The dust having finally settled on Eintracht Braunschweig's dramatic promotion to Bundesliga 2 after just one season away, the Lions are all set to begin preparations for an exciting challenge in Germany's second tier.
The Lower-Saxony based side - relegated on 13 May last year - gathered with around 2,000 fans at the Eintracht-Stadion soon after it was confirmed they had achieved automatic promotion, along with the third division winners, FC Magdeburg. But what a nervous 24 hours it was for Die Löwen, who were fearing the worst when they went down 3-2 to SV Meppen on the penultimate day of the season. That result opened the door for fellow promotion chasers, FC Kaiserslautern, the team with whom Braunschweig have been involved in an epic battle for large parts of the campaign.
Incredibly, Kaiserslautern would lose for a third consecutive time in what was their final fixture of the season, a visit to Viktoria Cologne. That Viktoria ensured their third-division status as a result, only added to the drama and, ironically, Viktoria will face Eintracht on the last day of the season in Braunschweig. For Kaiserslautern, meanwhile, there is the consolation of a promotion/relegation play-off against Dynamo Dresden.
"We're back in the second division, albeit from the sofa!" Eintracht president, Nicole Kumpis, said in reference to everyone related to the club looking on from afar to what unfolded in Kaiserslautern's last match. "It's absolutely amazing," Kumpis added. "The past two days have been an absolute rollercoaster ride but but we knew we still had several match points whatever happened, so we didn't drive home [after the Meppen defeat] too depressed," the club president continued. "We made it from the sofa today. It would have been nicer next week in front of a sold-out stadium, but it’s also fantastic like this," he concluded.
Captain and goalkeeper, Jasmin Fejzic, one of Eintracht's key figures in their return to the second tier having managed a division joint-top total of 16 clean sheets during the team's successful run, said, "It's come a day later than expected, but it's still outstanding. I have to say, I was more nervous [watching the Kaiserslautern game] than before [playing our] match because it's not in your hands," the 25-year-old Bosnia and Herzegovina native continued. "We watched the game together; it was great fun. We cheered for Cologne. In the end it was enough and it's a great feeling."
Eintracht were one of the Bundesliga's founder members and won the title in 1967. They last played in Germany's top division in the 2013/14 campaign, the first time the Lions had featured in the Bundesliga for 28 years.
They came close to a return to the top five years ago but ultimately lost a play-off against local rivals Wolfsburg. Now back in the second division after a campaign in which Michael Schiele's side boasted the second-best defence and the best overall away record, fans of Braunschweig are filled with pride once again, and excitement for a new season ahead in Bundesliga 2.
Along with the aforementioned Fejzic, versatile forward Lion Lauberbach weighed in with 12 goals and five assists during the current season while Maurice Multhaup added seven goals and three assists from out wide. Defensive midfielder Jannis Nikolaou, meanwhile, has been one of the division's most consistently highly-rated players, with Brian Behrendt a more than reliable presence in defence.
"We played a great season, we deserved it," defender Nikolaou said of his side's promotion. "The cohesion in this team is just incredible. We earned it throughout the season; we've been very consistent and we've always worked together."
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