The Town Musicians of Bremen, Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten, a popular fairytale from the Brothers Grimm. Maybe you’re heard of it before: Four mistreated animals who run away from their homes and decide to travel together to Bremen and become street artists (I don’t know which kind of drugs the Grimms were using, but it must’ve been good stuff). Ironically, in the story, they never reach Bremen but encounter some robbers along the way. But a dog, cat, donkey and rooster aren’t the only famous things linked to Bremen.
Enter SV Sportverein Werder Bremen.
Some weeks ago, I already talked about that other love interest of mine, Deportivo La Coruna. And wouldn’t you know it, next to beautiful shirts, Deportivo and Bremen have something else in common: a midfield magician. Werder’s crown jewel in the early 2000s was French playmaker Johan Micoud. A joy to watch. But the German side was so much more than only Micoud back in 2003.
Micoud was the perfect partner for Klasnic and Ailton up front. The Brazilian flair of Ailton, who was banging in goals left and right in season 2003-2004, mixed with the taller Klasnic, who was more of a target man. Both men scored a combined 41 goals in the Bundesliga, while Micoud put in 10 goals and a ton-load of assists. Ailton become top scorer with 28 goals, a Lewandowski avant la lettre quoi.
In the heart of the defense, you had the tough as nails duo Ismael and Krstajic. In midfield the German Holy Trinity of Borowski, Baumann and Ernst who bossed the midfield to let Micoud do his thing. Other notable names were Charisteas (who scored the winning goal in the Euro 2004 final at the end of the season), Nelson Valdez (awesome hair), Paul Stalterti (the Florenzi of Bremen) and leftback dynamo Ludovic Magnin.
Werder’s trophy cabinet resembles Roma’s in many ways. In Germany, they’re not the same level as Bayern or Dortmund; while they have been an ever-present in the highest division since the start in 1963, 2004 was only the fourth title in their history. Just like Roma, they had more luck with national cups. Werder won their fifth cup in 2004 and will go on to win one more in 2009. They finished runner-up eleven times in both the league and cup finals. Sounds familiar?
However, 2003-2004 really was the year in which Werder Bremen blossomed and boomed. And thus conquered my 16-year-old heart. Under the guidance of coach Thomas Schaaf, Werder won the domestic double. Some results from that season: 4-1 vs Schalke. 5-3 vs Wolfsburg. 1-5 vs Hannover. 6-0 vs Hamburg. 1-3 vs Bayern. And the kit. Boy, that magnificent kit. Believe me, orange and green are NOT colors that fit together well in fashion, but damn, Werder Bremen pulled it off. In style thanks to Kappa. They remind me a bit of Roma’s awesome CL kit from 2002-2003.
Schaaf spent a total of 14 years at Werder Bremen, qualifying for the Champions League five years running from 2004 to 2009, a period in which Roma also was familiar with the CL hymn thanks to Spalletti, so you could tell I was a happy man when both teams featured in the highest stage of European football.
Since the 2000s, Bremen has had a knack for producing exciting talents like Diego, Klose, Pizarro, Özil. They also have a long list of more than decent players like Wiese, Naldo, Mertesacker, Fritz, Hugo Almeida, Arnautovic, Gebre Selassie, Moisander and more.
However, lately Werder have been a shadow of their former self. They narrowly escaped relegation twice—in 2016 and again last season—when they twice had to save their ass through play-offs. Right now they’re a midtable club, with 10 points from 7 games. They’re unbeaten since matchday 2 and are aiming to have a relatively safe and sound season in the Bundesliga. Perhaps there’s a small chance to qualify for the Europa League, battling it out with the likes of Leverkusen, Wolsburg, Frankfurt and Monchengladbach.
You want some more similarities between Werder and Roma? Both have an arch rival (Hamburg and Lazio respectively). Both play in a stadium close to a river: Roma near the Tevere, Werder near the Weser. Though Roma can learn a thing or two about goal celebrations. After a goal, the stadium plays a massive goal horn and ”I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)” by the Proclaimers. C’mon, things can’t get better than that.
So while a peak Francesco Totti and Cassano were my only true loves in 2003, I’ll always have fond memories of Micoud, Ismael, Ailton and rest of Werder as well.
Oh, and don’t you worry about our four little friends. They overpowered the thieves and lived happily ever after. As it should be.