Newly promoted Cologne switched divisions but after three weeks they haven't left their place near the top of the first division table. Now fans in the city on the Rhine are wondering how long it can last.
No one thought Cologne would have much to celebrate this season
That Bayern Munich would lead the Bundesliga as the season begins was clear. That only two points would separate Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen from the Bavarians also doesn't take much imagination. But at the beginning of the month if you said Cologne would be tied on points for third place you'd have been laughed out of the stadium.
"It's no accident that we started the season so well," FC Köln coach Uwe Rapolder told German public broadcaster ARD. "There was a clear, tactical process that went from my mind to the players'."
Cologne mascot Hennes gets hydrated before motivating his team
But Rapolder's esoteric process also benefited from a little luck in the opening 1-0 win against Mainz and the gift of a missed penalty shot goal by VfB Stuttgart assured Cologne a 3-2 away victory. The real disappointment would come in the Bundesliga's third week with a 3-2 loss, this time to on an extra-time penalty kick to Kaiserslautern.
While the players were busy staging a comeback and scoring two goals, excited Cologne fans began what will no doubt be endless chants meant to push their team forward into European competition.
"As far as expectations are concerned, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to have finished three to two," Rapolder said.
Despite the loss to Stuttgart, Rapolder's players are piquing the interest of German national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann. Lukas Sinkiewicz will join teammate Lukas Podolski on the national team for the first time when they play international friendly matches against Slovakia and South Africa in the early September.
After being fired from LR Ahlen three years ago and not finding a position for over a year, Rapolder knows there are bigger problems that watching his top players tire themselves out for the national team. Equipped with a new stadium, internationally respected players and a good relationship with club management the question is whether Cologne will stay in front of the Bundesliga's other top teams.
Exactly how much Rapolder intends to achieve may change as the season progresses. Originally, his goal was not to be sent back down to the second division, but if his streak of good luck continues Cologne may pull off much more.
"We're enjoying every week we spend near the top," Rapold said. "But we can only achieve something if we're ready to run a lot and play for each other."
May never fit in with locals
Regardless of the success Rapolder brings to the city, he may never fit in with his fans who are known for consuming substantial amounts of the local Kölsch-style beer before, during and especially after games.
"Sorry, but I get sick if I so much as smell beer," he said.