There are 74,322 fans in the Olympiastadion and millions of others watching in front of their TV screens all around the world. A city has come to a standstill. With its unbelievable atmosphere, the DFB-Pokal final in Berlin this year was a celebration of German football. It was a special day for Eintracht Frankfurt, who caused the biggest upset in the competition’s recent history with their victory over FC Bayern. Surely no Frankfurt fan will ever forget the 3-1 win in the capital and the celebrations that followed. Ante Rebić definitely won’t.
On the day that he wrote his name into the history books, Ante Rebić couldn’t find many words, at least in public. During the celebrations after the win in the Olympiastadion, he gave no interviews. However, he did give a small message of thanks to Niko Kovač, the former Frankfurt boss, for making it possible for him to score two goals in the final and lift the DFB-Pokal.
There was a great reception in Frankfurt the following day, when tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets and balconies as the team travelled through the city on an open-top bus. However, Rebić was still somewhat reserved in terms of saying anything publicly. He was the hero of “the wonder of Berlin”, he controlled the atmosphere in front of thousands of Frankfurt fans and put in a phenomenal performance. He left it to others to do the talking, with Prince Boateng revealing the pair’s formula for success after the game: “Play the ball long, bro!” This is what Rebić had said to the midfielder during the game, with Boateng answering: “I’ll play it long, bro.” That’s how it went down on the day in Berlin.
It took Ante Rebić a while to realise what 19th May 2018 meant – both for him and the club. One game changed his life. 90 minutes in front of an audience of millions. Two goals and a world-class performance had catapulted Ante Rebić, from a small town called Imotski in Croatia, to world-wide fame – nothing was the same. All at once he was the star, the difference-maker, and his career really took off. Shortly after the final win, he finished as a runner-up with Croatia at the World Cup. Rebić played six of their seven games at the tournament and scored a goal against Argentina. The forward’s market value skyrocketed and his received numerous offers after the “game of his life,” as goalkeeper Lukáš Hrádecký described it. However, Rebić extended his contract in Frankfurt to continue what he had started in Berlin. As a player, he’s ruthless, fearless, aggressive and quick. He chases down every ball like a predator pursuing its prey. He’s a player who never leaves the opposition alone; he’s always there, like a thorn in their side, ready to punish them at any moment. He the definition of ‘difference-maker’ on a football pitch, and that’s why he’s such an important part of Frankfurt’s attacking trio, alongside Sebastién Haller and Luka Jović.
It took a while for Rebić to show his ability like he did in Berlin, and it took time and a lot of patience for him to get to this stage. His mentor, Niko Kovač, knew how to get the best out of him. “As a coach, you have to turn a blind eye, sometimes even look away altogether,” said the current FC Bayern head coach. Rebić was not always “a rocket”, as Boateng described him. He was inconsistent, unsettled, and would get bogged down by the little things. “Sometimes he’d do great things, and sometimes he’d drive me insane. Sometimes he ran himself ragged in training, other times the journalists standing outside moved more than him,” said Kovač. However, he managed to change his ways.
Until Eintracht Frankfurt won the DFB-Pokal on 19th May 2018, they hadn’t won anything in 30 years. Therefore, it’s no wonder that Chairman Axel Hellmann had high praise after so long without success: “The players have written history.” Eintracht Frankfurt were finally at the table again, getting rid of their public image of ‘just another Bundesliga team’. There was no better team to beat in the final than giants FC Bayern. The win in Berlin, one of the biggest upsets in recent DFB-Pokal history, came just at the right time for Frankfurt. “We’ve been riding the wave since then, even with our sponsors. There has been a lot more demand since the competition,” said Hellmann. Frankfurt are as solid as they have been for a long time financially, and they’re building highly-modern offices in the city centre in the next few years, branching out to several new markets.
Eintracht Frankfurt qualified for the Europa League through winning the DFB-Pokal, and the city now has more success to celebrate. Frankfurt were handed a challenging group, but they have already qualified for the knockout round after just four of their six games. Six months ago, Ante Rebić had the game of his life. Eintracht Frankfurt have been flying high ever since, and they’re showing no signs of coming down.###more###