Pros 08.09.2022 — 12:25 Uhr

Clashes in Hoffenheim: Regularly high-scoring and emotional

More than 3000 fans will get behind FSV on Saturday afternoon against Hoffenheim, where Mainz have put on great spectacles during their 13 years in the Bundesliga.

In 2014, the Zerofivers overturned a clear deficit of 2-0 at half time to emerge victorious with a 4-2 victory.

Mainz’s next Bundesliga game is being labelled “home game in Hoffenheim”. On Saturday (15:30 CEST), Bo Svensson’s side face TSG Hoffenheim in the Sinsheimer Arena, where up to 4000 Mainz fans will support their team from the stands. It is a venue where the Zerofivers have already experienced one or two memorable games. One more away win – the fifth in a row this season – would set a new club record for the Rheinhessen side, not least thanks to the support of the travelling fans.

Svensson praises the level of support

“At Bochum it was something special,” said Svensson on the support from Zerofivers fans, “who, when they were in Augsburg, screamed their lungs out.” Also at Borussia-Park, the team celebrated with the away block full of ecstatic fans after the game. “My wish is to consistently put in a performance both on the football pitch and for the fans,” Svensson said. “We have to create a good atmosphere in the long run, continuously cultivating the connection between the players and the fans. For a special atmosphere, you have to invest something yourself.”

“I always go down for the away game in Hoffenheim,” said one Mainz fan, who has secured his ticket for this weekend. “It is close, it’s well-priced, you can get here easily and we also like to get some points there.”

Decent away record

In numbers, it looks like this: the Zerofivers have played TSG Hoffenheim 13 times during their time together in the Bundesliga, dating back to 2009. The first five meetings saw Mainz take home the points, but then a run of four defeats in a row followed until that unforgettable 1-1 draw on 23rd December 2018, when then head coach Sandro Schwarz celebrated with one of the biggest Mainz fan parties of all time in the opposition stadium on the day before Christmas Eve. Three more away wins followed for Mainz, including the 5-1 drumming in 2019. Since then, the Mainzers have won a further two times in Hoffenheim; 2-1 in March 2021, which was a game that took place behind closed doors due to the pandemic. Last season, Mainz came away 2-0 winners. The special thing about these wins from a Mainz point of view was the goals themselves: In the 2-1 win, Robert Glatzel gave the Zerofivers a 1-0 lead. It was the first of two goals for the tall centre-forward and it came after only 26 seconds. In the 2-0 victory last season, Jonny Burkardt put Svensson’s side ahead. In the 76th minute, the head coach made a change, switching out Burkardt for Marcus Ingvartsen, and the Danish striker promptly doubled the lead, scoring only 76 seconds after the substitution to bag his first goal in a Mainz shirt. Corona-virus restrictions meant that only 8000 spectators could watch back then. 

“A game to forget and one for the ages”

In 2014, there was another memorable game inside the Sinsheimer Arena. It was a game that earned the headline, on the online website ‘Sport of Mainz’, of “A game to forget and one for the ages.”

What happened? In front of 25,000 fans, Mainz, during the reign of Thomas Tuchel, put in an atrocious first-half display. Later on, Tuchel did not even try to find an explanation for how his side managed to salvage the game that had looked lost for a long time, instead turning the game on its head in just 8 minutes. “Very strange,” said the 40-year-old before creating a new lesson in football. “Sometimes you win a game because you win them.”

Later, the coach, who has just been sacked by Chelsea FC, confessed that he had long since put the game behind him. He sat motionless on the bench as Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, Benedikt Saller and Shinji Okazaki scored a brace to turn what had been a flattering 2-0 deficit (thanks to goals from ex-Zerofiver Eugen Polanski and Roberto Firmino) into a 4-2 win. In the run-up to the match, the Mainz head coach had stated that he wanted his side to contribute to an overall attractive game. They couldn’t have done this better if they tried it another hundred times. The Mainzers produced two different away games: one to forget and one for the ages. It was a win that sent the travelling fans into a state of euphoria.

Unforgettable match on the day before Christmas Eve

For plenty of Mainz fans, however, the match on the day before Christmas Eve 2018 is probably still their most memorable away outing at the Sinsheimer Arena. Even if it was only a 1-1 draw, there was reason to celebrate. More than 2000 travelling fans made the match feel like a home game. They got behind their team with incredible noise and imagination for 90 whole minutes. Particularly the choreography, when the Zerofiver fans lit up their block with hundreds of mobile phone torches and sang their own rendition of the Christmas classic “Last Christmas”, was a highlight. Players and coaching staff alike showed their enormous gratitude by gifting their kits and more. The club gave the fans bratwurst and mulled win. “It was just incredible. I was a goosebumps moment,” recalled one fan after the spectacle.

Reconciling with the fans

The whole affair was incredible important as the relationship between the fans and the team had been slightly strained in the times before that match. In the 3-0 defeat in the previous season, the Mainz players had refrained from going to thank the fans after the array of insults thrown at them during the derby game against Frankfurt and the 90 minutes against Hoffenheim – after these games, a rift between the players and fans was opened, which remained as such until it was finally healed during the Christmas Eve Eve match.

And then there was the 5-1 win on 24th November at the Sinsheimer Arena, for which Achim Beierlorzer was responsible as Sandro Schwarz’s successor, getting off to the perfect start as Mainz head coach. It was the moment when Robin Zentner definitively ended Hoffenheim’s comeback with a spectacular tackle on Andrej Kramaric – a tackle that was cheered loudly by the 1100 travelling fans and who sang “FSV are back”. The Zerofivers added two more brilliant goals from counter-attacking to secure an unassailable 5-1 away win.

The Zerofivers put in a performance that surprised and impressed. They did not seem fazed by the loss of Ridle Baku, who was shown a red card shortly before half time for a foul on Sebastian Rudy. After the final whistle, there was an enormous celebration from the players and fans in front of the away end.