Hamburg meine Perle, du wunderschoene Stadt, du bist mein Zuhaus', du bist mein Leben...
"Hamburg my jewel, you wonderful town, you’re my home, you’re my life…"
That declaration of love and loyalty comes from a song, performed live prior to every Hamburger SV home game, against the dramatic backdrop of the packed north terrace. The Bundesliga club’s loyal fans wave flags and hold their scarves aloft while swaying and singing along en masse.
The Bundesliga founder members, who celebrated their centenary more than 20 years ago and are known in Germany simply as HSV, are the only club never to have been relegated from the top flight. FIFA.com turns the spotlight on the German Bundesliga’s sole ever-present members.
Birth of an institution
Hamburg SV is one of Germany’s oldest sports organisations. The club’s founding constitution is dated 29 September 1887, when clubs from Hohenfelde and Wandsbek-Marienthal merged to form the new SC Germania von 1887.
After a series of further mergers, with FC Falke 1906 and Hamburger FC among others, the club adopted the current name Hamburger Sportverein in 1919. The official colours back then were blue, white and black, a nod to the clubs which came together to form HSV. By contrast, the playing kit mirrored the official colours of the city of Hamburg, with red shorts and a white shirt.
Not long afterwards, the team which rapidly became known as Die Rothosen ('the red shorts') won the German championship in 1922/23 and 1927/28. Hamburg soon grew into one of the most powerful clubs in the north of the country. Some time later, a personality emerged who is to this day recognised as the icon and personification of the club in one. Uwe Seeler was Germany’s first Player of the Year in 1960 after a major contribution to Hamburg's fourth championship triumph. 'Our Uwe' picked up the best player accolade twice more, in 1964 and 1970, before finally hanging up his boots in 1972.
"I’m a Hamburg man through and through, and the HSV diamond [logo] is stamped on my heart. I’m a passionate fan. HSV is my club,” the former club president once told FIFA.com.
Making of a legend
It came as little surprise when Hamburg were adopted as founder members of the Bundesliga in 1963, although the northerners were initially forced to acclimatise to mid-table status in the new national league. One record dating from that time stands to this day: an 8-0 victory over Karlsruhe on Matchday 22 in 1965/66 remains the club's biggest home win.
Hamburg had to wait until 1979 for a maiden Bundesliga title, under the guidance of coaching legends Branko Zebec and Ernst Happel. The club finished runners-up in both the next two seasons, before reclaiming the championship shield in 1982. Die Rothosen retained the trophy the following season on goal difference from bitter northern rivals Werder Bremen. HSV remained undefeated in the league from 16 January 1982 until 29 January 1983, a 36-game run without defeat which is still a Bundesliga record.
A truly great Hamburg team also hit the headlines on the European stage. The 1982 UEFA Cup final was lost 4-0 on aggregate to IFK Goteborg, but the following season was to bring the club’s greatest triumph. A Felix Magath goal was enough to beat runaway favourites Juventus 1-0 in the European Cup final. The years since then have been leaner, as the club’s last major success was a 3-1 German Cup final victory over Stuttgarter Kickers in 1987.
The northerners are still waiting for the next addition to their trophy cabinet. After a decade in no-man’s land, HSV’s fortunes picked up in the new millennium and the club finished fourth in 2002/03, third in 2005/06, and fourth in 2007/08.
The club fondly known as the dinosaur of the league finally seemed to have reclaimed a place among the national elite in 2008/09. Coach Martin Jol led his team to the German and UEFA Cup semi-finals, and their title challenge lasted until a few games from home. However, they faded dramatically in the run-in, and it took a Piotr Trochowski strike away to Eintracht Frankfurt in the last minute of the last match of term to secure a place in the UEFA Europa League for 2009/10.
Rich tradition is evident everywhere at Hamburg, and that includes the mascot. Hermann the dinosaur, named after long-serving physio Hermann Rieger, made his debut in August 2003 prior to HSV’s meeting with Bayern Munich, marking the northerners' 40th consecutive season in the Bundesliga. Hermann emerged into the light from an oversized egg wearing the shirt number 87, harking back to the club’s foundation in 1887.
Hamburg’s home ground in the Bahrenfeld Volkspark is as redolent with history as the club itself. The site started life as the Altonaer Stadion, inaugurated on 11 September 1925 in front of a 50,000 crowd. Following post-war reconstruction, the Volksparkstadion on the same site opened its gates in 1953, and would later be used at the 1974 FIFA World Cup™.
However, the increasingly dilapidated stadium soon fell out of favour with fans and teams alike. It was demolished and replaced in 1998 by one of Germany’s finest sports arenas, with the pitch rotated through 90 degrees. Continuing expansion will boost the capacity to 60,000 for the new season. The stadium hosts the Europa League final in 2010.