‘Just’ a Karneval Club: 1. FC Köln Embraces Identity & Has Some Laughs

When you hear that the 1. FC Köln is “just a Karneval club,” you have to know who is saying it in order to know what that means.

Outside the effzeh community, the phrase originally was meant to deliver a heavy dose of dismissiveness toward the football capabilities of the Billy Goats. “Sure, you have a football team, but you’re really just a bunch of clowns better suited for parties and parades.”

Most of us who identify with the FC, though, wear “nur ein Karnevalsverein” like a badge of honor. We certainly are all fans of football and expect great things from our team, but we also can be light-hearted about the relative successes and failures of the club in recent years.

And should we take down a bigger club, don’t think we won’t then remind the more-pompous elements of that team’s fan base that they just lost to a Karneval troupe.

The club itself has been increasing its embrace of the notion that it is, very much, a Karnevalsverein. Because the identity of the 1. FC Köln is so closely tied to the city of Köln and its people, for whom the Karneval is a major part of the civic identity, it makes perfect sense from a marketing perspective. Beyond the balance sheet, though, there is another very good reason: good old-fashioned fun.

Keeping in mind that the club and its beloved football team is a collection of people and that some of them are not native to the area, the Karneval is a great opportunity to allow the non-native players and staff to take a break from the intense focus on football and have a good time while connecting with their adopted

Coaching staff and players have fun during 2014 11er im 11en training session.

Coaching staff and players have fun during 2014 11er im 11en training session.

community. For the native Kölners, of course, refraining from the Karneval is something akin to unfathomable.

A year ago, Peter Stöger and team took to the training ground dressed with regard for the November 11

festivities. As the city of Köln prepared to celebrate the launch of the 2015 Karneval session, which happens every year on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of eleventh day of the eleventh month (or the 11er im 11ten), the coach paired some Lederhosen with the special Karneval warm-up jacket while supervising the training session during which players donned red wigs, clown noses, and red-and-white striped socks.

And smiles. Inferring from the many videos and photos shared that day, one could say that everyone taking part that day wore smiles at some point that morning.

This year, the club doubled down on the Karneval fun for their 11er im 11ten training session and expanded the social-media participation in the festivities while taking a playful jab at a fellow Bundesliga club.

Inspired by the Leon Andreasen goal that gave Hannover 96 a 1:0 victory at Rhein Energie Stadium, the players of 1. FC Köln took to the training pitch dressed in jerseys that identified the team as SG Flensburg-Handewitt, a club currently near the top of Germany’s handball first-division table.

Going even further with the handball theme, the coaches ran the players through a scrimmage session during which goals would count only if shot by hand or arm.

The Hannover 96 Twitter team jumped at the opportunity to play along, reminding the effzeh that they had already shown their mastery of the technique, responding with “but we can do it better” and signing their message with the hashtag-version of traditional Köln-Karneval greeting “Alaaf!

Being the professionals they are, the effzeh social-media team responded in a way that would lead you to believe that maybe they had baited their Bundesliga foes into engaging.

“We’re already training for the return match,” didn’t deter the Hannoverians from continuing, but the knockout blow gave the effzeh a decisive victory in this off-pitch rematch between the two entities.

After training was finished, those who were planning to go into the city to continue their 11er im 11ten fun. Before they went their separate ways, though, players and coaches gathered for a group photo. Though the players displayed an array of costume ideas, the coaching staff’s group costume seemed to be best aligned with the theme of this year’s Karneval “We turn everthing upside-down” (Mer stelle alles op de Kopp in the Kölsch dialect).

Having spent some time and energy complaining about officials for having missed hand-play in both the Hannover and Hoffenheim matches, Stöger and company dressing as football referees comes off as a stroke of comedic genius, though Anthony Modeste’s banana might be the more eye-catching yellow-centric costume.

There has been no shortage of entertaining images from training and the photo session on the internet. Check out Geissblog.Koeln, BILD, 1. FC Köln’s Facebook page, and the club Twitter account’s media page for more. But before you do, pour yourself a nice cold Kölsch, put on your red clown nose, and give a hearty “ALAAF!” in recognition of the day’s significance, just as me and my young effzeh fans here in Seattle will do (okay, with more appropriate morning and kids beverages, of course).

And, as always, COME ON EFFZEH!

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