Cologne - It was a long wait: 33 years to be precise, but SV Darmstadt 98 are back in the Bundesliga, and in some style.
Allow bundesliga.com to present ten lesser-known facts about the Lilies…
A true Traditionsverein
The name alone is enough to give away the club’s date of birth. Founded in 1898 as FC Olympia Darmstadt, the modern-day SV Darmstadt 98, which takes its name from the merger in 1919 with then-competitors SC Darmstadt 1905, is one of the oldest clubs in Germany.
The city of Darmstadt’s coat of arms contains a lily underneath a lion, with the plant also said to represent the city’s main church. Since a lily is also found on the team’s badge, the club have, understandably, always been known as 'the Lilies', or 'die Lilien' in German.
The Bundesliga era
In the all-time Bundesliga table Darmstadt sit 44th, placed between Stuttgarter Kickers and Tennis Borussia Berlin. The lowly position can be attributed to the top-flight campaigns of 1978/79 and 1981/82, in which the club were relegated immediately back to the second tier. Since most players still had a full-time job in the club’s first season in the top flight, the term ‘the end-of-the-day footballer of the Böllenfalltor’ was coined.
The Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor has been in existence since 1921. The name came from a famous gate and the huge number of poplar trees, also known as 'Böllen', which surrounded it. By the late 1970s, the Böllenfalltor no longer met requisite safety standards, yet the conversion into a 30,000-seater arena and the erection of floodlights took the club into financial trouble. Nowadays, the ailing stadium can only welcome 16,500 fans but is expected to complete its modernisation by 2017, while the pharmaceutical company Merck has secured naming rights.
Phoenix from the ashes
Thanks to numerous donations, the threat of insolvency was narrowly avoided as recently as 2008. On a purely footballing level, however, Darmstadt remained in the mire; sitting near the bottom of the Regionalliga South. Under the stewardship of Kosta Runjaic (l.), now coach at 1. FC Kaiserslautern, the club achieved promotion into the third division in 2010/11.
Dirk Schuster (r.), who made a name for himself as an uncompromising defender with Karlsruher SC in the 1990s, took the reins at Darmstadt in December 2012. The 47-year-old also turned out for 1. FC Köln in a career which saw him make exactly 200 appearances in the German Bundesliga. He graduated the DFB’s coaching school as the best in his year group in 2007, and prior to joining Darmstadt, masterminded Stuttgarter Kickers’ promotion to the third division.
Schuster oversaw another memorable moment in Darmstadt’s history by overcoming DSC Arminia Bielefeld in the 2014 relegation play-off. After Bielefeld prevailed 3-1 in Darmstadt, a dramatic second leg in North-Rhine Westphalia ended by the same scoreline to Schuster’s troops. Darmstadt’s promotion dreams seemed shattered when Kacper Przybylko netted in the 110th minute, yet in the last second Elton da Costa volleyed home to send the visitors into dreamland - and the Bundesliga 2.
Darmstadt share fierce rivalries with Kickers Offenbach and Hessen Kassel, although this coming Bundesliga campaign promises to reignite the duel with Eintracht Frankfurt. The sides have only ever met four times (home and away in each of Darmstadt’s top-flight campaigns), but with only 30 kilometres between them, expect fireworks and plenty of south-western passion.
The club icon
Darmstadt’s most famous export is undoubtedly current Hamburger SV coach Bruno Labbadia, who began both his playing and coaching careers at the Lilies. Indeed, on both occasions he enjoyed relative success. As a fresh-faced striker in the middle of the 1980s, Labbadia scored 44 goals in 105 Bundesliga 2 appearances, while as a coach in the 2003/04 season he led the club to promotion into the Regionalliga.
The secret to success
Nobody had Darmstadt as promotion candidates at the start of the 2014/15 campaign, yet the side has impressed with its team spirit. The outstanding area was the defence, which conceded a season-low 26 goals and boasted the centre-half duo of Romain Bregerie (r.) and Aytac Sulu, who contributed ten goals. No side kept more clean sheets than the Lilies, while the main attacking threat came from dead-ball situations: Schuster’s side scored 17 times from set pieces, 12 of which were corners - a league-high.