Following their latest defeat, Hannover 96 are all but certain to be relegated from the Bundesliga at the end of this season. It is all the club president's fault, writes DW's Tobias Oelmaier.
Have you ever heard of Tasmania Berlin? A lot of German Bundesliga fans probably have, but only through anecdotes or reading the league's record book. This is because Tasmania is the point of reference when it comes to Bundesliga futility. In their only season in the Bundesliga, 1965-66, Tasmania earned just eight points - the fewest in the league's history. By Matchday 27 they had suffered 23 defeats, and a few more were to come by the end of the season.
This season, though, we have gained a second reference point for futility. After losing 1-0 in Frankfurt on Saturday, cellar dwellars Hannover have been on the wrong end of the scoreline a grand total of 20 times. They may not be mathematically relegated yet, but being 10 points off 16th place, which would at least put them in the relegation playoff, they have long since begun planning for the eventuality of division 2 football next season.
Head coach Thomas Schaaf described the latest defeat as "a further disappointment." Schaaf had tried everything he could think of, even going as far as to drop five players from the lineup for the Frankfurt match - without any success to show for it.
Schaaf is part of the problem. There is no question about the fact that he is a good coach. This he proved during more than a decade at Werder Bremen. However, at Hannover, he replaced the sacked Michael Frontzeck far too late in the season. To be at his best as a coach, Schaaf needs a certain tranquility, and he needs time to form a team. He also needs a harmonious environment. As all of this was apparently missing in Frankfurt, he wound up leaving at the end of last season, despite the fact that Eintracht finished ninth.
Hannover need a motivator
Schaaf is anything but what the Germans call a "firefighter," the type of coach who specializes in saving teams from relegation. And this is the sort of coach that Hannover actually need - a coach whose biggest strength is in his ability to motivate his players, one who comes with short-term fixes in his back pocket. Nico Kovac in Frankfurt and Julian Nagelsmann in Hoffenheim, both of whom have already had at least some success in their relegation battles, are a couple of examples.
However, Schaaf is not the only individual to be miscast at Hannover this season. The club spent 5.6 million euros ($6.3 million) on new players in the winter break: Marius Wolf, Iver Fossum, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Adam Szalai, Hugo Almeida and Alexander Milosevic. Not only have they been of little help, but there also hasn't been any assistance from the club's youth program.
Given all of this, it is hard to avoid the thought that a fish really does rot from the head down. So far, Martin Bader, the erstwhile unsuccessful manager at Hannover, hasn't been able to set the tone in any meaningful way. In a recent newspaper interview, Bader lamented the state of the training facilities and general state of affairs that he found when he joined the club last October. It remains to be seen how free a hand Bader will have to make the changes he sees fit.
That's because until the hiring of Bader, Martin Kind, who has been the all-powerful president of Hannover for almost 19 years, was also the sole managing director. During this time, he has gone through nine sporting directors and 12 head coaches. Sources close to the club say that he has repeatedly gotten involved in the sporting side of running the team. At the same time he enjoys the attention of the media, often making disloyal and indiscreet comments about his employees. He has even been known to make disparaging remarks about the club's fans.
Kind has announced that he intends to step down as president in 2018. That's far too late to save this venerable Bundesliga club from the drop.