DFB Cup: FCK celebrates cup coup: Berlin trip as league encouragement

FCK celebrates cup coup: Berlin trip as league encouragement

The players of 1. FC Kaiserslautern celebrate reaching the final of the DFB Cup. photo

© Uwe Anspach/dpa

1. FC Kaiserslautern is in the cup final for the eighth time in the club’s history. The success, which is particularly special for the coach, should inspire the Red Devils in the relegation battle of the 2nd league.

The exuberant cup party of 1. FC Kaiserslautern after reaching the final for the first time in 21 years took place without Friedhelm Funkel.

While the professionals of the second division football team threatened with relegation turned night into day after the 2-0 win in the semi-final against third division team 1. FC Saarbrücken, the 70-year-old coaching oldie enjoyed what was a special success for him in his hotel room.

“I would never have expected in my life that I would be traveling to the cup final in Berlin with a team again. It’s hard to believe. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Funkel. He had previously given his protégés permission to party: “If you don’t celebrate now, then when. These are young guys who have three days to prepare for the next game.”

Sparkle in conflict

Thinking about the Berlin trip on May 25th, Funkel’s eyes lit up shortly after the final whistle. “There’s such a great atmosphere there. It’s always something special,” enthused the FCK coach, for whom this is his fifth final appearance. In 1985 he won the pot as a player with Bayer Uerdingen after 1. FC Saarbrücken were eliminated in the semi-finals. “We actually had no chance in the final against Bayern Munich, but we still won 2-1 and became cup winners. Maybe this story will repeat itself,” said Funkel.

Under no circumstances should another story repeat itself. In 1996, FCK triumphed in the cup for the second time in the club’s history, having recently been relegated from the Bundesliga. A similar scenario threatens this time too, just one class lower. Seven game days before the end of the season, the Red Devils are in the relegation zone in the second division.

“I don’t want to go to Berlin as a relegated team. We want to prevent that at all costs,” said Funkel and emphasized: “Staying in the league is much, much more important than winning the cup.” If necessary, he would even accept the threat of deadline stress if the FCK had to be relegated. The second division 16 games scheduled for May 24th and 28th. In this case, the match against the third team in the 3rd league would certainly be postponed, but the unfavorable situation would remain. “But that would still be better than being relegated straight away,” said Funkel.

Focus on relegation battle

He is hoping that the cup coup will provide a “small boost” for the relegation battle, which continues on Saturday with the difficult guest appearance at promotion candidate Hamburger SV. Otherwise, the final shouldn’t play a role in the coming weeks. “I will make sure that we only have the next league games in mind,” announced Funkel.

This is entirely in the spirit of FCK managing director Thomas Hengen. “We have full focus on the league and staying in the league. We have to stay mentally strong and score points so that we are above the line in the end,” he emphasized. The eighth final in the DFB Cup is “a huge image gain for the club. It’s also good financially so we can consolidate further,” said Hengen.

Berlin trip as a career highlight

The 49-year-old was there as an FCK player in Berlin in 1996 and 2003 and knows the special magic of the final. “This is something special. That’s why the boys can celebrate it too,” said Hengen. Leading goalscorer Marlon Ritter summed up the feeling: “I think the final will be a unique experience. You experience that at Bayern, Dortmund, Leipzig or Frankfurt, but not when you’re languishing in the second or third league. That’s one thing Huge deal – also for the fans.”

For defender Boris Tomiak, reaching the final is “a bit surreal. We might only realize that in a few years.” The FCK professionals celebrated the extraordinary success with corresponding exuberance. “We are a good team – on the pitch and also on the glass,” said Ritter.


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