A year ago, Samrin dropped a piece covering the incidents of the rivalry between Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach in recent times. Turning the gears back, going into the past, we find a fascinating history behind this rivalry, though at the moment, Gladbach have merely been reduced to the position of a ‘bogey team’.
Gladbach’s story is one that happens parallel to Bayern’s, until the two cross paths in the 1965/66 Bundesliga season.
In the season of 1964/65, the club signed youngsters Jupp Heynckes and Bernd Rupp, and promoted some youth players, thus making the average age of the squad very low. Because of this, along with their carefree style of play, reporter Wilhelm August Hurtmanns coined the nickname “Die Fohlen” (The Foals) in his articles in the Rheinische Post. In April 1965, the team had won the Regionalliga West and subsequently won the promotion rounds, earning promotion to the Bundesliga.
This signalled the beginning of arguably German football’s greatest rivalry; Die Roten gegen Die Fohlen. The two clubs were eternally at each other’s throats, as they challenged for the Meisterschale throughout the ‘70s.
Under former Yugoslavia midfielder Zlatko Cajkovski, Bayern placed third in their first Bundesliga campaign (1965) and won the DFB Cup, and in the subsequent year, they bagged the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Cajkavoski built Bayern around the ‘golden trio’: goalkeeper Sepp Maier, sweeper Franz Beckenbauer and centre-forward Gerd Müller.
Bayern drew first blood in the struggle for supremacy between the two by lifting their maiden Meisterschale in 1969, led by Cajkovski’s former Yugoslavia teammate, Branko Zebec. Gerd Müller, the Bundesliga’s all-time leading goalscorer, netted 30 that season as Bayern won their second title overall, since 1932.
Gladbach weren’t one to let Bayern win just like that. They struck back immediately in the following season, winning two consecutive Bundesliga seasons and became the first Bundesliga club ever to successfully defend their title. The two teams continued to spur each other on to ever greater heights. Müller inspired Bayern to the 1972 title with the historic and mind-blowing tally of 40 goals and followed that up with hauls of 36 and 30 as Bayern subsequently lifted the Meisterschale twice again, from 1972 through 1974.
But all wasn’t bitter between the German sensations, as the teams put their club rivalry to one side to help Germany enjoy a sensational start to the decade, bagging the 1972 Euros trophy. Only five of the 18-man national squad for UEFA Euro 1972 were not players from Bayern or Gladbach. Furthermore, in the starting XI of the final against the erstwhile Soviet Union, nine of the players were from either Bayern or Gladbach. Germany proceeded to win this final 3-0 with Müller and Wimmer on the scoresheet. Two years later, eight Bayern and Gladbach players faced the Netherlands side featuring Johann Cruyff and Co. in the Olympiastadion in Munich for the 1974 FIFA World Cup. Netherlands were expected to seal the title with their valiant ‘Total Football’, that was all the rage back in the day. Despite falling behind in the second minute, it was Germany who emerged victorious thanks to goals from Paul Breitner and Müller. The Bavarians and North Rhine-Westphalians went from fighting for dominance in the league to sitting on top the world in unity.
The ‘70s went down as the most successful period in the history of Gladbach as Die Fohlen under Hennes Weisweiler displayed an offensive-minded philosophy and powerful play that not only attracted fans, but also trophies. They subsequently lifted Die ‘Schale three times from 1974-1977, making die Elf vom Niederrhein the most successful club in the Bundesliga in the 70s, with five Bundesliga trophies altogether.
Though Weisweller is touted as the architect of the yesteryear Gladbach team, he only managed them until 1974/75, and left for FC Barcelona after having won that season. He had won three Bundesliga titles overall with the team.
(Weisweller returned to Germany after a trophy-less stint in Barcelona to win a Bundesliga title with... FC Koln in 1977/78, thus breaking the winning streak Gladbach had maintained.)
Naturally, their domestic success soon spilled over into Europe. Several months before the 1974 World Cup, Bayern were crowned European champions after defeating Atletico Madrid 4-0 in the final replay, having required a 120th-minute equaliser from defender Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck in the original showpiece. This goal is considered by some as the most important goal in the club’s history. They would go on to win the historic three-peat, as they continued their winning ways in 1975 and 1976, beating Leeds United and Saint-Etienne.
Another memorable moment in ‘74 was on 18 May, just 24 hours after Bayern had beaten Atletico in that European Cup final. While playing on consecutive days would now be unthinkable, the newly anointed Champions of Europe were to turn up after the thriller of a final, and to no one’s surprise, lost 5-0. However, since they had already sewn up the Bundesliga title the previous week, the players and team on the bench took all in humour and were apparently laughing with every conceded goal.
Although Gladbach seized the Bundesliga crown back from Bayern in three consecutive seasons from 1975 to 1977, they could never quite match their rivals on the European scene. They reached the final of the 1977 European Cup but in vain, as they crashed 3-1 to Liverpool in Rome. On the other hand, they hit jackpot, winning the UEFA Cup in 1975 and 1979.
The end of the 1970s marked a turning point in the fortunes of both clubs. While Bayern continued to enjoy unparalleled success throughout the 1980s and beyond, Gladbach could never replicate their previous successes, like when they narrowly missed on the Meisterschale owing to goal difference. Their most recent trophy is the DFB Cup which they won in 1995. That, against the string of successes that Bayern have seen all this while, goes about to show that the rivalry was waning.
One of the final games between the teams during the glory era seemed to foreshadow this precisely. March 1979, Bayern travelled to Gladbach and emerged victorious, with a 7-1 win. Karl-Heinz “Kalle” Rummenigge found himself on the scoresheet, having scored a hattrick. This game remains the biggest victory between the two sides to date.
However, even now, it isn’t always a case of one-way traffic. No team has taken more points off Bayern since their entry into the Bundesliga, than Die Fohlen. Gladbach have cemented themselves to be the ultimate Bayern Munich bogey team, casually taking points off their rivals, in league and in cup competitions. Who can forget that horrifying 5-0 Pokal loss?
The concept of a Klassiker was nonexistent in the 70s and 80s, when legends like der Kaiser and der Bomber were ostentatiously strutting in the league and though one of the greatest rivalries in history, this fixture will never be a Klassiker, for the same reasons. But there is no denying that this rivalry will forever be one-of-a-kind.
This was the tale of the kings of German Football in the 70s. Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach.