This is news that will electrify any senior football fan. The Bielefeld "Century Coach" Ernst Middendorp returns to Germany. Almost fourteen years after his last engagement at home, he signed for SV Meppen until the end of the season. A real world coach in the province!
Ernst Middendorp has looked after almost thirty clubs in his long coaching career. Among them absolute exotics like the Iranian club Tractor Sazi Täbris, the Chinese club Changchun Yatai and the Ghanaian team Accra Hearts of Oak. Now the native of Emsland is returning to Germany. Fourteen years after his last engagement at home, bottom of the table in the 3rd division, SV Meppen, has secured his services. Middendorp even canceled his contract with the South African club Moroka Swallows, which was valid until 2026. His last engagement in Germany ended in May 2009 with Rot-Weiss Essen. Now Middendorp is back.
In Meppen, everyone is already looking forward to the cult coach, as sporting director Heiner Beckmann said today when the surprising news was announced: "We are convinced that Ernst Middendorp can help us directly in the current situation with his enormous experience. I was in regular contact with him, and knows how intensively Ernst Middendorp has been involved with German football, the 3rd division and especially with SV Meppen from afar." Middendorp is currently still in South Africa. But tomorrow afternoon, the new SVM coach should lead the first training session for the club, which is in danger of relegation.
In Meppen, Middendorp inherits Stefan Krämer of all people, who made his successful leap into the professional division at Arminia Bielefeld in 2011. The club where Ernst Middendorp had his greatest times and where the fans once voted him the "coach of the century". Rüdiger Lamm, the former manager of Arminia, once said about Ernst Middendorp: "I'm crazy, but he's insane." A precise characterization of the "wild hand sweeper", which all older football fans in Germany would certainly subscribe to immediately.
Back then, after the election as the "coach of the century", Arminia honored their coach with these words: "Ernst Middendorp built a completely new, identity-forming team out of nothing at the end of the 80s and led Arminia from the regional league to the Bundesliga in his second term. In 2007 he returned the brilliant motivator returned to Bielefeld for a third time and managed to stay up in the league, which was no longer thought possible, with which he has probably finally made himself immortal."
What an extraordinary guy this Ernst Middendorp is is also shown by the fact that he was once one of the very few Bundesliga coaches to have his own website dedicated to him. Anyone who used to go online via this site found out everything they ever wanted to know about Ernst Middendorp, from shoe size and every single anecdote to the latest news - and much more besides. The operator of the site obviously had a real crush on the man who introduced himself at a press conference in April 1988: "My name is Middendorp! M-i-d-d-e-e-n-d-o-r-p! I say this expressly because there have already been three difficulties."
The coach's drunken rides, which have ended on tram tracks opposite the Bielefeld district court or half parked at an intersection ("I can't remember how I got there. A huge mystery.") are documented in great detail. And the famous sentences to a reporter from Radio Bielefeld are also appropriately acknowledged there.
When Arminia won at 1. FC Köln on November 22, 1997, Middendorp - emotionally extremely psyched - tore the poor media man's recording device to the side and yelled: "Get lost, you asshole, you swine, take away the microphone !" And because Middendorp was just going so well, he finally added the sentence that had meanwhile matured into a dictum: "Kneel down, you bratwurst!" At the press conference that followed, Bielefeld's coach finally overflowed when he really "puked up" and attacked the assembled journalists verbally and head-on. He afforded the freak out of the season.
His "crazy" friend and then manager of Arminia, Rüdiger Lamm, tried to take Middendorp out of the line of fire when he said: "Such stories only come about because you don't know him." Unfortunately, this was an extremely desperate attempt. Only a few weeks earlier, Lamm himself had given a reporter from Radio Bielefeld the not very nice request: "Lick me where you like it best!"
As Bielefeld coach, Ernst Middendorp led Arminia from the third division to the Bundesliga. With aging stars like Thomas von Heesen, Fritz Walter, Stefan Kuntz, Armin Eck, Peter Hobday and the 41-year-old goalkeeper Uli Stein, he was determined to stay in the league in the 1995/96 season. A difficult undertaking, but Middendorp did everything it could to succeed. When two children took a shortcut across the lawn on their bicycles during team training, the young Bielefeld coach really freaked out: "Are you completely crazy? Down with you now!"
A few years later, Middendorp ended up at VfL Bochum. There he had the nerve-wracking agony of choosing between goalkeepers Thomas Ernst and Rein van Duijnhoven. For weeks, the VfL coach couldn't really decide on one of the two. Until the "kicker" got tired of it and thought heretical-philosophically in one of the most beautiful headlines of a football magazine: "Is Ernst Ernst going in? Or is Ernst Ernst going in?"
When he returned to Bielefeld in 2007, he achieved the miracle: the team managed to stay up in the league with him. The man, who has always had a penchant for formulating funny sentences ("I have a broken metatarsal bone with a tumor on my right side and what else do I know"), said after a defeat at Schalke: "We Arminen are also German champions, of course only in East Westphalia." And when it was time to go against Bayern, Middendorp tried to encourage the team with the following sentence: "It's like a VW Beetle against Porsche. But we're not on the autobahn, we're in the city and have to see if the Beetle isn't here and there is an advantage."
The editor-in-chief of the magazine "11 Freunde", Philipp Köster, has been a fan of Bielefeld's Arminia since childhood. He has lived through all the ups and downs with the coach of the century and therefore says about Middendorp: "A thoroughbred Armine. He would also ask after the final whistle after a Champions League triumph with Real Madrid: 'How did Arminia play?'"
Now the former Arminia cult coach is back at home. At SV Meppen they are building on the incredible experience of the former Bundesliga coach. In the likeable football province, Ernst Middendorp is supposed to perform a small miracle and keep the club in the 3rd division. The Emsland native is crazy enough, as we know not only from Rüdiger Lamm, in any case. And what kind of story would that be if the well-travelled world coach were to write football history again just forty kilometers from his place of birth? Meppen and Middendorp would be nice.