Football games between the traditional North Rhine-Westphalian clubs Rot-Weiss Essen and Preussen Münster rarely go without serious riots, which is due to the bitter rivalry between two fan camps ready to escalate. It is therefore comforting that the emotionally hottest duel in a long time will be held this Saturday over a distance of 70 kilometers. In the long-distance duel, both are about promotion to the third division. For Essen it is the most important game in the club’s recent history, and you don’t know how the disappointment of the fans would unleash itself if Essen narrowly failed to get promoted for the third year in a row. “Our audience is even more emotional than elsewhere,” says Managing Director Marcus Uhlig.
The last direct duel between Rot-Weiss and Prussia ended three months ago with a catastrophic bang: a firecracker throw from the Essen fan block caused the game to be stopped shortly before the end – the score was 1:1. Two Prussia players suffered a bang trauma, Münster was subsequently awarded victory by the sports court.
This is one of the reasons why the ultimate showdown is now taking place. Before the last day of the game, both are tied at the top of the Regionalliga West. Should Essen (against Rot Weiss Ahlen) fail again and Münster (against 1. FC Köln II) rise in the end, this would ultimately have to be attributed to that firecracker throw, to the crazy act of a previously convicted lone wolf from Marl, which the authorities didn’t even attributed to the Essen fan camp.
The season lasts nine months and both have played 37 games. After two 55.5 hours of fourth division football, matters will now be decided within 90 minutes. When it comes to goal difference, Essen is practically three goals ahead (two by difference, plus more goals scored). The stadium on Hafenstrasse is sold out on Saturday with 16,500 spectators, the Preußenstadion with 14,300. Both clubs could probably have sold twice as many tickets. If the case were decided according to historical justice, Essen would have to win. Because while the Munsters are only playing in the fourth division for the second year in a row, the red and white have been trying to leave the fourth division for eleven years.
Most recently, Essen’s bad luck had peaked. Two years ago, the season was canceled due to Corona before Essen could start a final spurt – instead, SC Verl rose as a west representative in the relegation against Lok Leipzig. A year ago, the sovereign Esseners had been weakening for a long time just at the end of the season, Borussia Dortmund II was the beneficiary. Between February 2020 and February 2021, Essen had not lost a competitive game for twelve months and had thrown out Arminia Bielefeld, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB Cup. But the again narrowly missed promotion then hit the club and the fans.
Essen would fail for the third time – the coach was even changed the week before
It could also have been the fear of the third unfortunate promotion failure in a row that persuaded those responsible in Essen to release head coach Christian Neidhart and appoint their sports director Jörn Nowak for just two remaining games of the season as team boss. “We wanted to set an impulse again,” says Managing Director Uhlig. According to Uhlig, this move “worked well” in the 3-0 win in Rödinghausen last Saturday, “now it’s about doing the same thing against Ahlen.”
The Munsters were well on their way to becoming the leaders of the table before they drew 0-0 at SC Wiedenbrück last weekend and lost first place to Essen. “After that we had to shake ourselves,” says Prussia’s sports director Peter Niemeyer. But now we’re going to put everything back together. “Basically, both traditional clubs, Preußen Münster and Rot-Weiss Essen, belong at least in the third division,” says Niemeyer. The discrepancy between the clubs in the regional league is generally large: “The third division has a different dimension and is a great incentive for us.”
Both clubs had their best times in the 1950s. Münster lost the final of the German championship against Kaiserslautern in Berlin in 1951.
Essen won the cup against Alemannia Aachen in 1953 and became champion against Kaiserslautern in 1955. In 1963, Preussen Munster was a founding member of the Bundesliga, but was relegated directly and never returned. Essen played in the Bundesliga for seven years, but was relegated for the last time in 1977.
The firecracker throw three months ago no longer plays a major role for either club before the showdown. “That was stupid for everyone involved, but it’s now shelved,” says Niemeyer. In Essen, they only want to decide after the season whether to sue the perpetrator. If Rot-Weiss doesn’t step up, the damage could be enormous, six figures, maybe seven figures, but there would be nothing to be gained from the perpetrator anyway.
As they learned in Essen, promotion to the third division is hard work. This week they had to fend off a last dig from Münster. One of three SC Preussen fan representatives joked cynically on the Internet: “On May 14th, please throw firecrackers at the Ahlen players, but only if necessary and if you don’t find an Essen idiot; promotion will be celebrated in Münster.” That fan officer was relieved of his duties by Preußen Münster on the same day.