One of Germany’s most iconic teams, and the East’s most successful in terms of seasons in the Bundesliga, FC Hansa Rostock, celebrated its 55th birthday this week. Post war East German football was rife with re-organisations and on occasions the wholesale movement of teams to new towns. This is how Rostock gained a team in 1955 when Empor Lauter, playing near the Czech border was relocated to Rostock on the Baltic Coast, largely at the behest of local party functionaries, in the face of considerable opposition from Lauter’s fans.
Empor Rostock played for ten years without much success before another re-structure of East German football in 1965 lead to the creation of FC Hansa Rostock, a team which has now become a part of the city’s fabric. The prefix Hansa refers to the medieval Hanseatic League, a trading organisation that bound the Baltic ports of Germany. Twenty five years playing in the top division saw them finish second on five occasions, as well as losing five Cup Finals, before improbably winning a league and cup double in 1991, the final season for East German football.
As champions Hansa got one of the two places available to eastern teams in the first ever all German Bundesliga but were relegated at the first attempt. However they were able to secure promotion three years later and then spent a decade as a mid table team in the top flight, before finally being relegated in 2005. That level of achievement now seems very distant as the club dropped into the 3. Liga for the first time in 2010. For the last few years it has even been a struggle to remain at that level, as off the field financial issues affected the club’s competitiveness.
The notoriously fanatical fans (whose fanaticism has occasionally spilled over into full blown hooliganism, in common with several other eastern clubs) have had to go through some tough times in the last decade but the ship (pardon the pun) has been steadied of late and after consecutive 6th placed finishes, Hansa are in the thick of the promotion race once again this season.