First half of the season wrap-up: Regionalliga Nordost (4th league)
For the first time since its inauguration in 2012, the Regionalliga Nordost headed into a season with a fixed promotion spot to league 3, Germany’s lowest fully professional league. Previously, the winners of the five regional leagues had to play a playoff for only three promotion spots. As of 2018/19, three league winners are guaranteed promotion. With Energie Cottbus being promoted from the Regionalliga Nordost last season and Chemie Leipzig relegated, the league lost two big names in the summer. But the relegation of former GDR champions Rot-Weiß Erfurt and Chemnitzer FC (formerly FC Karl-Marx-Stadt) from league 3 more than made up for the loss (at least in terms of attendances). Along with these two fallen champions, Wacker Nordhausen also had their eye on the promotion spot and invested in some experienced players to challenge the favourites.
What went down at the top?
The race for promotion seems to be over before it ever really started. Chemnitzer FC won the first 15 games and are 12 points clear of the rest of the field, even though they dropped some points in the last four games (2 losses). Only their precarious financial situation might stop the “Himmelblauen” (sky blues), as they are still struggling to convince some of their creditors to agree on disclaiming big parts of the debts, mounted up in recent years. With these dark clouds in the otherwise clear blue sky, Berliner AK, RW Erfurt and even Wacker Nordhausen haven’t called off the race yet and are pushing for the second place, which might be enough to reach promised land in case Chemnitz collapse financially.
… and at the bottom?
The first relegation spot seems to be inevitably occupied by Optik Rathenow. The newly promoted team, located 70km west of Berlin, gained only 9 points in 19 games, and with the smallest budget in the league it will be difficult to turn the tables. Other than that we don’t know much so far: There are only 3 points between 9th and 17th place, which makes half of the league in danger of being relegated.
How are the Berlin teams doing?
One of the positive surprises comes from Moabit: Berliner AK sits in 2nd place after the first half of the season. Their offense is particularly feared: With 39 goals they scored the second most in the league so far. But BAK wouldn’t be BAK if they just carried on smoothly. They only won one of the last three games before the winter break and threw away a 4:1 lead against Fürstenwalde, a team traditionally fighting relegation. And BAK is still struggling to draw crowds, with an average of only 400 past the gates to see an otherwise very successful first half of the season.
Just four points behind you can find Hertha’s reserve team. Mostly good football and some players from the first team led them to a respectable 4th place.
At number six (so far) sits one of the most discussed projects in Berlin football: Viktoria Berlin. In May the two-time German champion (1908 and 1911) announced a big investment by the Chinese company ASU. Rumours were about 90 million Euros and the aim to lift Viktoria up to the second league. Just seven months later, the club from south Berlin declared insolvency and blamed the former investor for not meeting the agreed payments. Without an investor, the club is not able to pay the salaries of former pros such as Jürgen Gjasula (Greuter Fürth), Christoph Menz (Union Berlin) and Petar Sliskovic (Mainz). Under the current rules of the local football association, the club will lose nine points and drop down to the danger zone. But it could get even worse: If Viktoria has to file for bankruptcy, then relegation will be inevitable. Even if they are able to end the season, it seems impossible that the team will be strong enough to avoid relegation after losing all of their “big” names in the winter break.
Looking at the mess at Viktoria, the problems of Berliner FC Dynamo seem to be pretty insignificant. However, this is small comfort to the GDR’s record champion as they gained only 20 points in 19 games and find themselves in 16th place, a potential relegation spot. Especially at home BFC has had some shocking displays, losing badly to minor clubs like Altglienicke (0:5) and Auerbach (0:3). With just nine points in nine home games (second worst in the league) the club will be striving to turn around a surprisingly bad season after the winter break. Just before Christmas, head coach René Rydlewicz resigned, which created another problem for the club. Can a new coach lead the East Berliners back to the safer end of the table?
In contrast to BFC Dynamo, 20 points in the first half of the season is not a bad result for VSG Altglienicke. Heading into their second season in the Regionalliga, the club, located just around the corner from Schönefeld Airport, was again one of the favourites for relegation. Some experienced signings like Christopher Quiring (former Union Berlin and Hansa Rostock) and Benjamin Förster (Energie Cottbus) managed to stabilize the “Volkssport Gemeinschaft” (people’s sports community) before the winter break.