A cold misty eve grips the cusps of this Upper Bavarian town, thick fog hangs on the ancient entrance to the city – the Kreutztor – and the icy depths of the impervious Danube flow through the heart of the Altstadt; A new beast, brought to life from the cusp of death has entered. The pipe dream of one man has been brought to life.
The location is the historic duchy of Ingolstadt, the 5th of February 2004 the date. FC Ingolstadt 04 e.V have been brought to life, much the same as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein too set in the Bavarian bastion had been 100 years prior. Yet different to the tale, die Schanzer were never destined to be a thing of horror.
From the offset, there can be many comparisons drawn between the award winning novel and the slightly controversial Audi Sportpark club. A mere co-incidence that both were set in the same town, Ingolstadt.
The tale begins over twenty-five years before the formation of the now Bundesliga side. A tight fought league campaign in the Amateur Liga Bayern had been decided – 1. FC Haßfurt had been crowned champions by a point and the prospect of promotion into the professional 2. Bundesliga Süd beckoned for the Franconian club.
Yet it were to be the little know outfit who finished second, who would be taking the field against the likes of Karlsruher SC and 1860 Munich. Financial problems were strife at Haßfurt and as such they declined the opportunity of promotion. A rather regular occurrence for financially negligible German sides. Instead the economically solvent MTV Ingolstadt would be making the step up the German Fußball pyramid.
After a successful first year in the 2. Liga, MTV would be joined by their fierce rivals, ESV Ingolstadt. As 11Freunde remarked, the two Ingolstadt clubs "were so strong at enmity that by comparison, Bayern Munich and 1860 were lovers". For the first and only time, two Ingolstadt sides would face each other off at the second highest level of German football. Yet this period was far from a renaissance in the town and parity was soon in store as MTV were swiftly dumped back into the Oberliga. The side based in on the outskirts of the Altstadt did bring home the all important bragging rights however - with a 2-1 victory at the MTV Stadion. A draw in the reverse.
The DFB's controversial scheme of a national 2. Bundesliga saw ten unfortunate sides relegated to the Oberliga in the following year. ESV Ingolstadt were to be one of the unlucky sides; it would be a long twenty seven years until an Ingolstadt team would grace the 2. Bundesliga again.
The moment they had all been waiting for
Benjamin Bellot is a name that will go down in FC Ingolstadt 04's history for years - Yet the man born in Leizpig has never actually played for die Schanzer.
The case for his name going down in folklore however is much more acute than simply pulling on the red and black of Ingolstadt; Bellot arguably is the most important man in the tale of FC Ingolstadt 04's successful 2014/15 season the climax of promotion to the highest level of the German football pyramid.
The 17th May 2015 is a date that both Benjamin Bellot and die Schanzer will remember forever; for rather different reasons. Bellot's much maligned, ever controversial RB Leipzig had made the trip to Bavaria for the 33rd, and penultimate Matchday of the 2. Bundesliga season. The game was meaningless - or a dead rubber - for the Saxon side that had largely disappointed in their first season of 2. Bundesliga football. But the stakes were clear for their counterparts, avoid defeat and promotion was theirs. Simple, you'd have thought.
Right on cue, die Roten Bullen took four minutes to break Ingolstadt hearts - thanks to Dominik Kaiser.
Yet, Bellot came into his own and with two blunders FC Ingolstadt 04 were up. Or as they say in Germany, Aufsteiger im der Bundesliga. FC Ingolstadt 04 have become the 53rd side to play in the Bundesliga.
11 years of hard work had paid off. To that cold winter's eve way back in 2004, the project had been the vision of one man in-particular - Peter Jackwerth. Jackwerth was the man who had suggested that both MTV and ESV's football departments merge, he was the man who had fronted the money for a new stadium once the ESV Stadium was deemed not up to DFB standards and he was also the man that had almost solely caressed the support of Audi into the club that hails from the same town as the German automotive giants.
Sensible spending despite huge investors
The involvement of Audi in die Schanzer has always been a talking point, as early as 2009 comparisons were being drawn to the Commerzclubs of the time; namely TSG 1899 Hoffenheim with their patron Dietmer Hopp as well as VfL Wolfsburg owned by Volkswagen, of which Audi are a subsidiary. Yet it is stark that until 2013 the car company hadn't invested a meaningful amount.
€4 million was die Schanzer's transfer record. You'd be forgiven for thinking record, but in actual fact four million is the grand total Ingolstadt had spent since their inception until promotion in 2015. Of-course this has risen over recent months, but the transfer record still stands at a mere £1.05 million. A drop in the ocean in modern standards. To put this into perspective, Thomas Müller will now earn €15 million per year - over fifteen times FC Ingolstadt 04's transfer record.
So in this sense, comparing the Audi Sportpark side to others like RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim, who have benefited from large investment, could be largely amassed to the jealousies of traditionsverein such as 1. FC Kaiserlslautern. Supporters of the Pfalz side staging a rather embarrassing protest against die Schanzer's team bus on the final Matchday of last season as the news filtered through that die Rote-Teufel would be staying in the second tier for another year. Peter Jackwerth said it himself, "We are not a company team and our budget will be that of a a newly promoted club. [In context to their promotion]"
Perhaps a more apt comparison would be with the Lower Saxon side, Eintracht Braunschweig who benefited from the sponsorship of Jägermeister in the 1970s.
Frankenstein as a football team
Yet it is through the link with Audi that the likeness with Frankenstein can be drawn.
In 2004, both Ingolstadt sides were ailing, languishing in the fifth and sixth tier respectively; a long way for the old heights of the 2. Bundesliga Süd. Just as 1. FC Haßfurt had done before, both were suffering from financial problems. So with Jackwerth's suggestion, in December 2003 the two clubs merged to form a new FC Ingolstadt.
Flash forward two seasons and in 2006 die Schanzer found a new main sponsor, Audi. The creation of a new beast was complete - two ailing associations brought together by the corporate expertise of Jackwerth, with assistance from the might of the awe inspiring Audi. Shades of Viktor Frankenstein's beast.
But this new club was not a force of evil, unlike it's opposite in Shelley's novel. FC Ingolstadt 04 provided an association football team for the inhabitants of the Bavarian duchy that had long been without a team to match the cities progressive standards. Indeed, the biggest sporting prowess Ingolstadt had endued for some time was the side named BSC; twice named national billiards champions.
In 2008, 2. Bundesliga football returned to the Danube city after a twenty seven year absence.
Ode's the beast based in Mary Shelley's tale can still be seen around Ingolstadt to this day; Infact, one of die Schanzer's largest fan groups bears Frankenstein as it's insignia.
From that cold winters eve over eleven years ago now, die Schanzer have become one of the most interest cases in the football scene of the Teutonic state. Less than 600 spectators saw a dour, drab 0-0 draw against SC 04 Schwabach in FC Ingolstadt 04's first ever domestic fixture; now more than 15,000 pack into the Audi Sportpark every other weekend such has been the dramatic rise of the Bavarian side.
Whether die Schanzer will continue to climb the German football pyramid remains to be seen; but a repeated showing in the Rückrunde will safely see Ralph Hasenhüttl's charges achieve their sole goal for this season - survival. Survival would see Frankenstein remain in the Bundesliga and continue to put the historic duchy of Ingolstadt on the map.
A warm, cloudless summers eve embraces the Upper Bavarian town; the ancient entrance to the city - the Kreutztor - stands firm and the young clasps of the impervious Danube flow through the heart of the Altstadt; the date is the 17th of May 2015. A new beast has been born, Frankenstein has been promoted to the Bundesliga.
Frankenstein is in the Bundesliga.