The Lower Saxony club’s 19th win of the season had just sealed their promotion back to the Bundesliga after 28 years out of the big time. For the players, the fans and the city itself, the new season cannot come around soon enough, while for the Bundesliga, the imminent arrival of one of its founding clubs will give an added dash of romance to an already thriving league.
Braunschweig are a classic example of a Traditionsverein. Consistently competitive in the old Oberliga Nord between 1947 and 1963, they were one of the 16 clubs invited to be part of the inaugural Bundesliga season in 1963/64. This was an honour in itself, especially if one considers that FC Bayern Munich, who have won it 22 times since, were not.
Die Löwen were not just there to make up the numbers, though. In 1967 the club claimed a surprise Bundesliga title, beating off competition from contemporary German heavyweights 1860 Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt. From the national league's creation through to the mid-1980s they spent just one season outside the top flight, competing in Europe four times between 1967 and 1977. Relegation in 1984/85 would herald a long period of stagnation, but by then Braunschweig had left their mark in more ways than one.
In sporting terms, they hold two quite notable records. In 370 Bundesliga games between 1963 and 1975, not one Lions' player was sent off, an acheivement no other team has yet managed to emulate. And even in decline, Entracht still made the headlines. In 1987 they were relegated to the Regionalliga Nord (the third tier) despite having a positive goal difference, a feat unmatched before or since by any club in the top two divisions.*
In the 1973/74 season, Braunschweig became the first German club to bear the name of a sponsor on their shirt. It was a revolutionary idea and indeed one that was widely frowned upon at the time. In the years since, of course, shirt sponsorship has become common pactice for clubs big and small all over the world.
Back in the big time
As the current successful campaign draws to a close, the Braunschweig faithful are already contemplating 2013/14 and their team running out against the likes of Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Munich - as well as local rivals Hannover 96, whom they last played in the top flight way back in April 1976. Their return there, incidentally, takes up to nine the tally of clubs in next season’s Bundesliga who have lifted the coveted Meisterschale trophy.
There is a lot to like about Eintracht Braunschweig, and their long-overdue return to German football’s top table is certainly bound to raise the tradition-laden Lower Saxony outfit's international profile. After 28 years, the waiting is finally over.
*In the 1978/79 Bundesliga 2 season, FC St Pauli and Westphalia Herne finished sixth and fifth respectively with positive goal differences, but both were demoted by the German Football Association (DFB) for non-compliance with licensing regulations.