In the last installment of HSV History, we saw just how the current incarnation of the Hamburger Sport-Verein came into being.
The merger of Falke 06 and Hamburger SC, followed by the addition of SC Germania, was the last step in forming the club, as three became one and football in Hamburg was united.
As we move into the 1920s, its important to note that football in Germany hadn't really ever achieved any huge following. Crowds of a few thousand watched finals in the respective regions, while players weren't elevated to relative stardom such as is the norm today.
Moving into the next decade, however, there was a changing culture in German sport. Where the crowd for the 1903 German Cup final was around 750 spectators, two decades on 64,000 would watch the same event in 1923. All people, not just the working class, were taking to football and embracing the competitive edge, as well as the ever rising standards that Germany was seeing in its football.
With this rise in competitiveness also came a rise in the business potential of the respective clubs, especially the already well-established HSV. Rothenbaum sports field, the home of Hamburger SV at this point, underwent an expansion shortly after the Second World War. This wasn't uncommon as football grounds across the country grew in size to accommodate the middle-class surge in attendance.
In Hamburg, and with HSV, it was the same old story of success in the early 1920s. In 1922, Hamburger SV reached the German Championship final against 1. FC Nürnberg, having cruised past Titania Stettin (5-0) and Wacker München (4-0) in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively. the quarter-final was played at the Hoheluft Stadion in the north of Hamburg, a ground now used by SC Victoria Hamburg and FC St. Pauli’s second team. The semi-final was held at Frankfurt’s Stadion am Riederwald, with approximately 18,000 in attendance, while 12,000 saw HSV emerge victorious in the previous round.
The final of the 1922 Championship was farcical to say the least. Held at the Deutsches Stadion in Berlin (now defunct) on the 18th of June, around 30,000 were in attendance to see the clash of Germany’s two best sides.
Hans Rave gave HSV a 19th minute lead an academy product of SC Germania who grew up as a timber merchant, while Nürnberg responded straight from kick-off with a goal from German international Heinrich Träg. Another German international named Luitpold Popp gave FCN a lead on the half-hour mark, but they were to be denied victory thanks to an 86th minute goal from HSV’s Hans Flohr. The game went to extra-time, but after over 180 minutes of play there was still no winner (it was a golden goal format then), and the game was abandoned due to darkness and a replay scheduled for August 6th (a considerable time after).
In the second match, Träg was on the scoresheet again for Nürnberg, putting them up 1-0 after 48 minutes, despite having been down to 10 men as Willy Böß was sent off in the 19th minute. Karl Schneider levelled for HSV in the 69th minute, but the game would go to extra-time yet again, with the sides seeming inseparable. FC Nürnberg star and goalscorer Heinrich Träg was also sent off in the 100th minute, and following a pair of injuries, FCN only had seven players, forcing the referee Peco Bauwens to abandon the game.
Initially, the Championship was awarded to Hamburg, but after several protest from supporters across Germany they declined the title and there was to be no 1922 German Champions.
The following campaign was to be much more straightforward however, as Hamburger SV yet again reached the final of the German Championship, defeating Guts Mus Dresden and VfB Königsberg by respective scores of 2-0 and 3-2 in the process.
On June 10th 1923, HSV faced Union Oberschöneweide (known today as FC Union Berlin) at Berlin’s Deutsches Stadion. As much as these finals were supposed to be held on neutral grounds, there was a definite sense of home city advantage for Union, but the class of Hamburg could not be stopped on this day.
Otto Harder struck first with a goal in the 34th minute, while forward Ludwig Breuel added a vital second goal in the 70th minute to really silence the crowd. Karl Schneider then bagged a third to seal the game with just seconds left, and Hamburg were officially crowd German Champions of 1922/23.
It was the first major success in the coaching career of Englishman A.W. Turner, a man who by the end of his career would be known as one of the greatest coaches HSV ever had. Surprisingly, for a man of his stature and recognition, there is very little information on Turner that still exists, but he was certainly responsible for nurturing the talent of Otto Harder, Albert Beier and Walter Risse.
In 1924, Hamburg were to be denied a third consecutive Championship win (technically second, but at the time it was still widely recognised that they would be thrice champions with a win in 1924). Eliminating Sportfreunde Breslau 3-0 in the preliminary round and SpVgg Leipzig 1-0 in the semi-final, HSV got a date with the old enemy FC Nürnberg in Berlin for the final.
