National Tournaments

DFB-Pokal

The cup, they say, has its own rules. But there isn’t just that. The competition has also written some very unique stories.

And quite a lot of them, actually. The cup competition of the German Football Association (Deutscher Fussball-Bund, DFB) – basically only known as the DFB-Pokal – has provided countless interesting anecdotes during its 70-year history. Here’s a short selection proving why the DFB-Pokal remains so popular.

The first story of the German cup was written by “Der Club” on December 8th 1935 in front of 60,000 spectators in Düsseldorf’s Rheinstadion. Recording a 2-0 victory over FC Schalke 04 – then German champions – 1. FC Nürnberg became the first ever team to lift the cup. Four years later, Nürnberg were the first club to triumph a second time, but they only managed to repeat this feat in 1962 and 2007, which means they’ve long been overtaken in the all-time winners list.

In accordance with their domestic dominance, the record for the most cup titles is held by FC Bayern München, who have triumphed in the competition 16 times (19 final appearances). The Bavarian giants also achieved the highest victory in DFB-Pokal history, winning 16-1 over lower league outfit DJK Waldberg in the 1997/98 season.

However, they’ve also been on the receiving end of some major upsets. The battle of David vs. Goliath is an integral part of the special myth behind the DFB-Pokal and Bayern have suffered first round eliminations by amateur teams on three occasions (since the introduction of the Bundesliga): In 1990, they were stunned by FC 09 Weinheim. Four years later, they famously succumbed to TSV Vestenbergsgreuth and in 2000/01, they couldn’t find a way past 1. FC Magdeburg, a fifth league team at the time.

But all Bundesliga outfits have been involved in surprising and early cup exits. Hardly a season goes by without at least one established club suffering humiliation against one of the so-called “smaller teams”. The amazing run of Eintracht Trier sticks in the memory even today. During the 1997/98 season, when Trier played in the third league, they eliminated UEFA Cup winners FC Schalke 04 in the second round and claimed the scalp of UEFA Champions League holders Borussia Dortmund in the next round.

Trier didn’t end up making it to the final, but that feat has been accomplished by three other amateur sides: Hertha BSC Berlin’s reserves (vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen in 1993), Energie Cottbus (vs. VfB Stuttgart in 1997) and most recently 1. FC Union Berlin (vs. FC Schalke 04 in 2001) have all battled their way past overwhelming favourites to reach the final, where they would be denied the ultimate triumph by their respective Bundesliga opponents.

In fact, the winners list is almost solely made up of teams from the top tier. Only Kickers Offenbach (vs. 1. FC Köln in 1970) and Hannover 96 (vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1992) have managed to accomplish the unthinkable.

Another noteworthy chapter of the DFB-Pokal, whose winners have automatically gained entry to the European Cup since 1960, was written in 2000/01. In the second round, the first team of VfB Stuttgart and the club’s reserves were drawn together. The regulations have since been changed to rule out odd pairings like this until the final.

Despite the diverse history of the DFB-Pokal, it has not yet seen two teams from the same club make it to the final. However in 1983, the showpiece included two clubs from the same city, when 1. FC Köln narrowly held the upper hand in a 1-0 derby win over 2. Bundesliga outfit SC Fortuna Köln.

There was also a lot of excitement and drama just a year later, when for the first time ever, the DFB-Pokal final went to a penalty shoot-out. It was Lothar Matthäus, of all players, who missed the decisive spot kick for Borussia Mönchengladbach, handing the title to FC Bayern. It was the midfielder’s last touch for the club before joining Bayern. Another truly remarkable story in the DFB-Pokal.

Also ranking amongst the top anecdotes of the competition is a legendary move by Günter Netzer. Having made his upcoming transfer to Real Madrid public just days earlier, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s playmaker found himself on the bench when the 1973 final kicked off against 1. FC Köln. 90 minutes later, with the match level at 1-1, the German international was fed up watching the match and – without consulting with his coach Hennes Weisweiler – initiated a substitution to put himself on the pitch. Seconds later he fired home a brilliant 2-1 winner for Gladbach.

Since 1985, the story of the DFB-Pokal has taken place in the Olympiastadion in Berlin. Until then, the final was awarded to various host cities on short notice, mostly to enable a short journey for the finalists’ fans. Now the Olympiastadion in Berlin serves as the “German Wembley” and the stadium has more than stood the test.

The chant “Berlin, Berlin, we’re going to Berlin” is now an inherent part of the German fan culture and every final is played in front of a sell-out crowd. Usually all tickets (except for those contingents held back for the fans of both finalists) are sold out well before the final pairing has been decided.

Women’s football has also contributed its fair share of interesting cup stories since 1981. With eight titles to their name, 1. FFC Frankfurt have become record winners ahead of FSV Frankfurt, who have lifted the trophy five times to date. The women’s cup final has been hosted in Köln since 2010 and regularly attracts vast numbers of women’s football supporters.

The two objects of desire make for a real highlight in every club’s trophy cabinet. The women’s cup was re-modelled by Swiss designer Thomas Hug in 2010, is 60 centimetres tall and weighs eleven kilograms. Its physical value is worth around 30,000 euros, but of course the sentimental value is far greater than that.

The same applies for the men’s cup. The DFB-Pokal trophy is 54 centimetres tall, weighs 6.25 kilograms and has been crafted using gold-plated sterling silver, 210 grams of pure gold as well as 12 tourmalines, 12 rock crystals and 18 nephrites. The cup, which can hold up to eight litres of beer or champagne, hence making it the perfect celebration tool, had to be elongated by five centimetres in 1991 because it had run out of space for engraving the names of future winners.

Ten years later, in 2001, the trophy required another overhaul as Rudi Assauer, sporting director of the then victorious FC Schalke 04, dropped it while celebrating. The cup was significantly damaged but Rudi Assauer took full responsibility for all repair costs and not only was it a great deed, it became another one of the many funny and colourful stories surrounding the competition.

Football fans in Germany can look back on a wealth of interesting anecdotes as well as the media to pick up on various stories now and again. In 2011, new commercial rights for the DFB-Pokal campaigns 2012/2013 through 2015/16 were awarded. Regarding free to air rights, the competition was awarded to ARD for the four-year cycle, while in the pay TV sector, cooperation was extended with Sky. The pay TV broadcaster airs all DFB-Pokal matches live and via simulcast, starting with the first round. The centralised perimeter advertising continues to be conducted by Infront Sports & Media AG.