Heller: “Those are memories which stay forever”
Looking back on FSV’s first home win against FC Bayern with former Zerofiver Florian Heller, who came through the academy in Munich
Saturday’s home game at the MEWA ARENA will see 1. FSV Mainz 05 face off against FC Bayern München for the 32nd time in the Bundesliga, with the visitors having already won the league for the tenth time in a row last weekend. Today, we’re taking the opportunity to look back on the Zerofivers’ first-ever home victory against the record champions with a man who has experience on both sides of the fixture: Florian Heller. The former Mainz right-back played at every level of FC Bayern’s youth academy but moved to Bruchweg in 2008, and started in the win for an FSV side coached by Thomas Tuchel, in their third game since regaining promotion to the top division. The 2-1 triumph in August 2009 was watched by 20,300 fans at the Bruchwegstadion, with the home side scoring all the goals. Andreas Ivanschitz opened the scoring, before Aristide Bancé’s goal gave Mainz a 2-0 lead going into half time. An own goal from Nikolce Noveski just after the restart halved the deficit, as he deflected a ball from Thomas Müller into his own net.
Bavarian-born Heller has fond memories of the fantastic atmosphere in the stadium; the famous Bruchweg atmosphere faced up against a full-strength and star-studded Bayern side coached by Louis van Gaal. “You could say it was a pretty competitive squad,” laughed Heller, as he looked back on what was a special reunion for him with his old team as he set up the Zerofivers’ second: “All Aristide Bancé had to do was tap the ball in. I did the hard work, but ‘Ari’ took all the credit,” he joked. “I played down the right hand side with Tim Hoogland. Ivanschitz put us one up pretty early on, so the second must have come after around half an hour, if I remember correctly. I know that I played the ball down the line to ‘Hoogi’ and then got forward on the overlap. My next touch was the cross, because Ari was marked by Phillip Lahm in the middle. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and thought it would be a goal if the ball got up high enough – that was what happened in the end.” The powerful striker was no match for the diminutive Lahm in the air, heading home and sparking jubilant scenes in the stands as the Zerofivers doubled their lead. “Those are memories which stay forever,” said Heller. “Crossing the ball whilst running at full speed was my party trick at that time.”
I did the hard work, but ‘Ari’ took all the credit!
“Mainz was the highlight of my career”
“I had some discussions with ‘Kloppo’ and Christian Heidel in the Hilton hotel before I joined. Everything was cleared up and sorted out, and I signed then and there. They got me on a free transfer, too, as I was out of contract at the end of the season before when I got relegated with Aue,” Heller recalls, adding that his time in Mainz was the highlight of his career. “When I talk about my career with people, I always say the most about Mainz 05. It was the highlight of my career, both in a sporting and a private sense. That means a lot,” said the 40-year-old.
When I talk about my career with people, I always say the most about Mainz 05.
Heller joined FC Bayern from TSV 1860 Rosenheim, making his first appearances as a professional at Greuther Fürth before joining fellow second-division club Erzgebirge Aue – he made the move from Saxony to Mainz in the summer of 2008. After his time at Bruchweg came to an end, he joined FC Ingolstadt in the second tier, hanging up his boots at SpVgg Unterhaching. “During the pandemic, I got a job as U19s coach at 1860 Rosenheim, my hometown club,” Heller said. “Since February 2021, I’ve been head coach of the first team there, in the Regionalliga. It’s good fun, even if our current league position isn’t the best reading.” Rosenheim are bottom of the Regionalliga Bayern, the fourth tier of German football, but have just celebrated a 4-0 win away at table-toppers Bayreuth. Despite that, there is still a big gap to safety, and relegation is looming. “It’s still fun to be there, though, and I can’t complain,” the ever-cheerful Heller said, who lives with his family in Rosenheim.
His time at FC Bayern certainly helped shape him as a player, even though he never played for them in the Bundesliga. “I played for six years under coach Hermann Gerland for the U17 and U19 sides in what were my first steps towards professional football. I’ve still got fond memories of that time, it was a brilliant experience. It’s clear to see why every young footballer in Bavaria wants to wear the FC Bayern shirt. To be part of the elite as a youth player was a big thing.” He no longer has a connection to the club. “Life goes on, as they say. There are a lot of comings and goings in football.”
Connection to Mainz via Niko Bungert
Flo Heller still has a good connection to Mainz via Niko Bungert. “We were roommates for a very long time. Unfortunately we don’t see each other too often. I also don’t hear much from Bo Svensson, but of course I’m keeping an eye on how it’s all going. I’m pleased to see Christian Heidel back. You could see today that Mainz 05 are back on the track that they were on during my time at the club. They’ve got key figures in important positions, and you can see that the club are going in the right direction again,” commented Heller. Being in such a position means you can deal with losses like the 5-0 against Wolfsburg last week. “Defeats like that happen. Mainz 05 are still the same club, and the important thing was that the game remained intense despite the scoreline, as would always be the case when I was there. Since Bo’s been at the helm, the club have started to play the football that makes the club so special.”
You can see that the club are going in the right direction again.
Heller would never have guessed at the time that his former teammate Svensson would become a head coach, even though the Dane was always asking plenty of questions as a player. “Bo was always a brilliant teammate and friend. He was the best passer in the team and he knew where the ball needed to go and always managed to get it there. He was one of the team’s leaders, just like Marco Rose, another great guy.”
Reunion in Grassau
Heller won’t be able to keep a close eye on the match against Bayern on Saturday because his Rosenheim side are at home to Schweinfurt on the same day, and he then has birthday celebrations to come after that. “I turned 40 in March, but I had to cancel my party because I caught Corona.” The rescheduled festivities will instead take place on Saturday. “I would like to wish Bo and his side the very best of luck. I still feel a great connection to Mainz, even though I’m a bit further away these days,” commented the former Zerofiver. “When I see how Chris Babatz and Klaus Hafner have put this great, traditional club back on their feet again, you have to say it’s a huge achievement. I don’t know if anything of the sort has ever been done before or will ever be done again. People will never forget how the guys have given their absolute all for the good of this club.” Heller is certainly looking forward to Mainz’s summer training camp in Grassau, which is not far from him, and to catching up with the Zerofivers head coach again. “I’ll definitely pop by.”