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Hiding in the Schatten of relegation

Tennis Borussia Berlin slunk out of the Oberliga in their two legged relegation playoff against Borea Dresden. A miserable season has come to an end, but the fans still found something to smile about.

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The Flying Deuces (1939)

“German football needs teams like TeBe,“ said Borea Dresden trainer Ignjac Krešić, genuinely feeling sorrow at picking the team that finally sent TeBe to the Berlin-Liga on Sunday afternoon.

His opposite number, Markus Schatte, seemed faintly embarassed that this awful, awful season had to be prolonged by two more games, but for a couple of moments it looked almost possible that TeBe might unexpectedly and barely-deservedly drag themselves out of the relegation mess.

One of those moments was one month ago, an incredible comeback against Schöneiche in mid-May that bounced the Veilchen out of the automatic relegation spot into the play-off position. That position was consolidated in typically comical fashion, as the three teams ‘battling’ for it all lost their last two games with an incredible goal difference of 5:26. Proof, as if we hadn’t had enough of it all season, that none of them were good enough for the Oberliga.

There was another moment on Sunday when Beyazit Taflan levelled the aggregate scores with 12 minutes left on the clock. It was a goal out of nowhere, a looping, swerving thump from well outside the box that the goalkeeper didn’t even dive for. It would have been a pointless gesture, his advancement from his line having given Taflan the perfect invitation to scoop it up over him.

Aside from that excellent goal, though, TeBe were just as they had been all season. Steven Russow headed inexplicably wide from close range, with not a defender in sight mid-way through the second half. Trachimowicz headed past his own goalkeeper nine minutes into extra time to give Dresden that magical away goal.

As dreadful as the situation was, leaving TeBe requiring two for survival, it was nice to be able to talk about away goals. They evoke thoughts of exotic European nights and stories for the grandchildren rather than Oberliga relegation playoff despair. Despair it was though, as Borea scored the winner on the break with a minute to play.

Watching this team all year has been like watching a Laurel and Hardy movie. You know they are rubbish. You know things won’t work out. But damn it, they are just so endearingly hapless that you stick them them just in case they manage to get their finger off that self-destruct button for long enough to let something positive happen for once.

As for the fans, long-suffering doesn’t even come close. This year has seen five league victories and only 27 goals scored in 32 games. And still, the team was applauded from the field, the supporters climbing the fences at the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark (the Mommsenstadion is currently in use for the upcoming Women’s World Cup) to let the players know that they’ll be around next year, too.

One would expect that next year will see a lot more victories, but with a mass clearout of the squad to be expected, one never can tell for sure. Of the players that could take a step up to a higher level, goalkeeper Konstantin Filatow is the most likely – for all the goals he conceded all year, very few of them could be blamed on him. Taflan also shows moments of potential, and with a little more composure and better support from the players behind him, could score plenty of goals.

Whoever the personnel is, Markus Schatte isn’t underestimating the task at hand. “The team has hit rock bottom… there’s a huge amount of work to be done to make us a force in Berlin football again,” was his deflated reaction after the game. But TeBe fans have become used to looking on the bright side – as one fan pointed out in an online forum, next year all their games will be in Berlin so they can save some money on train tickets. Always look on the bright side.