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Who exactly are Borussia Mönchengladbach?

Younger fans may not know the name, but those who watched football in the 1970s will know UEFA Champions League newcomers Borussia Mönchengladbach well.

Patrick Herrmann after scoring a Bundesliga goal for Mönchengladbach
Patrick Herrmann after scoring a Bundesliga goal for Mönchengladbach ©AFP/Getty Images

The Prussians are coming
Founded in 1900, the club's name comes from the Latin version of the word for Prussia – the state in which the city of Monchengladbach then lay. They are still nicknamed the Prussians (die Borussen) in some quarters. When Prussia was broken up after World War I, it became part of Germany and Borussia featured in the 1920 German championship – the first contested after the war – which was then a knockout tournament.

The first big breakthrough
After some lean years, Mönchengladbach returned to the top division of the complicated Oberliga structure in 1950, and while they yo-yoed between the upper tiers for a few years, they made a definitive mark in the 1960 German Cup, beating champions Hamburg in the semis and Karlsruhe 3-2 in the final. That meant they were the first German side to compete in the new European Cup Winner's Cup in 1960/61. However, they lost their maiden continental tie 11-0 on aggregate to Glasgow side Rangers.

The frisky Foals
Gladbach were not selected to join the newly formed Bundesliga in 1963, but they were gathering momentum nonetheless. Unable to spend big, Gladbach relied on finding talent locally, and scooped two future greats in 1963 as attacking midfielder Günter Netzer and forward Jupp Heynckes made it to the first team. Coach Hennes Weisweiler arrived the following year to give a side with an average age of around 21.5 full rein. Their nickname, 'the Foals' (die Fohlen), derives from the energetic, attacking outfit that won promotion in 1965, and then established itself in the Bundesliga, with third-placed finishes in 1968 and 1969.

Berti Vogts: one of Borussia's stars of '79
Berti Vogts: one of Borussia's stars of '79©Getty Images

Big in the 70s
Even Bayern München could not handle Mönchengladbach at their peak; they lifted their first title in 1970 and became the first team to successfully defend a Bundesliga crown the next year, before winning three in a row between 1975 and 1977. They also landed the German Cup in 1973, Netzer famously sneaking on as a substitute without Weisweiler's knowledge to score the clincher. In Europe, they caught the eye too, recovering from defeat by Liverpool in the 1973 decider to beat Twente comfortably and win the 1975 UEFA Cup final. They fell foul of Liverpool in the 1977 European Champion Clubs' Cup final, however.

Declining fortunes
Mönchengladbach overcame Crvena zvezda to collect their second UEFA Cup in 1979, yet lost out to Bundesliga rivals Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1980 decider, the last of their five European finals in the space of eight seasons. It was perhaps an omen of harder times ahead. Gladbach's Bökelbergstadion had around half the capacity of Bayern's old Olympiastadion, and with less money coming through the turnstiles, competing at the very top became tougher as time went on. Tellingly, they could not prevent the young Lothar Matthäus leaving for Bayern in 1984. Gladbach picked up another Germany Cup in 1995, but were relegated in 1999 and 2007.

New home, new hope
While times were occasionally hard in the early 2000s, the opening of the new Borussia-Park – with a capacity of well over 50,000 for Bundesliga games – heralded better days to come. When Swiss coach Lucien Favre took charge in February 2011, the Foals were marooned at the bottom of the table, yet he managed to save them – following a relegation play-off – and has kept them buoyant since. Having made it through the UEFA Europa League group stage twice, Favre's side came third in the Bundesliga in 2015 to earn a first shot at the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Lucien Favre brought a new dynamism to the club
Lucien Favre brought a new dynamism to the club©Getty Images

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