Ever heard of Regensburg? Ever heard of the city’s football team? Conor Thompson knew neither the city nor the football team before he went and studied there for a year, and learnt about football in Munich’s shadow.
Regensburg is a German city situated at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen rivers. This very aesthetic little city is only the fourth largest in Bavaria, behind Munich, Nuremberg and Augsburg. With a population of roughly 140,000, it is hardly surprising that SSV Jahn, the football team of this city are barely known outside of the province of Bavaria.
Situated between Munich and Nuremberg, it will come as no surprise that the majority of football fans living in Regensburg opt to support Bundesliga giants FC Bayern Munchen or even Bayern’s Franconian rivals, 1. Fussball-Club Nuernberg.
Between 2008 and 2012, SSV were a constant in Bundesliga III, Germany’s third tier of football. Nothing fancy, nothing too exciting, just consistently there. Well, that was all about to change. What has followed since the 2010/2011 gives new meaning to the often overused cliche “a rollercoaster ride”.
SSV Jahn Regensburg, often referred to as simply “SSV” or “Jahn”, finished the 2011/2012 3. Liga season in 3rd place, pipping FC Heidenheim by a mere point to clinch qualification for the promotion play-offs. In a two-legged affair against Karlsruher SC (Bonus point if you can tell me which famous World Cup winner started his career here), SSV earned promotion to the 2012/2013 2.Liga. This would be only the second occasion the club would play in Germany’s second tier, this century.
What happened next was nothing short of a disaster. The “Jahnelf” finished the season in 18th place with a mere tally of 19 points. Back to 3. Liga and back to the drawing board for the boys from Bavaria.
The 2013/2014 season saw SSV finish rather comfortably in 11th place. This would be the last season of comfort or normality however.
The 2014/2015 season was to be the last campaign which SSV would play at their famous home, the Jahnstadion. Built in 1926, this old-school stadium hosted five football matches during the 1972 Munich Olympic games. I had the pleasure of visiting this ground myself and as somebody who places great value on football tradition and nostalgia, this ground certainly ticked all the boxes. Located in the heart of the city, this predominantly terraced stadium was a groundhopper’s dream.
Surely the Rotenhosen (Red shorts) closed this famous chapter of their history in style? Think of how Spurs bid farewell to White Hart Lane in glorious fashion last season or how Arsenal qualified for the Champions League in a very dramatic ending to life at Highbury. Think again. Jahn’s last season at the famous Jahnstadion would see them finish rock bottom and facing the prospect of beginning life at their shiny new home in the Regionalliga.
The first campaign in the Continental Arena, located on the outskirts of the city was to be a Bavarian Regional League campaign. Not exactly the glamorous unveiling which the fans and club officials would have hoped for. Drama followed again. Of course it did. This is SSV Jahn Regensburg.
Those who are nerdy enough to know how the lower league system in Germany works will be aware how difficult it is to regain 3. Liga status. The status of regional champions only guarantees qualification to a promotion play off against the champions of one of the other regions. It’s little wonder that fans of SSV and club officials alike, began this campaign with little optimism.
Regensburg came up against stiff competition from SV Wacker Burghausen but managed to clinch top spot by a single point. Job one was done. Job two was to win the promotion play off. The second string side of VFL Wolsburg (The topic of Bundesliga clubs having their “Seconds” play in lower leagues often sparks debate) stood in the way. A 1-0 defeat in the away leg left little room for optimism. However, the Jahnelf didn’t even need additional time in the return leg, comfortably winning 2-0 at home.
There it was again: That feeling of hope and optimism. A feeling these fans knew only too well and more often than not they had been let down. SSV were back in the 3.Liga and things were about to get even crazier.
Defying all the odds, Jahn Regensburg finished the season in 3rd place, giving them the chance to gain promotion to 2. Liga in the Relegation play off against their neighbours from down the road. Nope, not Bayern….But 1860 Munich.
May 30th 2017. Monday afternoon. Allianz Arena. Relegation play off. 2nd leg. TSV 1860 Muenchen. SSV Jahn Regensburg. 62,000 people. 15,000+ from Regensburg. 0-2. 1-3 on aggregate. Angry 1860 fans. Very angry fans. Chairs thrown on pitch. Game suspended temporarily. Game back on. Final whistle. Joy for Regensburg. 1860 down. Regensburg up. 1860’s last game at the Allianz. Regensburg back in 2. Liga.
The impossible dream had been accomplished. SSV Jahn Regensburg had achieved back-to-back promotions and would play the 2017-2018 season in the 2. Liga. Germany truely has found it’s yo-yo club.
At my time of writing, SSV sit 4th in the table, just 4 points off 3rd spot which would secure the a place in a play off. Can the Jahnelf achieve promotion 3 years in a row? If they do, this would surely have to go down as one of the most remarkable stories in German football history.
If you’re in Munich for a weekend and can’t secure tickets for a Bayern game, do yourself a favour and hop on a regional train up to Regensburg. You won’t regret it.
Conor Thompson lives and works in Dublin. Having studied in Germany for a year during his university life, he has developed a keen interest in the country’s football and fan scene.
Main image: SSV Jahn Regensburg Facebook