Volker Finke was the coach of SC Freiburg for an unbelievable 16 years. In his era, a rather inconspicuous club became one of the most popular in the Bundesliga. His game philosophy conjured up “one more man” on the field. And instead of taking the bus, the team sometimes took a taxi to the stadium.
“I usually have three opinions. One for me, one for the President and one for the press.” Volker Finke has always been different. Refreshingly different. And frank and eloquent. In his 16 long years, from 1991 to 2007, as head coach of SC Freiburg, the native of Nienburg always understood how to illustrate his special philosophy of football and life in catchy sentences: “Where there is money, I have to play – this approach is just wrong. There are many footballers who would rather be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion.”
What exactly he meant by this sentence from the beginning of his time as coach of SC Freiburg was shown many years later by a concrete example. When the contract negotiations with the youth player from our own ranks, Jürgen Gjasula, threatened to fail, Volker Finke said: “It can’t be that a youth player comes up here with a lawyer and advisor to have 15 guaranteed professional appearances written into the contract after dropping out of school and getting a convertible.”
The behavior of the young Jürgen Gjasula was in such a stark contrast to the Freiburg philosophy that Finke’s outrage could only lead to one decision in the end: the separation from a player who obviously did not want to go along the Freiburg path together (or simply had not understood it). , what exactly constitutes this idea).
From Havelse to the south of the republic
Because at SC Freiburg in the Volker Finke era, the topic of thrift was always part of it, as an anecdote from the 1993/94 season shows. At that time the Breisgauer played in Dresden and should pay 600 marks for a bus trip to the stadium – with a distance of almost one kilometer. Coach Volker Finke decided that was too much and had five taxis pull up in front of the hotel: “The bus is simply too expensive. We’d rather take a taxi for 7.80 marks.”
And lo and behold: after the 2-1 win, the people of Freiburg enjoyed the trip in the cost-saving means of transport just as much. This time on the direct route to the airport. Because the money saved was invested in the very first flight in the Bundesliga history of Freiburg.
At the end of the 1980s, Volker Finke first worked as a teacher for sports, social studies and history for a few years before he was promoted to the 2nd Bundesliga as coach of TSV Havelse. But although it was the biggest success in the club’s history for the club from the north of the republic, Finke and Havelse soon parted ways.
It is thanks to the then President of SC Freiburg, Achim Stocker, that he brought Finke to Breisgau. It was the moment when Sport-Club Freiburg became the club we all know today. The congenial duo complemented each other perfectly. Volker Finke at the time: “I’m glad that I have a president with whom I can talk about football day and night.”
Three promotions and two European Cups in one term
And shortly afterwards, the whole country was raving about the atmospheric Freiburg Dreisam Stadium and its spectators. “These fans are at least as good as the ones in Dortmund or Kaiserslautern,” said Finke’s coaching colleague Rainer Zobel. And above all, they were really loud. Leverkusen’s Andreas Thom even had to stop an interview after the game: “I don’t understand a sound, hey!” Unfortunately, only about 15,000 supporters fit into the sports club’s stadium. That’s why coach Volker Finke was already thinking about innovative ideas with a wink: “I think I’ll have the dugout widened so that we have more space for spectators!”
During his tenure, Volker Finke was promoted to the 1st Bundesliga three times (1993, 1998 and 2003) and qualified for the UEFA Cup in 1995 and 2001. And despite all the successes, he knew how to assess the SC’s limits early on in his career in 1994: “It’s as likely that Freiburg will become champions as Darmstadt 98 will win the European Cup.” And although Finke always gave the impression of healthy ambition, there was always something casual about his demeanor: “I think in the little life you have, you don’t have to torture yourself just to say: I’m a Bundesliga coach.”
- Ben Redelings is a best-selling author and comedian from the Ruhr area.
His current book “60 Years Bundesliga. The Anniversary Album” is a modern classic from the publishing house “The workshop”
He travels throughout Germany with his football programs. Info & dates www.scudetto.de.
A success factor in his first years as coach of SC Freiburg was certainly the game philosophy of the Breisgauer, which was unusual for the Bundesliga. This special form of coverage by Freiburg, with which they wanted to achieve a majority in midfield, was completely new in the league. It was given the name “Chinese model” and was described by Finke himself as follows: “A lot, a lot of people walk a lot and help each other.” According to Bayern professional Thomas Strunz, the result looked like this: “It always seemed as if Freiburg were playing with one man more.” And Christoph Daum stated enthusiastically: “Freiburg has a lot of players who belong to the upper range of German middle-distance runners.”
An end to turbulence
This special form of play coupled with Finke’s motto – “Football comes from within: lots of guts, lots of feeling, lots of passion” – revolutionized the Bundesliga. And something else: Freiburg was referred to in the media as a “student troop”, which finally led the witty keeper Richard Golz to the legendary saying: “We can’t train anymore because of all the philosophizing about Schopenhauer.” Reminiscent of this time, ex-Stuttgarter Fredi Bobic once said: “I always liked Freiburg very much. But this game was always a bit like students versus the state capital.”
In 2001, the Breisgauers opened their youth academy quite early for Bundesliga conditions – although of course it wasn’t called that at the Sport-Club, the other club. Trained educator Volker Finke called the youth center “Freiburg Football School” and always attached importance to a comprehensive and multifaceted training of the youngsters, also outside of football.
The successes proved Freiburg and Volker Finke right for a long time. But as early as 1992, Finke had said extremely farsightedly: “Coaching is a temporary job. In this mixture of sport and show, faces can be used up if you do it for a few years.” In the end, however, it took an unbelievable 16 years for the man from northern Germany to end in Breisgau. Unfortunately, it ended in horror and turbulence.
“Two goals, one in there, none in there. Done”
Because although Volker Finke himself once said – “Football is a theater of vanities” – he could not free himself from this quality. The journalist Christoph Ruf put this time in a nutshell in his book about SC Freiburg, “Refreshingly different”: “In the last years of his tenure, you could talk to Finke about individual players or about the progress of construction phases in the Black Forest Stadium – It was always unmistakable that a brilliant head had kissed the provinces awake: himself. That wasn’t wrong if you remember Freiburg home games in the pre-Finke era. But since that’s not even his worst enemy in Freiburg today deny it, one could have left it at that more often.”
After leaving SC Freiburg in 2007, Volker Finke worked as a coach for the Japanese club Urawa Red Diamonds and the national team of Cameroon and as manager of 1. FC Köln. But his name will always and primarily remain associated with the 16 years in Breisgau.
Now the man who once packed the special charm of football into this wonderful formula – “There is no simpler and at the same time more fascinating game idea: two goals, one in there, no one in there. That’s it” – is celebrating his 75th birthday. All the best and good luck, dear Volker Finke!