After 28 years, Eintracht Braunschweig are returning to the Bundesliga. An injury-time goal gave the Lower Saxony club a 1-0 victory over Ingolstadt to assure them promotion with three games to spare.
It was all celebrations after the match in Bavaria on Friday for Braunschweig. Players and officials congratulated one another on the pitch while fans back home took to the streets in celebration.
"A huge dream has come true for us and the whole of Braunschweig," Coach Thorsten Lieberknecht, who was first appointed in 2008 and helped the club achieve promotion from the third division in 2011, told Sky TV. "It is an unbelievable day for us."
Younger football fans might be forgiven for considering nearby clubs Wolfsburg and Hannover to be the region's most famous teams. But Braunschweig, a member of the Bundesliga's inaugural season in 1963, have managed to make a lasting mark on German football despite spending the majority of their Bundesliga-era existence in the second tier.
They surprised many to finish champions in 1967 with a team that featured West Germany internationals Horst Wolter and Lothar Ulsass. In 1973, Günter Mast, head of head of herbal liquer Jägermeister and the future club president, tweaked league rules to make his company logo the team logo, thus creating the Bundesliga's first jersey sponsor.
Four years later it was Mast who orchestrated the surprise signing of star West Germany international Paul Breitner from Real Madrid for a then league record of 1.5 million marks (750,00 euros). But the experiment failed and after a single season in the north, Breitner left Braunschweig for a second stint at Bayern Munich.
Return to success
After spending most of their nine decades of existence as a top-flight club, Braunschweig suffered relegation in 1985. That setback proved to be impossible to overcome until Friday, when midfielder Damir Vrancic fired his club to a 1-0 victory in the 92nd minute. The win gave Braunschweig a 13 point lead over third-place Kaiserslautern, who have just four games left to play.
"Twenty-eight years are enough," said Dominick Kumela, the star striker whose 19 goals this season currently make him top scorer of the second division. "We are back."
Lieberknecht, who has led a return to the Bundesliga flight despite the club's investing just 50,000 euros ($65,000) over the past two years, acknowledged the impressive accomplishment.
"I am an extremely proud coach today. We have played a dream season," he said. "I really can't believe what we have achieved."
Braunschweig join capital club Hertha Berlin as the second team to achieve promotion to Germany's top flight this season.
dr/mkg (dpa, SID, AP, Reuters)