Until recently, Hoffenheim was heading in one direction: up. The future seemed bright. In almost mythical fashion, the ‘village club’ went from a 5th division team to the Bundesliga, all in under an awe-inspiring decade. But now the club’s caught in a storm. The team is currently fighting relegation and in the midst of another coaching change.
On Monday the club sacked Markus Babbel after a disastrous 4-1 defeat against Werder Bremen over the weekend. The coach managed a meagre seven wins in 29 games. The team managed to win only a single game on the road, not to mention its distressing losses at home. Hoffenheim has also conceded a league high of 36 goals, more than any other team in the Bundesliga including Augsburg and Greuther Fuerth, who sit below them in the table.
Compare that to the team’s fairytale first season in the Bundesliga. In its debut year, Hoffenheim were Herbstmeister (Fall/Winter champions), collecting 35 points in 17 matches and ending the season in the top ten. A glimpse into the past reveals an ecstatic and optimistic mood after the crowning, unaware, of course, of the struggles ahead.
“We’re no longer the village team, we are the club of the metropolitan region Rhein-Neckar,” the club’s chief financial backer Dietmar Hopp told Spiegel Online at the time.
In retrospect, what a season it was. Life couldn’t get any better with the team welcoming its new stadium the following month, the Rhein-Neckar Arena, with a capacity of over 30,000, signifying the club’s growth and solidifying an identity reaching far beyond its immediate borders.
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