Seven minutes into Saturday’s encounter with BFC Preussen a groan went up around the 360 present at Tennis Borussia’s Mommsenstadion. The guests whipped a free-kick into the box which the TeBe goalkeeper fumbled into the path of Marco Möckel, who, unmarked, had a simple job of slamming it home. A third consecutive relegation couldn’t be possible, could it?
Well, maybe. The powers that be at TeBe have been playing down the team’s chances all summer. There’s still no money whatsoever, the insolvency process isn’t finished, there aren’t enough sponsors – this year is supposed to be one for consolidation, one of nice, relaxing mid-table obscurity, for once without any stressful promotion hunts or relegation scrambling.
But TeBe doesn’t work like that. Even when playing in unfamiliar black shirts (albeit one finally adorned with a shirt sponsor), and with the majority of the players making their debut, there was still something recognisable about the doggedness that brought them back into the game.
Doggedness, and a moment of inspiration from Alexander Greinert, pinging Preussen goalkeeper Loder’s weak clearance back over his head and into the net from just outside the centre circle. The midfielder caught the eye with a decent range of passing, but also often got muscled off the ball as the two teams battled for supremacy in the midfield.
His partner in the centre, Manuel Zemlin, however, is not a man that can be pushed around, and with Borussia meeting Preussen, it seemed fitting that one man should dominate the pitch like the old kingdom dominated Eastern Europe centuries ago. He put TeBe into the lead after half an hour, pounding Emmanuel Okuma’s clever through-ball into the roof of the net.
While things looked good going forward, the TeBe defence looked anything but stable, especially when dealing with the forceful running of Godfred Bonsu. It was the Ghanaian who scored the equaliser just before half-time, starting and finishing a blistering counter-attack. The hosts never found a way to cope with the wide-eyed panic he caused, and even after the game was out of sight for Preussen, he still threatened to create havoc.
His cause was helped by the TeBe goalkeeper Idriss Fonou, occasionally looking like someone pulled in from the street to make up the numbers, occasionally looking like the finest keeper in the world. He’s certainly agile enough to be a goalkeeper, but as Neville Southall would attest, agility is what a goalkeeper needs when his positional sense and awareness have left him out of position and requiring an eye-catching save to keep the egg from his face.
But as the second half progressed and TeBe took control, the defensive uncertainty just added to the excitement. Okan Isik put the hosts in the lead, and then Greinert and Ergün scored within 60 seconds of each other. The withdrawal of right winger Okuma for Tom Kirstein after an hour allowed right-back Ömer Tetik to get forward, and two of the goals came from his inch-perfect deliveries.
TeBe were having fun now, and when your centre-back is attempting a bicycle kick from a deep corner, you know that something is going right. Marcus Benad’s ambitious attempt was handled, and the penalty was converted by Kirstein.
6-2 was the final score, and it’s been a long time since TeBe fans have seen a treat like that. Last year, the team managed only 26 league goals in total. But this is TeBe, and by now everyone involved with the club knows that feet need to always stay on the ground – years of pain following pleasure has taught them that. The trainer, Markus Schatte knows it too. “Don’t be blinded by the six goals”, he said. “All that glitters is not gold. There’s still a lot of work to be done to achieve our goals“.
But, if we’re peddling clichés, a good start is half the work. Now that there is a sponsor on the shirt and the insolvency process is coming to an end, TeBe might finally have a chance to concentrate on events on the pitch. Now that would be a fine luxury, especially if performances like today are repeated.