"It's unbelievable," said Markus Krösche after a 2-1 home win against VfR Aalen on Sunday earned SC Paderborn a second-placed finish in the 2. Bundesliga and promotion to the top division. "Anything can happen in football, but this is sensational."
Paderborn's 33-year-old captain, midfielder Krösche has been with the club since 2001 but never saw this latest elevation coming. Nor indeed did the Archbishop of Paderborn, Hans-Josef Becker. "As a cleric, I'm cautious to use the term 'miracle', but SC Paderborn's promotion to the Bundesliga is certainly something you could at least call a footballing miracle," he said.
From a town 100km east of Dortmund with a population of around 145,000, Paderborn – whose roots stretch back to Arminia Neuhaus, founded in 1907 – were routinely passed over by all the tipsters at the start of the campaign, with their €6m budget one of the lowest in the league. After picking up just nine points from their first nine games, relegation looked infinitely more likely than promotion for André Breitenreiter's side.
By the winter break, Paderborn had crept up to ninth in the table, before hitting peak form in the new year, with 12 victories in 17 matches allowing them to burn off the likes of 1. FC Kaiserslautern, SC Fortuna Düsseldorf and SC Greuther Fürth for the second promotion spot. The likes of FC Bayern München will now be heading to Paderborn next term, while Borussia Dortmund will have a new – though admittedly tiny – local rival.
"It's an indescribable feeling as no one thought our team could achieve this," beamed Breitenreiter after their elevation was confirmed. The 40-year-old, who lifted the 1991/92 German Cup as a 2. Bundesliga player with Hannover 96, has been widely credited with Paderborn's rise and is thrilled to be returning to the Bundesliga, where he made 144 appearances for Hamburger SV, VfL Wolfsburg and SpVgg Unterhaching.
"I'm incredibly proud to manage these lads," Breitenreiter said. "We should seize this opportunity to drink up every type of beer in Paderborn." However, such has been his success that some have suggested that Paderborn may have a new coach by the time they reach the Bundesliga, with Eintracht Frankfurt and 1. FSV Mainz 05 both linked with moves for Breitenreiter.
Whoever is in charge will have to work under tight financial restrictions; Paderborn's proposed budget for the season is just €15 – a risible figure by Bundesliga standards. Having conjured up one miracle to earn promotion, they may have to whip up a second to avoid the drop.
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