Again at the Deutsches Stadion, albeit in front of 30,000 spectators this time, Rudi Agte and A.W. Turner led their teams onto the field for a familiar German Championship final. This time though the Bavarian side would be victorious, sealing a 2-0 win with goals from Georg Hochgesang (who went on to score four in six for Germany at international level) and Wolfgang Strobel (another German international).
By summer 1924, the renovation and upsizing of the Rothenbaum sport park was complete, and HSV organised an inauguration game against Nürnberg on the 3rd of August. The game was drawn 1-1, but it was to mark a new era in the progression of football in Hamburg, and another strong indicator of the rising interest in football throughout Germany.
In the Altona district of Hamburg, a new stadium was to open in 1925 on the site of a public park. The Altonaer Stadion was inaugurated on September 13th, with a game between local side FC Altona 93 and Hamburger SV, a game which Altona won 3-2. This stadium was to become the Volksparkstadion over time, a process I will explain in the ‘Stadia’ section of this series, but clearly this was a significant point in the history of the club.
HSV was to be knocked out in the preliminary of the 1925 Championship, losing 2-1 to FSV Frankfurt, while Nürnberg won their second straight title against FSV by a score of 1-0. The following year, Hamburg was knocked out in the semi-final by a score of 4-2 against Hertha BSC (Hertha Berliner Sport Club in full), before they lost 4-1 to SpVgg Fürth in the final (a real superpower in German football of that era without much success to show such). 1927 was also a year without success for HSV, as they were eliminated in the last eight by FC Nürnberg (surprise, surprise!) while they went on to record another Championship, beating the emerging power Hertha Berlin 2-0.
Just as questions and scrutiny may have been growing regarding the three year Championship drought, A.W. Walker responded with an incredible title in 1928. Having finished atop the Norddeutsche Football Association standings (the NFA was at this point split into regions, with HSV competing in the ‘Alster’ region) yet again, Hamburg were given a scare by Komet Bremen (who finished atop the ‘Weser’ region standings in the NFA), but eventually triumphed 4-3.
At national level, HSV defeated FC Schalke 04 by a score of 4-2 in the round of 16 (even back then it is clear to see how some of the elite teams of German football have remained to the present day), before beating VfB Konigsberg 4-0 in the quarter-final. On July 22nd, Hamburger SV destroyed FC Bayern München by a score of 8-2 to book a place in the final against Hertha BSC on July 29th at the still relatively new Altonaer Stadion.
For the 1928 final, Hamburg lined up with a 2-3-5 formation (surprising now, but not that uncommon at the time) of Blunk; Beier, Risse; Lang, Halvorsen, Carlsson; Kolzen, Ziegenspeck, Harder, Horn and Rave. The quality in the forward line throughout the 1920s but especially in this period was quite frightening, and sure enough HSV won the match 5-2 to become Champions for the third (though officially second) time in the decade.
Hamburg went out in the quarter-finals of the 1929 Championship to SpVgg Fürth, but that failed to overshadow what had been a hugely successful decade for the Hanseatic club. With players becoming heroes of those on the terraces, it was clear to see just how football grew in post-war Germany.
The pinnacle of stardom was reached by Otto Fritz “Tull” Harder, a man who as mentioned before made his name initially at Eintracht Braunschweig. Having joined Hamburger FC in 1913, he played at the club (when it became HSV) until 1931 before retiring with Victoria Hamburg in 1934. In his period with HSV he achieved real fame across the country as a centre forward, scoring vital goals including 14 in 15 for the German national team between 1914 and 1926.
He was, in truth, the first major football idol in Germany, and film director Paul Richter even made Otto the star of a 1927 film called “The King of the centre forward”. Tull Harder embodied the working class spirit of the supporters on the terraces, with a real grit to his game and a keen eye for goal. His exploits are something I wish to delve into more detail in during a separate piece, so for fear of ruining that I must round up by saying this: of all the heroes at the time, Rudi Agte et al, it was Harder who the fans chanted "Wenn spielt der Harder Tull, dann heißt es drei zu Null”, meaning “When Harder Tull does play, it means it is 3-0”.
Join me in the next instalment when I look at play under the Nazi regime, as Germany was sunk into the perils of another World War in the 1930s.