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- Schalke 04
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Address: Ernst-Kuzorra-Weg 1, 45891 Gelsenkirchen Germany
Phone: +49 (0) 209 - 36180
Fax: +49 (0) 209 - 3618 109
Official URL: http://www.schalke04.de
Chairman: Clemens Tönnies
Club Director: Horst Heldt
Schalke 04, as the name suggests, were formed in 1904 and have become one of the biggest club’s in Germany with a club membership of over 66,000. However the popularity of the club has never really been matched with great success, and in recent times they have become the perennial bridesmaids, having to look on as other sides pip them to the glory.
‘Westfalia Schalke’ were formed by a group of teenagers and sons of coal miners in May 1904, but were unable to gain entry to the West German league until 1912. Following a number of mergers with other sporting organisations, the new club won its first honours in 1923 as champions of the Schalke Kreisliga.
It was around this time that ‘Schalke’ picked up the nickname "Die Knappen" – from an old German word for miner – because the team drew so many of its players and supporters from the coal miners of Gelsenkirchen.
The burgeoning club promptly built their own stadium and regularly drew crowds of over 30,000 to the ‘Glückauf-Kampfbahn’.
After popularity, success followed. The club won their first Western German championship in 1929 but, just one year later, were heavily sanctioned for exceeding salary levels set by the league.
In an era when professional football was still considered anathema by the Corinthian-minded powers that be, they spent nearly six months in exile from the game. However, the ban had little impact on the team's popularity:.in their first game back after the suspension in June 1931, the team drew 70,000 to its home ground.
Rise to dominance
With the reorganisation of the German league in 1933, Schalke found themselves in the Gauliga Westfalen. The years 1933-1942 were the club's, most successful with their first national championship victory in 1934. Between 1933 and 1942 the Gelsenkirchen-based team appeared in 14 of the 20 championship and cup finals; during this ten-year period they reached at least one final every year and wona total of seven titles (six championships and one Cup).
Following the devastation of the Second World War, the club found themselves in the newly formed Oberliga West. It took them until the mid 50’s to recover their form, but they did this in style. Indeed, they won the German championship in 1958 with a win over Hamburg. This was to prove their last German league title - so far.
Schalke were admitted to the fledgling Bundesliga upon its formation in 1963, but in 1965 they only avoided relegation due to expansion of the league to 18 teams. The club gradually improved, achieving a second place finish in 1972. That may sound impressive, but it was bitterly disappointing: they were beaten to the title by Bayern Munich in the final stretch, having led the pack for most of the season. That was to the haunt them again in the future.
Scandal and relegation
The club were then embroiled in the infamous ‘Bundesliga scandal’ of 1971 with a number of Schalke players being found guilty of deliberately throwing a league match against Bielefeld in return for payment. A number of Schalke men, including cult hero Stan Libuda, Klaus Fischer and Klaus Fichtel, were handed lifetime bans.
Still, they recovered, and moved on - quite literally. In 1973 the club played their final Bundesliga game at the Glückauf-Kampfbahn before moving to the newly built Park-Stadion. Rejuvenated by new surroundings, the Königsblauen managed another second place finish in 1977 finishing just one point behind Borussia Mönchengladbach.
However things started to slide and the club were relegated to the second tier of German football in the 1981-82 season and, despite winning instant promotion, were demoted again in 1983-84.
Recovery and glory
After to-ing and fro-ing the club were promoted to the Bundesliga in 1991-92 and have remained in the top flight ever since, with some success. After finishing third in 1996 Schalke qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time in 19 years. They then achieved their biggest success to date by winning the trophy, beating Inter Milan in an exciting penalty shoot-out at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium after the second leg stalemate.
That was just the start of it. Since the turn of the millennium, the club have found transformed themselves into a highly successful commercial organisation and have become one of the dominant forces in German football once again.
For example, In the final match of an outstanding 2000-01 season in which Schalke had the highest scoring attack and the meanest defence, the club stood on the brink of achieving that elusive dream of their eighth German championship title.
After twice coming from behind, they eventually beat Unterhaching 5-3 at the Park Stadium. And when Hamburg went 1-0 up against Bayern Munich in the 90th minute, Schalke looked like clinching the title. But a hotly disputed back pass decision by referee Markus Merk in the 94th minute gives Bayern a free-kick and the resultant goal that shattered Schalke's dreams, handing the title to the Bavarians.
The Königsblauen could at least lay claim to the title of "people's champions", and for the first time managed to qualify for the Champions League .
The club finished second in 2005, pipped again by Bayern, and once again were the bridesmaids last season with Stuttgart pipping them at the final post. In October 2006, it was announced that Russian company Gazprom would become the club's new sponsor and it is expected that they will invest as much as €125 million in the club over the next 5 years. Perhaps that's what it'll take for Schalke to finally regain the league title for which they yearn so much.
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