Everyone is so busy talking about Leipzig, they have forgotten about Freiburg. Christian Streich and his team are doing incredible work and deserve recognition, writes DW’s Jonathan Harding.”I’m delighted that we played the way we did against such a clever team,” Freiburg head coach Christian Streich said after his team’s victory against Hertha Berlin on Sunday. The truth is that Streich is the clever one.
Freiburg, sitting pretty in eighth with a healthy 26 points, are the other, neglected newly promoted team this season. While Leipzig make headlines and chase Bayern, Freiburg quietly work miracles with few of the means most modern football clubs have at their disposal.
In a somewhat drab match, Freiburg won their eighth game of the season. Streich’s team have won six of their nine home games, using their home support to great effect. Janik Haberer continued his fine run of form, while Nils Petersen scored the 16th goal of his career off the bench. Last week against Bayern, were it not for one moment of individual brilliance from Robert Lewandowski they would have taken a point off the defending champions – and deservedly so. They finished 2016 in a very healthy state, not that many took notice.
The team don’t have a wealth of outstanding talent and are statistically unremarkable. They’re just a solid team whose collective quality is their strength. After relegation from the Bundesliga in 2014-15, the team lost leading players Admir Mehmedi, Vladimir Darida, Roman Bürki and Jonathan Schmid. A season later, Freiburg returned to the top flight – beating Leipzig to the title – with Nils Petersen and Vincenzo Grifo the only notable additions. Petersen had already been with the team on loan from Bremen for the second half of 2014-15, but officially joined the club in the summer of 2015. Since then, Alexander Schwolow, Caglar Soyuncu and Maximilian Philipp have also improved, proving that if Freiburg can do one thing it is to cope with change.
Everything about the club is remarkable. They have the third-least expensive squad in the league above only Ingolstadt (who also deserve recognition) and Darmstadt. The Schwarzwaldstadion holds just 24,000. Their players talk about politics and social issues – with Streich even publicly calling for social media to become a school subject.
Their challenge will be to retain the same old-school football feeling when they make the necessary step towards a stronger future and move to their new stadium as soon as 2019. With Christian Streich there, Freiburg will never be anything but a place for the type of fan the game is quickly forgetting.