Crisis of 1. Fc koln: terrible honeymoon

FC Koln has suffered its third defeat in its third Europa League match. The fans traveling to Borissov are fed up.

No luck again: Salih ozcan of FC Koln after the 1:0 of Borissow Photo: dpa

BORRISOW/ Because of their nightmarish start to this season, the Cologne fans have already had to listen to a lot – but what reached their ears on Thursday in the small Borissov stadium was new. About a thousand FC supporters had made the 1,700-kilometer journey from the Rhineland to Belarus.

However, at the latest after their team’s 0:1 defeat, the third defeat in the third Europa League game, it dawned on them that nothing had come of the lustful trips across the continent yet again. And above all, that everything was getting worse. That’s why they no longer felt like clapping with the Cologne professionals to encourage each other.

Instead of applause, the players were met by a hurricane of whistles. "We’ve had enough," chanted the well-traveled soccer crowd, which in the general feeling of frustration moved one man right to the front – the sports director responsible for the currently completely overstretched squad. "Schmadtke out!" was the message from Borissov, 75 kilometers northeast of Minsk. The man to whom the message was addressed had also listened – but he took the matter somewhat calmly: "I’m not indifferent to the fact that there were also shouts against me. But it does nothing to me. It is the good right of the fans, one should not put that on the gold scale."

The Dusseldorf native has long since acknowledged his own contribution to the predicament – the manageably successful transfer period last summer. What should concern the 53-year-old much more at the halfway point of the first half of the league is the state of the team. The fact that Cologne is playing well, that not everything is lying idle, is a reassuring aspect. And only when the internal balance suffers or the game structure disappears does he question a coach. Schmadtke spoke like this after the recent defeat in Stuttgart. If the man sticks to these statements, it should slowly become tight for Stoger.

With the defeat in Borissov, Cologne are now not only the weakest starters in the history of the Bundesliga. No German representative has ever managed three defeats in the first three games in the Europa League. What Stoger’s team achieved in attack on Thursday was unsurpassable in terms of harmlessness. The decisive goal shortly after halftime was the result of a joint slapstick action by the defensive forces Dominique Heintz, Marco Hoger and Konstantin Rausch. And the fact that captain Matthias Lehmann was injured during the warm-up and now also has to fear for his deployment on Sunday against Bremen fits in with Cologne’s miserable trip to Belarus.

Chants of abuse from their own fans

"It’s a character issue to keep getting back up. That’s what it’s all about as an athlete, and that doesn’t get any easier with today’s result," said Peter Stoger in Borissov with a great sense of reality. The Vienna native, who has led the club from the second division to the European Cup in four years, takes a similar view of his personal situation. "How long do you keep calm, how long do you keep the tension? I can’t influence that," the 51-year-old explained, then he was undauntedly combative: "For me, the very wrong approach would be to say – ‘I’m pissing off now’. But I’m not an armchair gluer. If someone has a better idea, then we have to discuss it."

Only when the structure of the game is suffering does he question a coach, the manager said.

The Cologne fans were not very keen on discussions. Their chants of abuse in Borissov were the height of verbal aggression, which has so far failed to materialize in the cathedral city despite its record so far. Head coach Stoger recently highlighted the great advantage of having a fan base that is capable of correctly assessing the cathedral city’s foreseeably complicated season.

Before the scary meeting of the two weakest Bundesliga teams by far from Cologne (one point) and Bremen (four points), however, the entire Geibbock club now feels like they’re in a bitterly bad feature film. Five months ago, an entire city celebrated its return to the international stage after a quarter of a century. But now fans and club are touring back and forth between London, Minsk, and Belgrade, feeling like a newlywed couple on a terrible honeymoon. The next stop is the duel with Werder. "It’s a very important game," says Stoger, "no question about it."

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