Few business trips from Eintracht Frankfurt have seen such a wide arc. “I would like to take my soccer shoes with me,” says Karl-Heinz Körbel, Bundesliga record player, brand ambassador and head of the football school in the Hessian Bundesliga. Meanwhile, the 67-year-old often recounted the circumstances of his semi-final loss in the European Cup Winners’ Cup on 14 April 1976 at West Ham United (1:3) that “the faithful Charlie”, who otherwise, only plays In the traditional team, he would prefer to do it himself in the Europa League semi-final between West Ham and Eintracht (Thursday 9pm, RTL). To make up for the failure of 46 years ago.
First, the bus from The Dorchester Hotel to the stadium on Park Lane stopped in traffic for hours, so coach Dietrich Weise ordered his players to wear yellow shirts on the bus, which Korbel still believed were “the ugliest shirts we’ve ever played.” . Subsequently, the German Cup winner could not stand the English power play in the “muddy field” (Körbel) in Upton Park, which has since been demolished.
The Hammers have been playing at London’s Olympic Stadium since 2016, with two upper-middle-class representatives now competing in the Premier League and the Bundesliga, and two who have more or less accepted that the financially stronger clubs have overtaken them. Their only victories on the international stage have been in a long time: West Ham won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 against 1860 Munich (2-0), Eintracht won the now renamed UEFA Cup against Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1980 (2-3, 1-0) cup.
“Now there is no fatigue, now there is joy,” says coach Glasner.
Its successor, the Europa League, is highly regarded by two traditional brands with a large fan base. West Ham, seventh in the Premier League, is the team that has scored the fewest goals, having knocked out Sevilla and Olympique Lyonnais, who specialize in the Europa League. Eintracht, who is ninth in the German League, is still undefeated and deceived Betis, Seville, and the most prominent candidate, Barcelona. After the sensation in the “Game of the Century” at the Camp Nou, which was accompanied by huge fan support, coach Oliver Glasner raised the “emotional reward that you can’t buy for any money in the world.” These days he added: “Now don’t get tired! Now there’s joy, now there’s enthusiasm, and now it’s time for the finals.”
Even board spokesman Axel Hellmann sees an entire region in a frenzy. Balancing the heart and mind is not so easy for some officials. President Peter Fischer, for example, offended the English guest of the ZDF sports studio, who wanted to prevent the situation in Spain at all costs after 30,000 Eintracht fans in their white shirts kidnapped the Camp Nou.
This time, the guest is entitled to exactly 3,000 tickets – and there should be no more German fans in the stadium. “This is the worst kind of bullshit,” Fischer complained of the English “zero tolerance”. He is ashamed “because we are already under threat today: anyone we catch on the field and say it’s Eintracht, we’ll kick him out”. The sentimental hunter has always declared that there will certainly be more than 3,000 Frankfurters in London. “There were always 10,000, 15,000 people in the cities – that’s normal for us.”
Then there was also the financial aspect, with the Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Philip Holzer, said: “In our view, participating in the semi-finals of the European League is as valuable as entering the group stage of the Champions League.” Incidentally, the first division will jump if Frankfurt also wins the final on May 18 in Seville – there is no other option for international participation after the meager performances in the league’s daily life.
Without UEFA reforms, CEO Axel Hellmann fears ‘European football monster’
On World Media Day, CEO Hellmann denounced the huge gap between the European Cups. He said that if UEFA did not finally achieve a better financial balance here, a “European football monster” would inevitably emerge. Namely the Champions League, which at some point will lead to the Super League, because the thirst of the big clubs for capital can only be quenched by it. For the European idea, medium-sized companies like those in the main capital are needed, says Hellmann, “we also like to play in Tallinn.”
But Eintracht also prefers the dazzling stages. Just like in 2019, when, after victories against Benfica Lisbon and Inter Milan, the dream of the Europa League final came true only with penalties in the semi-finals at Chelsea. “We still have a record to liquidate with London,” recalls Axel Hellmann. So a correction is needed in Eintracht beyond the life of Karl-Heinz Korbel.