This fifth-division club is causing a stir throughout Germany


14.02.2022 Reading time: 3 min

Can SpVgg Hankofen-Hailing pull off a soccer miracle in the Bayernliga South?

It's one of those stories that are becoming increasingly rare in modern soccer. A tiny village with a population of just 250 has just turned Bavarian amateur soccer on its head - and without a fat wallet. SpVgg Hankofen-Hailing is promoted to the Bavarian Regional League. It is the loop around the best season in the club's history.

In the meantime, they had a whole eleven points lead and were already knocking resolutely on the door to the regional league at the winter break.

But how does a small village in the Lower Bavarian province manage to write a fairy tale with manageable financial resources that would make even the Brothers Grimm turn green with envy?

We accompanied SpVgg Hankofen-Hailing during the winter break.

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250 inhabitants - 1,000 spectators - attractive soccer

They proudly call themselves "Dorfbuam. The name is prominently emblazoned on their red home and black away jerseys. And once you get to Hankofen, you'll know why: a church, a few single-family homes, cornfields as far as the eye can see, and a soccer stadium with plenty of charm. Geographically, you could call it a province. Football-wise, however, it is no longer.

It is not uncommon for the colorful seats in the main stand to be filled to capacity and for more than 1,000 spectators to whip their players forward until the last minute.

Anyone who now thinks that the Spielvereinigung is a rough-and-tumble soccer team with outstanding standard situations is mistaken. The leader of the Bayernliga Süd impresses with attractive soccer and the seemingly ideal combination of controlled possession and lurking pressing.

Soccer miracle of the "homemade" brand

From fertile farmland to above-average spectator attendance - for the Lower Bavarians from Hankofen, there are currently many things in abundance. Money, however, is not one of them.

The SpVgg is not backed by a major sponsor who wants to make a name for himself in amateur soccer. The "Dorfbuam" have developed bit by bit to where they are now - facing the best season of their lives. Hofer, Beck and Co. have been playing in the fifth-highest division since 2012. The best placing to date? Sixth place.

Naturally, Hankofen's players also arouse the desire of competitors or higher-class teams. Above all, the two top scorers Tobias Lermer (17 goals) and Andreas Wagner (11 goals).

But - and this also fits into the image of a club in which cohesion and identity are writ large - it has already been possible to extend the contracts of key players ahead of time.

This raises the question of the success factors for such an explosion in performance.

An exceptional coaching team

In the Gäuboden, as Hankofen's home region is known, every cog is currently meshing with millimeter precision. The two trainers have played a big part in this:

Heribert "Heri" Ketterl (61) and Tobias Beck (27). An unusual trainer duo, consisting of the oldest and the youngest trainer in the entire Bayernliga. While Beck is THE central figure on the pitch in the game of the Lower Bavarians, Ketterl pulls the strings from the sidelines.

A system that works. Ketterl and Beck have not only managed to celebrate one soccer festival after the next at Reißinger Bach. They are also in charge of the dressing room. They speak the players' language, motivate and comfort them.

"Here everyone goes through fire for the other".

One merit of the equal coaching duo: On and off the court, Hankofen seems like a cohesive bunch of pretty much best friends. They do a lot together in private, and on the pitch they always win or lose together. No one is forgotten.

It doesn't matter if you're a regular, a convalescent or a benchwarmer - everyone receives the necessary appreciation and thus subordinates themselves to the team's success. "With us, everyone goes through fire for each other," says vice-captain Daniel Hofer, explaining the team spirit that seems to carry the Lower Bavarians, especially in tight or difficult game situations. "It doesn't matter if you're sitting out or just fighting your way back from injury - everyone gives their best, is part of the team and pushes the guys on the field."

Top athletics as trump card in promotion race

"B42 is a professional app that helps us enormously to be at the top level athletically." Heribert Ketterl is convinced that the fitness of the players is a very decisive component for the current success.

After all, Ketterl and Beck's dynamic, intensive system of play can only be implemented if every single player is in top shape and there are few injuries.

It's a plan that has worked so far: Hankofen's players gallop at top speed for 95 minutes and thus very often keep the upper hand. Even when the opponent is perhaps stronger for once.

Athletic training with B42 is coordinated by Tobi Beck. He sets up individual training sessions for his teams, assigns additional shifts to certain parts of the team, and manages regeneration through mobility and yoga.

The topics of performance tests and load monitoring are also important tools for the young coach: "It's just great that we as a coaching team now know where each player stands. Where are his strengths, where could something still be teased out, or how much training can the boys take?"

The best season of life

If you look at the table of the Bayernliga Süd, SpVgg Hankofen-Hailing currently towers over everything. 13 points ahead of a non-promotion place, 56:29 goals and just five defeats. The original goal "class keeping" had to be revised consequently already to the winter break.

At that time, however, no one really wanted to talk about promotion, because "the league is very balanced, with many good teams. To talk about promotion now would be negligent."

And Tobias Beck and his boys did well at the time to think "from game to game." First, the playing coach said, they wanted to start the spring round well and, above all, in top shape. And after that? There you want one thing above all:

"We want - regardless of the final result - to be able to look in the mirror and say, yes, we gave everything and can't reproach ourselves.' If a top position then comes out of it, we're all overjoyed."

And what can we say: they can. Despite a difficult phase of the season with some disappointing results, the Hankofeners remained true to themselves and their style of play.

With success, because now it is certain, the best season of their lives. With really good results, of course, but also with a lot of friendship, cohesion and passion.

They still exist, the traditional village clubs

Hankofen is currently the talk of Bavaria. A small village club that annoys its big and moneyed rivals on a weekly basis. It's a modern Asterix saga, but one that happens every now and then in the Regionalliga.

TSV Buchbach and SV Schalding-Heining have been playing in the big league for years - with little budget, but with smart solutions. B42 is one of them. Because that's what unites these sensational teams: they all use the Athletics app and are breaking new ground in this area.

For the real soccer we all love so much, it's a blessing that these stories can be told again and again. When expensively funded star ensembles are put in their place by passionate underdogs, you see: even without money, the best season of your life is within the realm of possibility.

Be fearless. Be focused. B42

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