO Axel Hellmann fears a “European football monster”
On International Media Day, CEO Hellmann denounced the huge gap between European Cup competitions. If UEFA finally does not create a better financial balance here, “a monster of European football” will inevitably appear, he said; namely a Champions League, which at some point will lead to a Superleague, because the thirst for capital of the big clubs can only be quenched through it. For the European idea, however, we need medium-sized companies like those in the main metropolis, Hellmann argues, “we also like to play in Tallinn.”
But Eintracht also prefers blinding stages. Like in 2019, when after the victories against Benfica of Lisbon and Inter, the dream for the final of the Europa League exploded only on penalties in the semifinals of Chelsea. “We still have a result to settle with London,” recalls Axel Hellmann. So there is a need for correction in Eintracht beyond the life of Karl-Heinz Körbel.