The Coronation

For the first time in ages, VfB once again tri­umphs in a home game against FC Bay­ern. It’s just one of 21 sea­son vic­to­ries, but one with gre­at radi­ance.

Yes, I know. Bay­ern were wea­k­en­ed and alre­a­dy had their minds set on Madrid any­way. Just like the other 16 Bun­des­li­ga teams always see­med to have a bad day against us, except when they snat­ched points from us. Odd. No, no, I won’t let anyo­ne down­play this home vic­to­ry against the old Süd­gip­fel rival, with whom we are curr­ent­ly com­pe­ting on an equal foo­ting for the first time in over ten years. Espe­ci­al­ly sin­ce Sebas­ti­an Hoeneß’s team not only bra­ve­ly reco­ver­ed from the late shock in Lever­ku­sen but also lear­ned from the first leg. Back then, Bay­ern left the field to the Swa­bi­ans and cold­ly coun­te­red them at home. In the Neckar­sta­di­on, howe­ver, VfB did­n’t even enga­ge in such games, pres­sed on Manu­el Neuer’s goal, but did­n’t let them­sel­ves be out­ma­neu­ver­ed in the last line.

And even if the­se weren’t the best Bay­ern team we could have faced: in the cur­rent form, our team can com­pe­te with any oppo­nent in the league. Lever­ku­sen nee­ded a lot of bad luck from VfB and an over­whel­med refe­ree to achie­ve a draw, and Bay­ern also bene­fi­ted from the reluc­tance of the other­wi­se sove­reign refe­ree Welz to review and cor­rect his own decis­i­on on the screen. Howe­ver, VfB did­n’t let that or the thea­trics of their for­mer youth play­er unsett­le them and con­tin­ued to play con­cen­tra­ted­ly for­ward even after the equa­li­zer. The­re were cer­tain­ly a few defen­si­ve heart-stop­ping moments included, but with some luck and a lot of com­po­sure, Har­ry Kane’s penal­ty remain­ed the only goal of the guests on Satur­day after­noon, so that we have now con­ce­ded one goal less than Bay­ern over­all.

Unexpected Heroes

But let’s not talk about Bay­ern and their half-hear­ted attempts to cla­im this Süd­gip­fel for them­sel­ves, let’s talk about VfB’s goals. It somehow fits this sea­son that in this game, it was­n’t the 43-goal attack­ing divi­si­on that took the spot­light, but other play­ers. Leo­ni­das Ster­giou, for exam­p­le, who has fought for his regu­lar place on the right defen­si­ve side due to the absen­ces of Josha Vagno­man, Dan-Axel Zag­adou, and at times Antho­ny Rou­ault, and demons­tra­ted his offen­si­ve qua­li­ties not for the first time, duping the Bay­ern defen­se in com­bi­na­ti­on with Deniz Undav. Or Jeong Woo-yeong, who this sea­son see­med to spend more time with the Kore­an natio­nal team and the­r­e­fo­re main­ly appeared as a sub­sti­tu­te — and scored for the first time in a year and a half. And of cour­se, Silas, who expe­ri­en­ced a renais­sance against Bay­ern, pre­pared the cele­bra­ted lea­ding goal with a pre­cise cross and brought the Cannstat­ter Kur­ve to explo­de with a well-pla­ced shot. And did I alre­a­dy men­ti­on that VfB was miss­ing two important play­ers, Maxi Mit­tel­städt and Enzo Mil­lot? No? That’s becau­se the team was able to com­pen­sa­te for that too.

This game, this sea­son, is brim­ming with won­derful sto­ries like the­se. With 21 sea­son vic­to­ries, VfB has set ano­ther record and has not only qua­li­fied for the Cham­pi­ons League on the couch but also on the field. Coach Sebas­ti­an Hoe­neß took this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to ful­fill his pro­mi­se made in Decem­ber against Augs­burg and address the Kur­ve and the team from the podi­um, stan­ding at the capo’s stage. When was the last time that hap­pen­ed? It’s pro­ba­b­ly been as long as a home vic­to­ry against Bay­ern, 73 goals in 32 games, or the pro­s­pect of finis­hing second. Becau­se even if this game was the pro­vi­sio­nal coro­na­ti­on of a phe­no­me­nal sea­son, the team can still step up its game. With a vic­to­ry in the Fri­day evening game against Augs­burg, who are still eye­ing Euro­pe, third place would be sea­led, and until Bay­ern play on Sun­day after­noon, we could even be in second place. I can’t quite ima­gi­ne the record cham­pi­ons giving in and drop­ping points against Wolfs­burg and Hof­fen­heim. But now that the team has also boo­ked their jour­ney with a T‑shirt (see abo­ve), second place is a nice incen­ti­ve for the last two matches.

Back at the Top

And even if it does­n’t work out, it will still be two holi­days for VfB fans. The last two steps on an incre­di­ble jour­ney back to the top of Ger­man foot­ball. Pro­ba­b­ly only tem­po­r­a­ri­ly, becau­se even if Fabi­an Wohl­ge­muth and Sebas­ti­an Hoe­neß mana­ge the sum­mer cle­ver­ly and suc­ceed in con­ser­ving the suc­cess to some ext­ent, such a sea­son won’t come again soon. What remains is the memo­ry of days like May 4, 2024, when ever­y­thing fell into place for us once again.

Note: This is a trans­la­ti­on of my Ger­man artic­le Die Krö­nung by ChatGPT, slight­ly alte­red by me. Plea­se let me know, what you think about the style and about using AI for artic­les in gene­ral in the comm­ents sec­tion.

Pho­to: © Alex Grimm/Getty Images

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