This series reuses parts or whole sections of a blog series I originally wrote for vivalavidafm.com back in 2018. This introductory post is an example of this. Therefore, you can view this as a “The Swedish Mafia Revisited”. You can find the original blog series here.
This is a save series that run over the platforms at the same time. The details can be found here.
Young Jochen stared the owner straight in the face and noticed a small twitch under his left eye. The same twitch he had seen before every tantrum and fit Rolf Elgeti had thrown during Jochen’s short career as managing director at Hansa Rostock. Herr Rolf as he was called pushed back his chair and stood up, towering over his newly appointed Director of Football. He felt both tired and annoyed. Perhaps it was a mistake bringing in an inexperienced 25-year-old to captain one of the most untidy ships of German football in an attempt to bring it to an even keel again?
Again, trusting his instinct is what had made him his first million. And his second. And his tenth. Wasn’t it his instinct that had brought him here in the first place? At age 40 he looked back on a brilliant career, fueled by his bright intellect and unerring ability to make the right decisions at the right time. However, in recent weeks he had started to think that this ability wasn’t transferable from the financial business to the world of football. Perhaps this mismanaged club with its poor finances and violent hooligans actually belonged in the third division!? Perhaps he was best off selling his newly bought shares and finding another hobby!? Perhaps gardening wasn’t as boring as the last time he had tried!?
When he took over the club a few years ago he had been full of energy and confidence, confident enough to solve the club’s debt at least. Now he felt tired, more so than ever before. He noticed that he was standing up but couldn’t remember why. He had to sit down again, but when he got seated he met the eyes of the man on the other side of the table and was painfully reminded. He took a deep breath and composed himself.
“Jochen, by just listening to you one would think that you were an ignorant fool. Lucky for you I know better. By constantly focusing on the goal of our journey you seem to have forgotten the journey itself. Look at the players! Are they Bundesliga material? Would we beat the likes of Dortmund or Bayern Munich if we played them today? Would we?”
Jochen struggled to find words, surprised by the unfamiliar calm in Herr Rolf‘s voice. His eyes gazed out the window onto the training field where the U19s had just finished their training session. A couple of the youngsters had actually looked more than decent when they had gotten the chance to train with the senior squad last week. Today he spotted a couple more that looked talented. Even though the practice was over and the rain had started pouring outside two players remained on the pitch. The young keeper looked athletic and kept making nice saves, despite some really great finishing from the other player who had caught his eye. A striker with the body of a man and the face of a boy. He struck the ball like a seasoned veteran, but couldn’t be more than 15 years old.
The U19s certainly looked better since the return of Juri Schlünz as the Head of the Youth Department. Herr Rolf had called the appointment ‘Step One of his Great plan’, but that was almost a year ago and Jochen was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to take another step. He started dreaming sweet dreams of Bundesliga football again but his daydreaming was quickly interrupted.
“No, Jochen. I know what you are thinking and it won’t be enough. The players coming up are good but the U19s have been decent for years. We’ve always produced good players, yet we are stuck in the third division for the eighth year in a row. The youth setup isn’t a problem, at least it won’t be with Schlünz at the helm”.
A sudden knock on the door only briefly interrupted Herr Rolf and he continued speaking as a group of men entered the office.
“What you just saw out there in the rain may very well play a part in our journey back to the Bundesliga, but it won’t be enough. As you are well aware, you can’t win anything with kids! The problem is that we lack the character we used to have. Forget twelve years ago, that odd season was just a lucky coincidence. I’m talking about our glory days back in the early 2000s. The team was loved by the people and we played Bundesliga football on Ostseestadion every other week! We need to bring back the character and success from those years, and to do that we must bring back the men that made it happen. It’s time for Step Two!”
As the men lined up behind Herr Rolf, the twitching under his eye stopped and he broke into a big smile. He opened his arms wide and said
“It’s time for the Swedish Mafia!”
Hansa Rostock and “die Schwedische mafia”
FC Hansa Rostock, founded in 1954, is one of the most successful clubs from the former East Germany. The club won one national championship in 1990, the final season of East German football. Following Germany’s reunification, the Bundesliga expanded from 18 to 20 teams in 1991/92. Hansa Rostock earned one of the places together with Dynamo Dresden but were relegated straight away. They returned to the top flight in 1995 and became a solid Bundesliga side over the following seasons. Being on a tight budget they targeted the Scandinavian market due to the geographical closeness and the hard-working mentality of the players and had great success with their Swedish signings.
