‘TheHardTackle Relic’ is a semi-regular column which dusts the pages of history of this game. It intends to take you back to events, players and teams which are buried under cob-webs and lost in time. Today we turn back the clock on the history of a rivalry, where a footballer can be thrown out of the team because he married someone from the rival town.
As the Bundesliga resumes this week, and with it will resume a host of fierce rivalries, local derbies and clashes with enceinte history. The most anticipated among these would be the Bavarian derby between Bayern Munich and FC Nuremburg. With Nuremburg fans despising Der Ruhmreiche being called a Bavarian club, this derby is often known as Fränkisch-Bairisches derby. Then there is the Munich derby, between Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 Munich, which has not been competed in the top flight since Die Löwen were relegated in 2003-04 season. Fans will have to wait for some more time before that rivalry resumes in Bundesliga as TSV 1860 Munich once again failed to qualify from the 2nd division, as they finished 6th last season. But there is one rivalry that will resume in the top flight for the first time since 1963. A derby that is the most played footballing contest between sides, with over 250 games played against each other; a clash that goes beyond the football pitch and holds immense sociopolitical importance. The Franconian derby between SpVgg Greuther Fürth and FC Nuremburg!
Let us travel back in time to the roots of this rivalry, long before this was brought on to the football field.
Franconian derby is not a typical local derby between two clubs from the same city. SpVgg Greuther Fürth is a club based in small German city Fürth (of middle Franconia), while FC Nuremburg as the name suggests is a Nuremburg based club. The sociopolitical rivalry of the two cities goes back to a time when Heinrich III, the great Roman emperor, ruled over those parts of the world. In and around the year 1008, Fürth was granted the status of a “market town”, back in those days the “market town” status separated a village from a city. But under Heinrich III, Fürth lost this status to Nuremburg, and this planted the seed of an age-old rivalry that would influence the history of both the neighboring cities. In 1062 Fürth was granted the “market town” status once again, but by that time Nuremburg became a much more developed city and held more economical importance. Social development of Fürth again received a set back during the ’thirty year war’, when nearly the whole city was destroyed by fire.
Nuremburg and Fürth hold a significant place in German history. The first railway line in Germany was constructed connecting these two cities in 1865. It was named as the Bavarian Ludwig Railway. Perhaps the most significant development of this rivalry was when in 1922, a merger between the two cities was proposed by the council, which meant that Fürth would come under Nuremburg, but the people in Fürth raised their voice and voted against this proposal. In fact people were so enraged that they created an organization named – Association for the protection of the interests of the city of Fürth – Fürth Trust!
This rivalry was soon channelized to the most popular sport in this region, football.
SpVgg Greuther Fürth was just SpVgg Fürth back when it was founded in 1903. But astoundingly, even before the club came into existence, they had already played three matches with Nuremburg. Back then SpVgg Fürth was just the football division of TV Fuerth 1860, one of the biggest sports club back then. Hence although the first match between FC Nuremburg and SpVgg Fürth was played back in 1902, a match which Nuremburg won 15-0, those clashes were not given official status. The first official game between these two clubs were played in 1908, a match which ended 3-3. Furth’s first victory in the derby came in a match in 1910 which they won 2-1, incidentally, that was also the first match held in Furth’s present stadium, the Trolli Arena.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s SpVgg Fürth and Nuremburg dominated the German championship. The rivalry between both the teams reached epic heights as a certain Hans Sutor would concur.
Although Leonhard Seiderer was the first footballer to play for both the clubs, it is the transfer of Hans Sutor, a German footballer, which stands out from the rest, a dubious honour considering the circumstances. Sutor started his playing career at SpVgg Fürth, and during that period, transfer of any player from Fürth to Nuremburg was unthinkable. So how did he cross over?
In modern Era, perhaps Luis Figo’s transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid and the aftermath that followed, is highlighted as an example of how fierce the rivalry can be between two clubs. But SpVgg Fürth and Nuremburg took it to a different level altogether. Hans Sutor was not sold to Nuremburg. Rather, he was thrown out of the Fürth’s squad. His crime? Well, In 1920 he married a girl from Nuremburg, and that was simply unacceptable for the SpVgg Furth’s fans and board, specially as it coincided with Furth losing out to Nuremburg in the championship. Hans was thrown out of the club and he ,yes you guessed it right, joined Nuremburg.
In 1921, as a result of both the clubs’ dominance in the league, the German national team selected for a friendly match against Netherlands, contained players exclusively from both teams. Legend has it, that both the club’s players were made to sleep in separate train coaches while travelling, to avoid any sparks. The Nuremburg players slept in the first wagon, the Furth’s player slept in the last and coach Georg B. Blascke sat in the middle! Germany won that match 1-0 and one of the Furth players scored the winner. It is said that during the goal celebrations, only Furth’s players were present to congratulate him while the Nuremburg players remained unmoved. Can you imagine a scenario like this in today’s date, where suppose David Villa scores a goal for Spain and only the Real Madrid players in the Spanish side turned their back on it? The rivalry between these two clubs, specially back then, is unmatched by anything we experience today.
The rivalry continued in Oberliga Sud (The earlier version of Bundesliga). It was momentarily on hold as Fürth were relegated to 2nd division. Nuremburg have been a yo-yo club as well, gaining promotion and being relegated quite frequently. For the last three seasons Nuremburg have been able to maintain their Bundesliga status, which meant the derby was on hold, except for when these two clubs met in the DFB Pokal, which they did in 2011, their last meeting, and it had an ugly ending.
Although things are not as bad as it used to be back in 1920s, they have not improved much either. In the DFB Pokal match between the two clubs, back in 2011, the ultras of Nuremburg raided the pitch and attacked the opposing fans after Nuremburg lost out to SpVgg Greuther Fürth 1-0. A report by the German FA said –
“Frankfurt – Nuremberg are under investigation by the German football federation DFB after a group of their fans stormed the pitch and attacked opposing fans after a cup defeat.
A group of around 100 fans took to the pitch and attacked fans of Greuther Fuerth after Nuremberg lost a round of 16 cup game 1-0 against the regional rivals who rank second in the second division.”
Evidently, all of the bad blood is not lost, and this will add something extra to Bundesliga this season as these two clubs will resume their rivalry once again, and for the first time in the Bundesliga. Embrace yourself, the Frankenderby is coming your way.