Following several years and some challenging times, Magdeburg are heading back to Bundesliga 2 in fine style after the team from the former East clinched the 3. Liga championship with three games to spare.
Spectacular scenes at the MDCC-Arena provided the perfect, celebratory backdrop to Magdeburg's 3-0 victory against FSV Zwickau that confirmed Christian Titz's side were once again headed to the second tier following relegation back in 2019.
Promotion signals a remarkable turnaround for Magdeburg, who just this time last year were battling the drop to Germany's regional leagues.
"A tremendous team spirit is one of our strengths," Titz said as elated fans celebrated with their heroes, who have lit up the third division with some scintillating football as they sat in top spot for the majority of the season.
Indeed, such is the team's dominance, that they hold a nine-point lead over nearest rivals Kaiserslautern going into the tail-end of the season.
Ringing the changes at the start of the current campaign, sporting director Otmar Schork and Titz, who he hired in February 2021, oversaw an upheaval that brought 19 players to the club, with the same number heading for the exit door. Incredibly, things quickly began to gel, with the side from Saxony-Anhalt picking up three wins a draw in their opening four games of 2021/22.
In attack, Baris Atik exploded out the blocks, the versatile winger showing he was just as adept at scoring as providing assists. Tobias Müller represented leadership from the back, while new signing Luca Schuler was off the mark in his team's very first game.
Magdeburg were on top of the table in September following victory against Kaiserslautern, and since then, have never relinquished their grasp at the head of the standings. When they last won the third division championship in 2017/18, it was Magdeburg's first ever promotion to Bundesliga 2, and now there again, they will be eager to make their stay longer this time around.
At the weekend, a record crowd of 26,300 turned up for the victory against Zwickau, which came about thanks to goals from Jason Ceka, a Davy Frick own goal and Kai Brünker's 88th-minute cherry on the cake. Atik provided two assists in the victory, bringing his overall haul to 18 goals and 20 assists for the season, the highest-ever combined tally in the third division.
The only team from the former East Germany to have ever won a European title - Magdeburg were Cup Winners' Cup champions in 1974 - the blue and whites were also three-time DDR-Oberliga winners during the same decade. Following reunification, however, things deteriorated and Magdeburg battled financial difficulties as they fluctuated between Germany's lower leagues.
Demolishing the old Ernst-Grube-Stadion and building the Stadion Magdeburg in its place back in 2006 highlighted the club's ambitions. It would be over 10 years before they would achieve a long-held aim of making it to the second-tier, however, and now there for only the second time, they are determined to see out the remainder of the current campaign on a high.
"The coach has made it very clear that we don't go to [Eintracht] Braunschweig just to party," captain Müller said of his team's encounter this coming weekend. "We want to play our game and win - something that's true for all of our last three encounters," he added.
Magdeburg's determination to succeed this season was encapsulated prior to last weekend's championship-winning victory, when Titz - who had previous coaching spells and Hamburg and Rot-Weiss Essen - led his side to an incredible 5-4 victory against SC Verl, Tatsuya Ito scoring the game's winning goal in the 88th minute.
"These players have have taken a development step here at the club [this season]," the tactician said of his charges. "We do a lot of individual analysis and show the players what they did well and where there is room for improvement," he continued. "We also want to win the next games. We are greedy and don't want to let up."
The preparation for the remaining three matches was put on hold, briefly, following the weekend success, with the players being given a deserved few days off following their historic efforts.
"It's going to be a long night with little sleep," Müller beamed. "I'll probably have to take three days off before I'm back on my feet," he added.
Once the city of Magdeburg is back on its feet following a memorable season by their footballing heroes, the dreaming of what might be possible in Bundesliga 2 can begin in earnest.
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