For Hertha BSC it is currently once again about staying in the Bundesliga. On Monday, the Berliners meet Hamburger SV in the relegation game. That was different exactly 25 years ago. On May 22, 1997, Hertha celebrated their return to the Bundesliga after six years in the second division with a 2-1 win on Matchday 31 in Unterhaching.
Here the players who were on the pitch in the Unterhaching sports park remember how they experienced the match and the hours that followed. The text (“Helden wie wir”) first appeared in the Tagesspiegel in 2003 – on the occasion of the departure of Michael Preetz and Eyjölfur Sverrisson from Hertha BSC.
Christian Fiedler: “The evening before the game we sat in front of the TV in the Hotel Huber near the sports park and watched how our opponents played. Mainz 05 lost in Jena, Wolfsburg and Stuttgarter Kickers drew – so it was clear that if we won the next day we would be promoted. The injured and suspended players traveled spontaneously from Berlin.”
Oliver Schmidt: “We drove to the sports park in the afternoon, got onto the pitch and warmed up. Ten minutes before kick-off we went into the dressing room, it was quiet there, very quiet. After five or six minutes we went out. It finally started.”
Christian Fährmann: “Everything went smoothly from the first minute: every pass, every run. In the first half I had Matthias Lust against me on the right flank. I wanted to get past him and put the ball through his legs. Hey, I thought. Today nothing goes wrong.”
Ante Covic: “Half an hour was played in Unterhaching, I stood on the left flank, got the ball, went into the middle, stood in the penalty area, and – bam! – the ball hit the bottom right. 1:0 I ripped up my jersey and ran like a champion.”
Eyjölfur Sverrisson: “After taking the lead early on, we saw our chance – and we took it. We were really good. Just thinking about Michel Dinzey’s 2-0 lead just after half-time. Then he kicked the ball into the corner with his right foot. He usually only has it to stand.”
Sixten Veit: “It was all over, I left the field in the 76th minute. I was floored. I stood in front of the substitutes’ bench for the last quarter of an hour, everything steaming on me. The tension is greater on the touchline, you suffer more than on the field, you can run the tension off your body there.”
Andreas Schmidt: “That’s right, the thing actually worked. In fact. But seven minutes after our second goal, Schmöller made the connection. Man, that was a stupid goal! We really got swimming. We had to work, straddle, some of us had cramps, three or four people wanted out. But Jürgen Röber wasn’t interested at all.”
Hasan Vural: “When I came on, it was 2-0, Dinzey had just scored and… Excuse me? I got there a quarter of an hour before the end? No really? I could swear… well, whatever, it was all upside down on the pitch.”
Marc Arnold: “Hachinger put the pressure on, but I can’t remember a real chance to score. At the end we just counted down the minutes. Five, four, three… After the final whistle, our fans stormed the pitch. Someone had already twirled in the background and had promotion T-shirts made with the inscription: The only way is up.”
Pal Dardai: “The final whistle in Haching. Was that a weird game? The small stadium, the few spectators, and because we played on Thursdays, not many of our fans came with us. If we had at least made the promotion perfect in Berlin…”
Uwe Weidemann: “I was only at Hertha for six months, on loan from Schalke. I won’t forget the game in Unterhaching, after the final whistle a real ballast fell off our shoulders. The pressure was off – and we promptly lost the last three games.”
Jürgen Röber: “We then went into the locker room, briefly to the hotel and then we quickly took a taxi to Munich, to some discotheque. With Dieter Hoeneß I was the oldest in the shop. I drank two or three beers that evening and swayed along a bit, but I’m not a dancing bear. At some point I said: guys, if you’re not at the airport by nine-thirty tomorrow, you have to see how you can get to Berlin.”
Michel Dinzey: “We stayed in the disco for a while. Some have endured for quite a long time. We arrived at the hotel early in the morning, grabbed our clothes and took the bus straight to the airport. In Berlin we still had to go to the training ground – to run out. As far as it was still possible.”
Falko Götz: “Oh, that was a tough night and a tough flight. I remember that in the morning we drank champagne again. When we landed in Tegel in the morning, the fans stood there, sang and showered us with sparkling wine. We left the hall with a polonaise and went to the taxi rank. Then I knew: Yes, Falko, now we’ve made it.”