Fortuna Düsseldorf are back in the big time and defying all the odds. Labelled as prime relegation candidates on their return in 2018/19, the Rhinelanders stunned the Bundesliga with some big scalps. Here is all you need to know about the team from the North Rhine-Westphalia capital.
Fortuna have yo-yoed between the first and fourth tiers this millennium, with the fourth tier, where Düsseldorf languished between 1999 and 2008, particularly galling for a club that won the German title in 1933. The zenith – to date – was the 1970s, a decade during which F95 won the first of two DFB Cups and reached the European Cup Winners' Cup final in Basel in 1979, only to lose to Barcelona after extra-time. They also claimed a 7-1 victory over Bayern Munich in December 1978, which to date remains Bayern’s heaviest away defeat in the Bundesliga.
F95, as they are known locally, were called Fortuna because that was the name of a bakery in the working-class district of Flingen (explaining the club's nickname: Die Flingeraner), which caught the hungry founding fathers' eyes when they were establishing the club. Of the Bundesliga’s current 18 clubs, only Hertha Berlin (1892) have been in existence longer than Fortuna (1895).
German championship (1933)
2x DFB Cups (1979, 1980)
2x Bundesliga 2 champions (1989, 2018)
Friedhelm Funkel, 65, achieved a record sixth promotion to the top flight last term, and deserves plenty of credit for stabilising a faltering club after his arrival in March 2016. Promotion in 2018 and the ensuing Bundesliga campaign were testament to three years of hard, unheralded work. He has made well over 450 appearances as a coach in the German top flight, following previous spells with Bayer Uerdingen, Duisburg, Hansa Rostock, Cologne, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha.
Fortuna have lost last season’s top scorers Dodi Lukebakio and Benito Raman but have made moves to strengthen an area where they struggled with the addition of USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Only the bottom four had a leakier defence than Düsseldorf in 2018/19, and the 24-year-old’s arrival will rejuvenate an experienced yet ageing goalkeeping contingent that has proven prone to errors. The USA’s first choice could prove key to Fortuna’s fortunes in 2019/20.
Relegated from the Bundesliga in 2013, Fortuna belatedly bounced back as Bundesliga 2 champions after beating second-placed Nuremberg 3-2 on the final day of the 2017/18 season. Their return to the top table was not filled with optimism, though, and they were labelled as prime promotion candidates. It looked an apt prediction with the club bottom going into December, but a run of seven wins in 10 – including inflicting a first defeat of the season on Borussia Dortmund – saw the promoted side rocket up the table. They would finish the season in 10th place to great jubilation in Dusseldorf.
Watch: Fortuna stun Dortmund
Düsseldorf's Merkur Spiel-Arena is a fine addition to the Bundesliga's selection of top-class stadiums. Although it did not host group games at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the 54,600-seater arena will be a venue at UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany. Previously known as the LTU Arena and Esprit Arena, it has also hosted several Wladimir Klitschko fights, countless music concerts, Eurovision and the 2010 Race of Champions, which included Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
The capital of Germany's most populous region, Dusseldorf is an advertising and fashion hub – home to the country's modelling industry – and is also famous for its Altbier, a locally brewed dark beer. It's also a cultural hub: the world-famous band Kraftwerk – whose song The Model references the thriving fashion industry – hail from Dusseldorf, while Heinrich Heine, one of Germany's most famous poets, was born there in 1797. Just don’t mention fierce regional rivals Cologne.
Dusseldorf international is Germany’s third-busiest airport, and serves over 190 destinations worldwide. Flying in to nearby Cologne or the Netherlands are viable alternatives, especially given the affordability and efficiency of Germany’s fast and regional train networks, of which Dusseldorf is a major hub.
Getting to the Merkur Spiel-Arena
The stadium itself is located in the north of the city, roughly four miles from the central train station. From there, take the metro (U-bahn) line U78 to Merkur Spiel-Arena/Messe Nord; you can also hop on in the historic old town at Heinrich-Heine Allee. The journey takes no more than 20 minutes. As with all Bundesliga matches, a ticket to the game also serves as your ticket for public transport.
Tickets can still be bought via the official club website HERE.
Can’t make it? Watch here:
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.
Buy the kit
You can get your own Fortuna jersey from the official club shop.