More than football?
Kaiserslautern is more than just a football town, claims the city's official tourist guide. But what, it goes on to ask, would Kaiserslautern be without football? What indeed!
1. FC Kaiserslautern (the 1. means 'First'), dominate the city - quite literally in fact, from their towering stadium atop the 'Betzenberg' mountain (just a steep hill, really!).
Four-time German Champions
Formed in 1900, the club has been German champions four times. Its first heyday came in the early 1950s, with championship victories in 1951 and '53 (German football then was based on a number of regional leagues, the winners of which played off for the national title).
The major star during this first period of success was Fritz Walter. He started his career with the club in 1939 and became Kaiserlautern's first fully capped player when he turned out for Germany in a wartime international in 1941.
After the War, he led the club to the those two German Championships and went on to become captain of the German national side, leading the team (including four other players from 1FCK) to unlikely victory in the World Cup of 1954 in Switzerland, still remembered as the 'Miracle of Berne' (Das Wunder von Bern).
|The Fritz Walter Stadium|
The ground was renamed after Fritz Walter in 1985.
The club's 3rd and 4th titles came in the 1990s - interspersed by their only ever relegation since the start of the Bundesliga in 1963. The club won the Bundesliga in 1991, was relegated in 1996, but came straight back up to win the title again in their first season back in the top flight in 1997. Manager at the time, Otto Rehagel, was revered almost as much then in this part of Germany as he was in Greece in 2004 after leading the national side to European Championship success!
In recent years, the club has struggled to recapture former glories, often involved in relegation dogfights, but their Betzenberg ground is one of the few true football stadia in Germany, i.e. without an irritating running track, and should generate some great match-day atmosphere for the World Cup games in 2006.