In their 2003 Bundesliga win against Nürnberg, they managed a unique feat when six Swedish players were in the starting eleven. Rade Prica and Magnus Arvidsson played up front with Marcus Lantz, Peter Wibrån and Joakim Persson in midfield and the sixth and final Swede Andreas Jakobsson as a centre back. The Swedish players became living club legends, with Magnus Arvidsson being the club’s top goalscorer ever in the Bundesliga with his total of 27 goals. Peter Wibrån became such a fan favourite that he earned the nickname “Der Beste Mann”, with busloads of German fans coming to watch him play even after his return to Swedish football.
A German newspaper called the Hansa Rostock style of play an “IKEA tactic” and another paper called them “die Schwedische mafia” or “The Swedish mafia”. One after another the Swedish players left the club – some went back to Sweden and some left for other European clubs as Hansa Rostock couldn’t afford to offer them reasonable wages. As the Swedish era ended the club stopped being a solid Bundesliga side.
After relegation from the Bundesliga in 2004/05 the club managed to climb back up two years later, but the glory days were gone. In 2007/08 Hansa Rostock immediately got relegated down to the 2. Bundesliga and since 2012 they are down in the 3. Liga, the 3rd tier of German football.
After eight tough seasons, both financially and on the pitch, Rolf Elgeti stepped in and cleared the club’s debt, making their large following feeling confidence for the first time in many years. The people of Rostock desperately want Bundesliga football to be played at the Ostseestadion again and long for “the good old times with the Swedes”.
A five year plan
In an attempt to make it back to the Bundesliga Herr Rolf is trying to copy the old recipe for success. All six members of “the Swedish Mafia” have been brought back to the club as coaching staff and scouts. Also former Hansa Rostock player and Swedish international Marcus Allbäck is brought in as the new manager. For Allbäck, who worked as an assistant coach for the Swedish national team between 2009 and 2016, this will be his first job as a manager. After securing his new staff Herr Rolf sat down with them and formulated a plan for the coming five years, a plan to get Hansa Rostock back to where they belong!
- Gain promotion back to the Bundesliga
Being stuck two tiers below the Bundesliga an ideal situation would be to immediately gain promotion to 2. Bundesliga in the first season to have a window of a couple of seasons to grow into a team able to challenge for promotion back to the Bundesliga.
- Build the team around Academy players and Swedish signings
The club, known for a good youth setup and a poor Economy, will primarily rely on making Academy players into senior squad members, but will also try to create a “New Swedish Mafia” on the pitch. I’m not sure what level of Swedish players we’ll be able to attract, but hopefully they’ll be good enough to improve the squad.
- Create a unique club DNA
By the way the players behave and play you should always be able to see and identify that “that’s a Hansa Rostock team” when watching a game or training session, even from some distance. The team and the players will behave and play in a certain way and Academy players, as well as new signings, will be fitted into that system. All of this in an attempt to produce players of Bundesliga quality.
- Improve club facilities
The youth setup is currently good, but not excellent, as well as the training facilities. In order to become a consistent Bundesliga side again we need to improve the club facilities over time.
- Keep finances healthy
The club’s current balance is €3.5M, but it’s difficult not to lose money in the German 3rd tier, especially when you are making a push for promotion. The club needs to invest wisely to stay in the black to avoid being forced to start selling players.
- ULTIMATE GOAL: Win a Bundesliga game starting at least six Swedish players
It’s easy to just pick up a bunch of Swedes and throw them into the starting line-up, but it’s harder to sign Swedish players good enough to help the team to consistent wins, especially on a strict budget. If we manage to put six Swedish players into the starting line-up of a Bundesliga game and then win that game, we have managed to recreate the original “Swedish Mafia”!
These are the six goals that we will try to reach in five years, if we manage to reach them all I’m sure that we’ve started laying a solid foundation for a new Golden Era!
Until next time, auf Wiedersehen!