The 13th match day of this Bundesliga season was not short on surprising events: there was the 4:0 thrashing that Schalke 04 dished out to Werder Bremen, with Raul really giving us a great show; then there was another 4:0 hammering, with TSG Hoffenheim playing away at Frankfurt and beating them senseless – not many saw that one coming. Meanwhile, more predictably, Borussia Dortmund stayed at the top of the league following a 2:1 victory away at Freiburg, even if this was more luck than skill.
The Bundesliga world is still topsy-turvy at the moment, with Dortmund seven points ahead of their closest rivals Mainz and 14 (that’s four-teen, i.e. 10 plus 4!) points ahead of last year’s champions of Bayern München. Week in, week out, pundits are predicting that Bayern will stage a comeback and storm up the table: but when? The cornerstone of the Borussia dream season is Shinji Kagawa, a Japanese player, and both his praises and those of the geniuses at Borussia who found him languishing in the Japanese second league and bought him for a bargain €350,000 are being sung all over the shop as we speak.
Nevertheless, on the 13th day of play, Kagawa kept a low profile against Freiburg, not being part of the move to turn the 0:1 score sheet into a win. Nevertheless, he is without question the top signing this season, and despite the fact that Asian players like Yasuhiko Okudera, Bum Kun Cha or his son Du Ri Cha used to be very rare, there is now a steady stream of high quality football players coming out of the Far East.
Like Makoto Hasebe, for example. He’s a midfielder at VfL Wolfsburg and has become a real lynchpin of the team, celebrating championship with them in 2009. Nevertheless, he was well known in Japan before coming to the Bundesliga, having won a title with the Urawa Red Diamonds already. On the 13th match day, he played with VfL in their 1:1 draw at FC St. Pauli. The third major Japanese name in the league at present, Atsuto Uchida is now a standard feature of Felix Magath’s Schalke side and played all the way through the match against Bremen on friday.
Koreans, too, are popular choices at the moment. Two exceptionally talented signings from this Asian peninsula are currently making headlines, the first being Heung-Min Son at HSV. Arriving in 2008 at the tender age of 16, he scored three goals in his first four matches, but he couldn’t help his team to victory with his two goals in Hannover this weekend: the match ended 2:3 for HSV.
The other Korean talent to watch in Germany is currently Tese Chong, the son of a North Korean father and South Korean mother who grew up in Japan and has never been to the northern half of the Korean peninsula – which didn’t stop him playing for North Korean in the World Cup in South Africa, however. He’s been at the second-league club VfL Bochum since July now, and has scored 6 goals since the beginning of the season, making him Bochum’s best striker. If only the rest of the team were as good as him, VfL might actually get serious with their Bundesliga ambitions.
Whilst we’re on the subject of players from communist countries, the 13th match day saw an unusual celebration. In the immediate aftermath of the German reunification, the two football associations DFB and DFV merged, and there was no final match between the East and West German national teams. On the 20th anniversary of the merger, the good people at the German FA decided to correct this mistake, calling on former Federal Republic Germany players to take to the field against a German Democratic Republic team composed of players who had been the last official GDR match against Belgium. The final result was 2:1 for the GDR, who carried on their winning tradition against the FRG (see 1974). For this reason, I’ve decided to offer you the Bundesliga results as they might have looked if communism had won the Cold War.
Dynamo Schalke 04 – Vorwärts Bremen 4:0
Lokomotive Frankfurt – Wismut Hoffenheim 0:4
Spartak Mönchengladbach – Roter Stern Mainz 05 2:3
BSG Freiburg – Stahl Dortmund 1:2
Rotor Hannover – Hansa Hamburg 3:2
ZSKA Nürnberg – Partizan Kaiserslautern 1:3
Chemie Leverkusen – Energie München 1:1
Torpedo Stuttgart – Dukla Köln 0:1
Slavia St. Pauli – VEB Wolfsburg 1:1
1 Stahl Dortmund 34 P
2 Roter Stern Mainz 05 27 P
3 Chemie Leverkusen 25 P
4 Rotor Hannover 22 P
5 Wismut Hoffenheim 21 P
6 BSG Freiburg 21 P
7 Lokomotive Frankfurt 20 P
8 Energie München 20 P
9 Hansa Hamburg 18 P
10 ZSKA Nürnberg 18 P
11 VEB Wolfsburg 15 P
12 Vorwärts Bremen 15 P
13 Partizan Kaiserslautern 14 P
14 Slavia St. Pauli 14 P
15 Dynamo Schalke 04 13 P
16 Torpedo Stuttgart 11 P
17 Dukla Köln 11 P
18 Spartak Mönchengladbach 10 P