The last living dinosaur has joined its ancestors who went extinct roughly 66 million years ago. Hamburger SV, the so-called “Bundesliga Dinosaur” was relegated for the first time in the club’s existence last weekend. A 2:1 home victory over Gladbach was not enough to reach the playoff relegation spot, which Wolfsburg successfully earned with a win of their own against already relegated Cologne.
Thus, Hamburg finished 17th with 31 points, meaning they will leave the top flight for the first time ever. The dinosaur was one of the founding members of the Bundesliga in 1963 and the only club to have played continuously in the 1st division since its inception.
The Club’s Tradition
One of the famous images of Hamburg is the running clock that shows their total time in the Bundesliga. The clock stopped counting up the seconds, minutes, days, etc. on Saturday evening, reading an impressive: 54 years, 260 days, 20 hours, 38 minutes, and 07 seconds.
The historic run came to an ugly end as Hamburg supporters threw fireworks and flares and tried to rush on the pitch, forcing the referee to suspend the play for some minutes, but also allowing the dino’s clock to pile up a few more minutes. The chaotic scenes continued after the game ended as fan violence erupted outside the stadium. This sort of behavior does not come unexpected when teams get relegated so police were prepared and resolved the situation mostly peacefully.
During their successful 54-year Bundesliga reign, Hamburg won the league title 3 times, allowing them to display a gold star in their emblem. All these titles came in the late-70s and early-80s. This was the most dominant period of the club as they finished first or second 8 times in a 10-year span.
The dino also added two DFB-Pokal championships to their resume during these years. Although their dominance atop the table came to an abrupt end, they remained in contention for the European Cup spots for many years.
Their slow demise began in the 2011-2012 Bundesliga season when the club barely saved themselves from relegation in the dying minutes of the season. The same was true in the 2 relegation playoffs they played in between 2013 and 2015, avoiding relegation in the last minute of the game. Last season they were also on track to get relegated before finishing off an impressive comeback run with a Luca Waldschmidt 88th minute game-winner over Wolfsburg, forcing the latter into the relegation playoff over themselves. As above-mentioned, the tables turned this year, and the Hamburg Bundesliga clock has stopped running.
However, the clock will tick on for a different purpose as the club will change the “in der Bundesliga seit” (translation: “in the Bundesliga since”) to “Tradition since”. They will also change the numbers such that the clock now shows the entire lifespan of the club: 130 years and over 200 days. In this sense, the dinosaur will live on.
The only reason why the dino was able to fight for survival this year was Christian Titz, their new coach who was appointed 8 matches before the end of the season. He revitalized the team. Luckily for Hamburg, Titz signed an extension until 2020 immediately after being relegated. Along with him, the dino hopes to retain the core of their players while trying to improve the team through a series of their own youth players.
One of the core players, team captain Gotoku Sakai, gave the dino and their fans a positive sign in a post-game interview saying he will stay. Apart from Sakai, Titz places importance on retaining Lewis Holtby and Aaron Hunt, his two playmakers in the middle of the field. Hamburg has a good youth system and several German youth national players, which is promising if they can hold onto these young potential stars. If all these things come together Hamburg will surely be the favorites to win the title in the 2nd division and get promoted back to the league that they have just left for the first time ever.
Author: Felix Dalstein