Hoffenheim’s Cinderella story turns sour
Having seen the changes at the top of the Bundesliga in the past few months you cannot help but feel sorry for newcomers Hoffenheim, who have played some of the most exciting football this season.
They won promotion last year and halfway through the season they topped the standings in a sensational run. They shared the top spot at the halfway mark with Bayern Munich but were ahead on goal difference and style of play.
But that is where their Cinderella debut season with their free-flowing, attacking football ended; the clock struck 12 and the golden chariot turned into a defective Trabant.
The league’s top scorer at the time, Vedad Ibisevic, who netted 18 times in 17 matches, tore his ligament during the winter break. Out for the rest of the season.
Then came midfielder Carlos Eduardo’s five-match ban after fighting with Hamburg’s Ivica Olic during a friendly match.
As if that was not enough they also missed striker Chinedu Obasi — twice through injury — before the tranquillity of the team was again shattered by a weeks-long doping affair involving Andreas Ibertsberger and Christoph Janker.
The two defenders were 10 minutes late for a doping test but they did avoid punishment with the blame placed on club officials.
But that was not the last of Hoffenheim’s woes. Newly-signed keeper Timo Hildebrand has managed only a handful of appearances after being plagued by minor injuries.
Then came the ongoing 11-match winless streak, though many of those matches should have clearly been won.
In their 0-0 draw at home against Werder Bremen, striker Boubacar Sanogo alone hit the same post three times. “At the end I was laughing. I could not believe it,” he said.
So from first they are now down to eighth, their dreams of European soccer at their brand-new Rhein Neckar Arena dashed as fast as striker Demba Ba’s surging runs.
Coach Ralf Rangnick admits there is no point in talking about a European spot anymore but refuses to change his young team’s attacking style.
And for the football fans out there, that is great news.
PHOTO: TSG Hoffenheim’s coach Ralf Rangnick awaits the start of the German Bundesliga first match against Hamburg SV in Hamburg April 4, 2009. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen