Like a Dream


Do you remem­ber your first game at the Neckar­sta­di­on? May­be you were kids back then, wal­king wide-eyed with your par­ents down Mer­ce­des­stra­ße to the home ground of VfB Stutt­gart from 1893, into that huge sta­di­um. Glo­rious suns­hi­ne, a full house. Do you remem­ber the stan­dings? Pro­ba­b­ly not, but you knew VfB had to win that day. And in the end, ever­y­thing was per­fect: many goals, over­flowing emo­ti­ons, the per­fect day at the sta­di­um. What could be an ide­al first sta­di­um expe­ri­ence — mine was actual­ly the bot­ched UEFA Cup qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on with a 3:3 against Bie­le­feld 24 years ago — was in rea­li­ty my last visit to the sta­di­um befo­re the new sea­son beg­ins. VfB defea­ted Glad­bach 4:0, each goal more beau­tiful than the last. The Cannstat­ter Kur­ve dazz­led with a breath­ta­king cho­reo­gra­phy befo­re kick­off. Mean­while, the reser­ve team inter­cept­ed the Kickers on their way to pro­mo­ti­on to the third divi­si­on, and later Bay­ern squan­de­red a 2:0 lead and second place. To us! VfB beca­me the run­ner-up for the third time after 1979 — when they sur­ged up from the second divi­si­on — and 2003 — when Felix Maga­th crow­ned the rebuild after the near-rele­ga­ti­on in 2001. Deniz Undav was right after the cup match in Lever­ku­sen: VfB is among the best two Ger­man teams.

It is hard to put into words how per­fect this 34th match­day of the 2023/2024 Bun­des­li­ga sea­son was from VfB’s per­spec­ti­ve. Ser­hou Gui­ras­sy expan­ded his breath­ta­king tal­ly with two more goals, espe­ci­al­ly the 1:0, when he and Enzo Mil­lot wea­ved the ball through Gladbach’s penal­ty area, show­ca­sing the team’s full class. Alex Nübel sho­ne during Borussia’s pres­su­re pha­se after the break, and VfB hit the wood­work or tes­ted Gladbach’s goal­kee­per mul­ti­ple times. That Silas, who had alre­a­dy sho­ne against Bay­ern, pro­vi­ded a cal­cu­la­ted assist and then sea­led the game with an incre­di­ble solo run, is almost too good to be true. What a fan­ta­stic team. What a fan­ta­stic sea­son, and what a beau­tiful send-off for phy­sio­the­ra­pist Ger­ry Wörn, who got pro­mo­ted with VfB to the Bun­des­li­ga in 1977 and ser­ved the team for a total of 34 years sin­ce 1990. And when we prai­se the play­ers who (hop­eful­ly) will stay with VfB, we must also pay tri­bu­te to play­ers like Rober­to Mas­si­mo, Gen­ki Hara­guchi, Mah­moud Dahoud, Flo­ri­an Schock, and Li Egloff, who also play­ed their parts. Espe­ci­al­ly with Li Egloff, but also with tech­ni­que coach Nate Weiss, it’s a bit sad to see them go, even though it was fore­seeable that Li wouldn’t get a new con­tract.

73 points!

Top­ping the 90 minu­tes of the last match­day was dif­fi­cult, but the cele­bra­ti­ons after the final whist­le crow­ned this dream of a VfB day. For the first time in what felt like an eter­ni­ty, someone other than the Capos stood on their podi­um against Bay­ern, and on Satur­day after­noon, the atmo­sphe­ric epi­cen­ter of the Kur­ve was burs­t­ing at the seams. That not only cap­tain Wal­de­mar Anton and top scorer Ser­hou Gui­ras­sy but also Deniz Undav and Alex Nübel, two play­ers who are “only” on loan, found their place up the­re, shows how much the­se guys have play­ed, shot, and fought their way into the fans’ hearts. Hea­ring Nübel, who at some point deman­ded his well-deser­ved beer and got it in boot form, or Deniz Undav, who in an inter­view with VfBtv deman­ded an apo­lo­gy for not belie­ving his assess­ment after the cup match (see abo­ve), you have to hope that VfB finds a gold mine or an oil well some­whe­re to keep the­se two fore­ver.

I am still too emo­tio­nal­ly affec­ted by the last match to be able to look back on the enti­re sea­son, on each of the 73 (!!!) points we won or each of the 78 goals (!!!) we scored. VfB bro­ke so many records this sea­son that it makes you diz­zy and had the best Bun­des­li­ga sea­son in terms of points in the club’s histo­ry. Expe­ri­en­cing this after all the years of mise­ry, bad moods, sor­row, after two rele­ga­ti­ons and two some­ti­mes arduous second divi­si­on years, is phe­no­me­nal. Sin­ce that 3:3 against Bie­le­feld men­tio­ned abo­ve, the­re have been few games in my fan care­er that come clo­se to this after­noon. And we still have some beau­tiful moments ahead of us. And I don’t even mean the Super­cup match if Lever­ku­sen wins the dou­ble, but the com­pe­ti­ti­on who­se anthem was play­ed by sta­di­um DJ Jamie Lewe­ling after the match, giving me goo­se­bumps. VfB is back in inter­na­tio­nal play after all the crap, and not just any­whe­re, but in the Cham­pi­ons League, quo­ting Sebas­ti­an Hoe­neß: “Holy shit!”

Unbe­lie­va­ble. What a day. What a sea­son. Let’s savor this moment as long as we can.

Pic­tu­re: © Alex­an­der Hassenstein/Getty Images

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