Despite featuring for just seven seasons in the Bundesliga, Rot-Weiss Essen once laid claim to perhaps the most famous of all honorary members.
bundesliga.com is taking you through all the teams to have graced Germany’s first division over the last 60 years – based on the number of seasons they’ve played up to and including 2023/24.
Years in Bundesliga: 7 (1966/67, 1969-71, 1973-77)
Most appearances: Willi Lippens (172)
Most goals: Willi Lippens (79)
Youngest player: Wolfgang Patzke (18 years, two days)
Rot-Weiss Essen are an excellent pub quiz question if you’re ever in need of one. As the 1954/55 champions, they became the first German team to appear in the European Cup, although Saarbrücken also featured in 1955/56 but as the representative of the then independent Saarland Football Association.
The city of Essen – nothing to do with the German word for ‘food’ – in the heart of the Ruhr is also one of only four to have two clubs to have won the DFB Cup, after Munich, Leipzig and Vienna. You'll be the talk of the pub showing off those facts.
As the club name suggests, the colours and kits are red and white – and yes, the correct spelling is Weiss, despite German rules suggesting it has to be Weiß – but they were absent from the first Bundesliga season and only joined the big time in 1966 and only for a single season, finishing bottom.
Their ensuing six campaigns also failed to set the world alight, with eighth in 1974/75 their sole top-half finish. They came close to returning in the following years but have never recovered since and were in the fifth tier as recently as 2010/11 following financial issues. But Essen are once again in the 3. Liga after over a decade in the Regionalliga.
The club boasts 10,000 members as of June 2023 and also had one very famous honorary member in Brazilian legend Pele, who was given membership number 23101940. Upon receiving his certificate, the great man said: “It’s a great honour for me to now belong to the club where the Boss played”, in reference to Helmut Rahn.