Midseason Roundup: Oberliga Nord (5th division)
Is the Oberliga the best league in the world? Probably not, but it’s always important to hook people with a strong first sentence. At least that’s what it says in my well-worn copy of Content Creation for Idiots. And it’s still a pretty great league.
The 5th division is a perfect fit for anyone who’s exasperated by the glitz and glamour of the Regionalliga but finds the 6th-tier Berlin Liga too provincial. It’s got clubs with deep histories and enthralling fan cultures. The Oberliga is also highly competitive, with tight races at the top and bottom of the table, without the terrifying total unpredictability of lower leagues.
Changes for 2018/19
So, what’s new this season? Four clubs joined the Oberliga in the offseason. Blau-Weiss 90 Berlin were promoted after a dominant performance in the Berlin Liga, while Greifswalder FC came up from the world-renowned Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Verbandsliga. Lok Stendal round out the newcomers, joining from the Oberliga Süd after territorial redistricting shifted how the Oberliga is split between North and South.
Optik Rathenow have departed the league after last season’s promotion, but if you’re really missing them don’t worry, they’re dead last in the Regionalliga and likely won’t be gone for long. FC Meckelenburg Schwerin, SC Victoria Seelow, 1 FC. Frankfurt (Oder, of course) and SV Grün Weiss Brieselang were all relegated last season.
How’s the promotion push looking?
The top of the table is incredibly tight, though it’s largely comprised of familiar faces. Lichtenberg 47 are in first on 40 points, and Tennis Borussia have settled into their usual 2nd place, just a point back. Lichtenberg’s only given up 7 goals in 16 matches and have yet to lose. The biggest surprise in the title hunt are 3rd-place Greifswalder FC, quite the achievement considering they came up this season. Hertha Zehnlendorf are in 4th but are still only 7 points off of the top spot. It looks set to be a battle between Lichtenberg and TeBe, but if they can’t hold onto their momentum in the new year there’ll be plenty of opportunity for Hertha Zehlendorf or Greidswalder FC to sneak into first.
… and down below?
While picking a league winner at this point is next to impossible, it’s pretty obvious who’ll end up in last. A miserable Malchower SV are propping up the table with just 4 points and a -39 goal differential. There’s a bit of buffer between them and 15th-place Lok Stendal, who are on 11 points. Still, there’s not a lot of room to breathe in the table’s basement, as only 5 points separate Lok in 15th and Blau-Weiss 90 in 11th place.
How are the Berlin teams doing?
The capital is well represented in the Oberliga. Lichtenberg 47 are perched at the top of the division. They’ve long been one of the Oberliga’s strongest teams, finishing 3rd in the last two seasons and making the 2016 Berliner Pokal final. Despite that, their undefeated run to first place is a much better first half of the season than any of the prior seasons. It’s up to them to hold onto their momentum, and if they can stay on top of the table they’ll achieve their first ever promotion to the Regionalliga.
Unless, of course, the mighty Tennis Borussia Berlin have anything to say about it. They’re likely suffering déjà vu from last season, when they finished in 2nd place. Now just a point behind Lichtenberg, they’ll be hoping things finish differently this time around. Though their play has been dominant, things have been rocky off the field, with stress between fans and ownership, and the recent incident in which the fan clubhouse burned down.
Hertha Zehlendorf are also in the familiar 4th place, where they’ve finished out the last two seasons. Striker Sebastien Huke, who came up through Hertha BSC’s youth team and has had stints at TeBe and Viktoria Berlin, is the league’s top scorer. He’s already bagged 23 goals, more than half of his squad’s haul and just one shy of the 24 he scored last season.
Putting up a decent fight for the title of league’s top Hertha, Charlottenburg’s CFC Hertha 06 are trailing two places behind Zehlendorf in 6th with 25 points. Hertha 06 will likely be pleased with a solid midtable showing given their near relegation last season. They narrowly avoided going down after scraping past SV Einheit Kamenz in the relegation playoff.
Blau-Weiss 90 are having a decent Oberliga debut. The Mariendorf club are in 11th place with 16 points following their promotion from the Berlin Liga. Blau-Weiss have slowly but surely been climbing up the leagues following the 1992 bankruptcy of the former Bundesliga club and its immediate reformation in the Kreisliga.
12th place SC Staaken are the bottom of the Berlin barrel, highlighting how well clubs from the city are doing. All 3 of Staaken’s victories have come at home. You could pretty much call Sportpark Staaken a fortress, especially if you ignore the draw and 3 losses they’ve recorded on home turf.