As it looks now, 1. FC Magdeburg can achieve promotion to the Germany’s 2. Bundesliga this year. This possibility opened up for two reasons: First, the other teams in the Regionalliga Nord were not as constant in their performances as should have been expected and second, 1. FC Magdeburg performed admirably well.
Now why is a team that has played 4th tier football and has remained unchanged, except for four new players from other clubs and a number of players from Magdeburg’s very own youth teams, be so successful?
One reason is certainly that there is an inherent calmness in the club, a feeling that manager Dirk Heyne greatly contributes to. An example: Christopher Kullmann, a 20-year-old forward has been injured during the winter break and after his injuries healed, he is not quite up to the old level. But he still gets his games regularly, even after some abysmal performances. A different manager might not have tolerated this – but Heyne did, and with success too: Kullmann eventually scored the important 2-1 lead in the match against Union Berlin.
The calmness can be shown by another example as well. In April 2006, Aleksandar Kotuljac was injured in a match against ZFC Meuselwitz. Up to then he had been in the form of his life, had delivered the best match when Magdeburg beat eventual runners-up Plauen 5-0 just 4 days earlier. The club allowed him to heal this injury thoroughly, even though it took almost 10 months until Kotuljac was able to play again. But when he stepped on the pitch in the match against Holstein Kiel, everyone felt that he was trying hard to be in the form of that Plauen match. And in the following matches, Kotuljac scored 9 goals and has his part in Magdeburg’s 11-match unbeaten run. Another reason is the team spirit the club radiates. Not only does everybody fight and run to make up for the other’s mistakes, but no-one carries grudges for being benched, the prime example here being another forward, Danny Kukulies. He joined the club from MSV Neuruppin prior to this season, but his performances weren’t up to scratch and so he was benched – but there was no moaning about it. And when he finally got a spot in the starting line-up against Union Berlin, he also scored.
What’s very important to the team is how quickly new players are integrated, something that is especially important in the case of Frank Gerster who had had disciplinary problems at both Sachsen Leipzig and Kickers Emden, his last two clubs. But in Magdeburg, Gerster was soon an accepted player, and is one of the team’s leaders. The other two team leader’s are an obvious choice: the team captain, Mario Kallnik who has been at the club since 2001 (one of the few players not to leave when Magdeburg went bankrupt in 2002) and Kais Manai – another new player.
But even these two are special. Kallnik wasn’t in the starting line-up for the first 18 matches of the season and only got 4 games as a substitute. Yet at no point there was any doubt that he was the right choice for the captaincy and his leadership was unchallenged. With the beginning of the second half of the season, Kallnik returned to the line-up and has since established himself in the first team, although his first performances were not so good.
The same goes for Kais Manai. Apparently he was plagued by injuries in 2006 and is only now showing his full potential, but what he has shown in the past few matches, beginning with the game against Düsseldorf has been a standard of controlling the game that has only rarely been seen in Magdeburg in the past years.
The final factor to the success of this slightly strengthened Oberliga champions of 2006 is the high club identification. As an example I’ll cite Mats Wejsfelt, the Swedish defender. He has played at Babelsberg, Helsingborgs IF, IFK Malmö, Trelleborg FF and joined Magdeburg in July from Sachsen Leipzig. In the clip below he is interviewed on the plans Magdeburg have for June 2nd, the day of the last league match. On that day, 1. FC Magdeburg will play St. Pauli and it looks like both teams will be promoted.
Wejsfelt: On June 2nd, we must celebrate here together with St. Pauli.
Reporter: Together with St. Pauli?
Wejsfelt: Yes, that’s great, doesn’t get better.
Reporter: Not together with Dresden?
Wejsfelt: Nah. () Can’t say that as a Magdeburger.
So apparently, Wejsfelt has noticed the fierce rivalry between Dynamo and Magdeburg and understands the feelings of the fans.
This understanding has been demonstrated by Aleksandar Kotuljac who was recently asked which club he would not join. His answer: Dynamo Dresden, high treason is out of the question.
Regardless of the truthfulness of these statements, they show that the team is intact and the players are indeed glad to play here. This of course also endears them to their fans more than before, if that’s even possible.