Hoffenheim’s Cinderella story turns sour

May 1, 2009

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


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It is a real shame. Hoffenheim are the best think to happen to the Bundesliga in a long time and I hope they get it back together for next season. Bet they wish there was no winter break in Germany … with no break, their momentum might have carried them a lot further.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Hoffenheim have been fantastic to watch this year, such exciting attacking play reminiscent of mid 90’s Newcastle. It is a shame about Ibisevic, Salihovic on the left looks a quality player as well.

Here’s hoping they come back strong next season, and never change their attacking philosophy. They have contributed greatly to the excitement of the Bundesliga as a whole this year, a point alluded to in a great article on worldfootballcolumns.com.

Posted by Steve Atkinson | Report as abusive

I do somehow have a soft spot for them, considering all the more they had shown that even though they have a wealthy benefactor in Dietmar Hopp, the club do not spend the money for the sake of spending it. They are a breath of fresh air to the Bundesliga with the way they played especially in the first-half of the season.

‘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.’

And for Hoffenheim to be where they are at the moment, it is all the more admirable given they were still playing in the regional leagues some years ago.

Posted by diana | Report as abusive

your are right Diana. What is also important is that their only spending spree was back in the second division in 2007 when they brought Obasi, Ba and Ibisevic. And even then, considering Hopp’s wealth, these players were by no means household names.

Posted by Karolos Grohmann | Report as abusive

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Posted by Hoffenheim’s Cinderella story turns sour | Soccer News Info | Report as abusive

I watched Hoffenheim against Hertha last week and they were a pleasure to watch. Pity, injuries might rob them of what would have been a really great season. But they have me over with their brand of football. Ugo.

Posted by Ugochukwu | Report as abusive

Against Wolsfburg last week, they played better football than the Bundesliga leaders. But they lost 4:0 – Sure somebody cast them an evil spell !

Posted by noroit | Report as abusive