Investor Michail Ponomarew brought the success back. Coach Krämer relies on team spirit
Imagine FC Bayern’s pros helping new players to move on their day off and watching a football match on TV afterwards. Unbelievable! Because professional clubs take care of finding accommodation and dealing with the authorities for the stars. With KFC Uerdingen, the third league promoted, things are different.
For almost three years now, the professionals have been helping out with the moves of new colleagues. Coach Stefan Krämer (51) is enthusiastic: “I think it’s really awesome! Such actions weld together – and only a team with good team spirit exists in this league.”
A look at the table shows just how good the cohesion of the 1985 Cup winner is: KFC is the front-runner against Halle after a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Another factor for the super series of 16 points from seven league games, according to Krämer, is the experience of his team. The KFC professionals have played 406 Bundesliga matches – no team in the 3rd league has more. Krämer: “Thanks to our seasoned players, we always stay calm in critical phases and keep our nerves. That’s our big plus.” The squad includes Kevin Großkreutz (30), Maximilian Beister (28), Samed Yesil (24), Chistopher Schorch (29), Christian Dorda (29), Dennis Daube (29), Robert Müller (31), Patrick Pflücke (21), Oguzhan Kefkir (27) and Stefan Aigner (31), ten former Bundesliga players.
But the stars are not the spokesmen. Captain Mario Erb (28) and Tanju Öztürk (29) lead the team – and make sure that it remains focused despite the success. “In the 3rd league, small things decide. At the moment we are doing a lot well, but we have to confirm that again and again,” says Großkreutz. A punishment catalogue, which the professionals have worked out in addition to that of the trainer team, also helps here. In addition to points such as late arrival, leg shots are also punished during training. Anyone who is tunnelled five against two has to pay ten euros into the team’s coffers.
The father of the success is investor and President Michail Ponomarew. The Russian multi-millionaire, who earns his money with a consulting firm for energy, has been at the top of the club since 2016. But he is not a classic financier. The Russian is closely involved in the team’s planning, watching every home match from the stands. Once a week he talks to the coaching team about the KFC team, which has the highest league budget of eight million euros. Ponomarew, who is also a member of the Krefeld Penguine first division ice hockey team, has a say in transfers.
Krämer: “He knows every player in German professional football, you can discuss every candidate with him. We make mutual suggestions for commitments – but the final word lies with Nikolas Weinhart (KFC managing director; editor) and myself”.
The triad works. The KFC would march through a league for the third time in a row with a promotion to the 2nd league.
But the sporting success also has its downside. Since the KFC cannot guarantee a separation between home and away fans in the stadium at Grotenburg, the club has to play its games in the Schauinsland-Reisen Arena, the home of the MSV Duisburg, 20 kilometres to the east. A thorn in the side of the fans. Only about 4500 fans come to the home games in the 31 500 capacity stadium. Slotsmagic has been growing and making its name.
It is unclear when the KFC will be able to return to its stadium. A demolition is also under discussion. Krämer: “Of course we want to return as soon as possible. Nobody would have thought that our sporting success would take on such proportions and that we would even grow too fast for our infrastructure”.
For the good achievements the crew is recompenced. Krämer has allowed a team excursion to the Munich Oktoberfest, which the players have to pay out of their own pocket – here, too, KFC differs from other professional clubs.