After beginning the 2016-17 Bundesliga season with a record low 2 points after 10 matchdays, many people deemed Hamburg favourites to finally get relegated. No team in Bundesliga history has managed to stay up after starting a season with 2 or less points after 10 matchdays, but if there was ever a team to avoid the drop, Hamburg was the team to do it.
Since those twelve matches, Hamburg’s form has been CL-qualification quality if spread out over a the course of a whole season. They’ve often found themselves near the top of the form table (past 5 games), usually sitting a spot or two behind the always-first Bayern.
The most important questions still remained unanswered however. How did this turn of form occur? How did such a bad team go from relegation favourites to one of the stronger sides in the Bundesliga? The Raised Flag takes a deeper look at Hamburg’s recent turn in form.
Contacting The Club
The first thing to do was to contact someone at the club for some insider information. Our good friend Daniel Müssig, the athletics trainer, was the obvious choice. The team had been running a bit harder in recent matches, and maybe it had something to do with their physical training recently. Yet after talking to Daniel, it was clear he couldn’t enlighten us any further. Their training schedule hadn’t changed one bit since the beginning of the season.
Luckily, he did say that the form had been turned around by a recommendation from a certain Dieter Becken, a member of the supervisory board, and it would be wise to contact him for the whole story. So the next day, we lined up an interview with the 66-year old supervisory board member.
We arrived at HSV’s offices, and after a bit of chitchat, Dieter let us in on exactly how he managed to turn around the Bundesliga’s oldest team in a matter of weeks. Here’s the interview in full with Dieter Becken:
[Translated from German]
Offside Football: “Thanks for creating some time in your schedule to accommodate us today.”
Dieter Becken: “Thanks for having me!”
OSF: “So how exactly did a supervisory board member get a club of this stature to turn its season around in incredible fashion?”
DB: “Well it all started with the stretch of bad form of this club back in October and November. During those truly awful matches, I went back in time to find some comfort and to find reasons as to why I was still a fan of this consistently rock-bottom club. It was while I was reminiscing over the old glory days of this club when the idea came to me. Following the club as a kid, I remembered how the players used to enjoy a good meal before games, maybe even smoke a cigarette. Nowadays, it’s all about the perfect meal with the right amount of this or that for an athlete. But does it really make that much of a difference? Sometimes, I thought, motivation and inspiration do much more for players rather than a tasteless meal prepared for them before matches.”
OSF: “So you found a way to motivate them to succeed?”
DB: “Well not quite so directly. I remembered, from the days I was still a young adult watching Hamburg take home title after title, that the team always had a hearty hamburger before each match, as a sort of reminder of the roots of this club. As we all know, Hamburger SV was created as a team for the workers of the now-extinct Hamburger Factory in Hamburg. Maybe what this group of players really needed was a reminder of the roots of this club and how successful this club had been in the past.”
OSF: “So how did you bring back the roots to the current squad?”
DB: “I knew it was an outrageous thought, but I just had to recommend that they change their diet from these excessively over-analyzed meals to the classic hamburger. My logic was that to feel more connected with the city, as many current players are not from here, it would make sense for them to eat a part of this glorious city in a pre-game hamburger. Sadly, I didn’t realize it is now illegal to slaughter citizens and eat them between two pieces of bread, but found that recently some companies across the Atlantic have found a way to create a “hamburger” out of cow meat, which is an interesting alternative. I was worried this change in the meat itself would make the change in diet irrelevant, but I had to hope it was more psychological and give it a shot.”
OSF: “How was this idea received by the staff at the club?”
DB: “Not well… not well at all. The medical team immediately argued there would be too many negative health effects to the players. They said the performance of the squad might drop severely. Another board member, who shall remain nameless, argued back that you can’t do much worse than two points out of a possible thirty-six. A tough argument to counter, and the medical team decided to try and work with the alteration. Therefore, the club decided to risk it and go with my approach.”
OSF: “When exactly was this first implemented? One could argue the turnaround in form happened when the club drew Hoffenheim 2-2 back on the 20th of November.
DB: “It was actually the game against Dortmund when I first proved how useful it would be. At halftime, with the team down 3-0 already, I argued the match was already lost and we should just test out the effect of hamburgers on the players. In the second half, Dortmund scored early, but after the hamburgers had settled in the players stomachs, we scored twice before the match ended 5-2.
OSF: “So the club decided to test your idea in future matches?”
DB: “Yes, I argued the game could have been won had the meal been sufficiently early enough for the hamburgers to be digested and not so last-minute. The club, having just seen a goal for the first time in eight Bundesliga matches, had to agree something indeed changed. And ever since that day, HSV’s players have been eating a hamburger before every match and performing on the pitch just like this club used to.”
OSF: “So how did such a collapse vs Bayern occur this season once again?”
DB: “Ah yes. Such a foolish mistake. On that road trip, the staff forgot to bring along the hamburgers, and therefore, the players missed their vital pre-game meal. There was no way we were eating those toxic sausages made down south, so the players had to play with a normal meal in their stomachs for once. The next match, a mid-week Pokal clash against Mönchengladbach, was lost as well, as the players hadn’t yet recovered from their missed burgers.”
OSF: “That’s a truly great story and an exceptional idea on your part. Thank you very much for sharing that with us today.”
DB: “It was my pleasure.”
The Outcome of the Change
Since that fabled day that will remain in every Hamburg’s mind forever, their form has been exceptional.
Before the match vs Hoffenheim: DLLLLLDLLL 0W2D8L (2/30 pts.)
The match vs Hoffenheim and since: DDWWLLWWWWWWWWDLLWW 12W3D4L (39/57 pts.)
Hamburg’s form at home is the most exceptional of all:
— Hamburger SV EN (@HSVnewsEN) March 12, 2017
This diet will hopefully be carried over to the next season, as Hamburg seem the most likely team to finally wrestle the Bundesliga title away from Bayern.