Cologne are back in the big time after a one-year absence, and one of the Bundesliga’s most passionate set of fans will be out to make their mark after winning Bundesliga 2 by a distance.
bundesliga.com gives you the lowdown on the Bundesliga’s first-ever champions…
With over 100,000 members, 1. FC Köln – known in English as FC Cologne – is the fourth largest club in Germany after Bayern Munich, Schalke and Borussia Dortmund. They were the first champions of the Bundesliga era, winning the 1963/64 season by six points back when only two were awarded for a win, scoring in all 30 games and leading the table on every Matchday bar the fourth. They would finish the second season in second place as well as reach the quarter-finals of the European Cup where they went out to Liverpool on a coin toss (which had to be repeated after the first attempt stuck upwards in the mud). They remained one of the Bundesliga’s dominant forces throughout the 1970s, winning their second title in 1977/78. That came the same year they retained the DFB Cup, making them one of just four teams to win the double in the Bundesliga era. They would also reach the 1986 UEFA Cup final, losing 5-3 on aggregate to Real Madrid. All in all, Cologne finished in the top four 14 times in the first 29 Bundesliga seasons, won the DFB Cup four times and reached five further finals.
Watch: Cologne's top 5 goals in 2018/19!
The good times would soon come to an end, however, and in 1998 they were relegated for the first time. The Billy Goats (so called because of their mascot Hennes, himself named after legendary coach Hennes Weisweiler) would become a classic yo-yo club, alternating relegations and promotions over the following decade. In 2001/02, they went 1,034 minutes without scoring (over 11 games), which is the longest drought in Bundesliga history. The following years, however, would see the breakthrough of local boy Lukas Podolski. Known as “Prinz Poldi”, he would go on to score 86 goals in 181 appearances across two three-year spells for the club. When Cologne returned to the Bundesliga in 2014 having won Bundesliga 2 under Peter Stöger, there was a feeling the good times had returned as they finished a comfortable 12th. Under the Austrian, the Billy Goats would then finish ninth and fifth as they made a return to European football for the first time in a quarter of a century. However, things quickly turned sour as the club endured its worst ever Bundesliga campaign. They finished bottom, 11 points off safety, having waited 17 games for their first win of the season. As they often have done, Cologne have now bounced back from that relegation with another promotion, winning Bundesliga 2 with by far the most goals of any team.
3x German champions (1962, 1964, 1978)
4x Bundesliga 2 (2000, 2005, 2014, 2019)
4x DFB Cup (1968, 1977, 1978, 1983)
Markus Anfang was the man in the hotseat for the first 31 games of their promotion campaign, leading the table for the majority of the season, but he was relieved of his duties with three matches remaining and the club six points ahead of the third-place play-off spot. Andre Pawlak stepped up from the reserves to see out the end of the season and see promotion over the line. The Billy Goats will be looking for a new permanent head coach for their new Bundesliga campaign.
While a season in the second tier has allowed new attacking midfielders Dominick Drexler and Louis Schaub to flourish with 16 and 11 assists respectively, and Jhon Cordoba has finally settled in after a year with 17 goals, Simon Terodde has blitzed the opposition with his 28 goals in 30 Bundesliga 2 games. He is now just four goals short of becoming the division’s all-time record goalscorer (currently 117) but will need to find his scoring boots in the top flight, where he has just seven in 35 games, if Cologne are to avoid another dip in their yo-yo.
Cologne came into the 2018/19 Bundesliga 2 season as favourites and have (mostly) lived up to that role. Their promotion has rarely looked in doubt and the Billy Goats have led the table for 18 of the 32 Matchdays so far, yet there have been blips. They failed to beat any of their promotion rivals Hamburg, Paderborn or Union Berlin, as well as bottom side Duisburg, and they have rather taken their time getting over the line despite all their goalscoring prowess. That was the reason coach Anfang was relieved of his duties, but Cologne fans will take comfort in knowing they have been promoted by a comfortable margin.
Currently known as the RheinEnergieStadion, the 49,698-capacity stadium in the west of the city was originally opened in 1923 but most recently underwent renovations in preparation for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. It hosted five games in that tournament, as well as three in the FIFA Confederations Cup the previous year. Recognisable by its four illuminated towers in the corners of the stadium, the ground is known for its vibrant atmosphere with the stands and fans very close to the pitch.
Cologne is one of the largest cities in Germany and one of the country’s most colourful. Straddling the Rhine river, the city’s most famous landmark is its cathedral (Kölner Dom) that dwarfs all buildings around it. Directly opposite on the east bank is the trade fair (Koelnmesse) that is one of the biggest in Europe and is situated next to the building where Bundesliga Video Assistant Referees work.
The city was also the birthplace of the eponymous perfume, Eau de Cologne, in the 18th century, yet perhaps its most famous claim to fame is its carnival. Hundreds of thousands flock to the city to join the festivities, which can often see over a million people take to the streets to celebrate in fancy dress with parades and processions taking place in all neighbourhoods. It has earned Cologne a reputation as a fun-loving city and it’s not at all out of place to see people in fancy dress throughout the year.
Cologne/Bonn Airport is a major hub for European low-cost flights, allowing easy transfers from long-haul routes into Europe. While there are no longer any direct connections to North America, Cologne is within an hour’s train ride of Düsseldorf and Frankfurt airports, of which there are frequent, direct services. These airports do provide intercontinental flights with a number of destinations in the USA on offer. Köln Hauptbahnhof and Köln Messe/Deutz are also two of Germany’s busiest train stations with frequent national and international services.
Getting to the RheinEnergieStadion
The RheinEnergieStadion is located to the west of the city centre and can be reached using line 1 of the tram system and the nearest station is called RheinEnergieStadion. It is roughly 25 minutes away from Neumarkt in the centre heading towards Weiden West. As with all Bundesliga clubs, a ticket for the game includes the price of travel within the city to and from the match.
Cologne matches are almost always sold out, but tickets can still be bought via the official club website HERE.
Watch on TV
If you can’t make it to the stadium, Bundesliga matches are broadcast around the world. FOX Sports and Univision provide coverage in the United States, while BT Sports are the exclusive broadcaster in the United Kingdom. In Germany, Sky Sports show the majority of matches, with Eurosport hosting one match per week.
Buying the kit
You can get your own Cologne jersey from the official club shop HERE.
Stateside fan clubs
Cologne have a number of official fan clubs throughout the world, including four in the United States. Those can be found in Washington D.C., Chicago, Nashville and Carmel, Indiana. Click HERE for more details on those clubs.