SZen applause in the training camp, encouraging shouts for ailing players who can’t train with the team and do their laps alone – that hasn’t happened for a long time. Not only at Eintracht Frankfurt, but also at all other Bundesliga clubs. The corona pandemic was the reason why there has not been any pre-season training abroad with fans on site since the beginning of 2020.
The Eintracht training camp in Windischgarsten in Austria is therefore a further step towards the long-missed normality. Around 100 fans have been at the training ground every day since Monday and watch their team. On Thursday the players practiced standard situations. There was applause from the side for particularly beautiful crosses and goals.
Players like Aurelio Buta and Ansgar Knauff, who are injured and training individually, are cheered on by the fans as they complete their laps. “It’s nice to see that people spend their holidays here in Windischgarsten and watch us twice a day, that’s incredible,” says Timothy Chandler. “That’s why we’re always happy to be there for autographs and photos after training. That is simply part of Frankfurt.”
The fans are not only having a great time in Upper Austria. On Tuesday, for example, they organized their traditional Handkäs breakfast, which was attended by team manager Christoph Preuß, licensed player manager Timmo Hardung and the two players Almamy Touré and Djibril Sow.
“In good and bad times”
The organizer of the breakfast is the Eintracht fan club Dauborner Adler. Michael Leichtfuss is a member of the board and has traveled from Wiesbaden with his wife Kerstin. Since 2012, the two have been going to the Eintracht training camps. Of course they have season tickets. They kept it on the descent. “It was important to me to support the team. If the team is successful, anyone can do it,” says Leichtfuss. For him, being a fan means being there for the team in good times and bad.
Times couldn’t be better at the moment. In Windischgarsten the sun is shining so much that the fans have put up all the available umbrellas and are following the training in the shade at the beer tables. But they are not fair-weather fans. Even at the beginning of the week, when it was still windy and overcast in Upper Austria, the supporters were there.
“Eintracht is looking to be close to the fans again”
“Eintracht fans have always been special, but the Europa League victory gave the fan scene and the team a jolt. Eintracht is looking to be close to the fans again, even more than before,” said Leichtfuss. Eintracht now has more than 110,000 registered fans, making it one of the top five Bundesliga clubs in Germany.
Eintracht has established itself among the top clubs in the Bundesliga not only in terms of sport, but also economically. Axel Hellmann said in April: “Looking ahead to the next five years, we have jointly agreed that we want to continue on this path of growth and competitiveness while at the same time maintaining close ties to our fan base and the region.”
Fans are disciplined
This path is not surprising, after all, Hellmann is a founding member of the fan and funding department of Eintracht Frankfurt. From 2003 and 2012 he was managing director of Eintracht Frankfurt e. V., after which he became a member of the board of Eintracht Frankfurt Fußball AG and is now spokesman of the board.
The close connection to the fans can be observed in Windischgarsten. Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp sometimes goes a long way to take a photo with a fan in a wheelchair. There is a fence at the edge of the training ground, behind which the beer tables and parasols are set up. However, there is no limit on the short sides and fans could theoretically run onto the field. But everyone waits in a disciplined manner until the players approach them of their own accord.
They also hope to have longer moments together, for example as part of the supporting program at the training camp. “I have more fun talking to them in private. For example, I chatted longer with Christoph Preuss at the Handkäs breakfast and talked to Djibril Sow about cheese. He’s Swiss. That interests me more,” reports Michael Leichtfuss.
On Friday evening, the fan department organizes a barbecue evening for the fans with the pros, as it was in 2019. Back then, players would have sat down at the tables with their supporters, Leichtfuss recalls. He’s speculating on that this time too. Although the day will probably be stressful, because at 2.30 p.m. a friendly against FC Torino will conclude the training camp. Venue is Bad Wimsbach, about 50 minutes from Windischgarsten. “Of course we want to be back for the barbecue evening,” says Leichtfuss.
The fact that there are so many fans in Windischgarsten also has something to do with the fact that the coaching staff comes from the region. Oliver Glasner and his co-trainers Michael Angerschmid and Ronald Brunmayr are Austrians. In Windischgarsten, the Frankfurt team bus is clearly visible on the side of the road in front of the hotel. Not only the familiar Hessian can be heard at the training ground, but also the local dialect. Word has long got around that the Europa League winner is a guest.
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