There was no end of embraces at the welcome event and get-together in the Lindner Hotel. Everybody was embracing, hugging and kissing when the Bayer 04 promotion heroes of 1979 and their wives and partners were reunited for the '40 years Bundesliga under the Bayer Cross' celebrations. The immense value placed on the team that came up to the top flight by Werkself fans up to this day was evident to see when the 'Day of Promotion' was officially kicked-off in the 19nullvier-Lounge at the BayArena: 380 supporters did not miss the chance to show their appreciation for the heroes of yesterday – a complete sell-out!
Dirk Dreher, who together with Rüdiger Vollborn, invested great energy and passion into the organisation of the event set the tone for the evening with his address to the team: relaxed and humorous. "Your autograph cards are over there. Don't be shocked when you look at your pictures. It's really you on the photos," said the manager of the Bayer 04 Veterans with a witty perspective in relation to the action photos of the players who now have four decades more under their belts. It scarcely needs mentioning that the autographs of the Kremers, Kentschkes, Klimkes and Korths plus Bockholts, Brückens and Bruckmanns were in great demand at the end of an almost three-hour long and entertaining event – be that on the autograph cards or on shirts the fans brought with them.
Current Bayer 04 protagonists also greeted the Leverkusen Bundesliga pioneers: Fernando Carro, chairman of the board, followed the evening steeped in history with the same level of interest and intensity as Rudi Völler and Stefan Kießling. Carro and Völler were the first two up on stage with the MC Tobias Ufer And the sporting managing director of Bayer 04 sang the praises of the heroes of yesteryear. "Today many people justifiably talk about motivational artists amongst coaches like Jürgen Klopp," said Völler. "But you Willibert, you were a great taskmaster in 1979." Kremer, who will be 80 this October, had the young Rudi Völler under his wings in 1982 for a short while as coach of 1860 Munich.
When Willibert Kremer, along with assistant coach Gerd Kentschke and general manager Heinz Heitmann, was invited onto the stage the audience rose to their feet to provide a standing ovation that clearly moved the three gentlemen and was happily received by them. "Back then, we were just a team where everybody fought for each other on the pitch," said Kremer. Successful formulas can be simple – and yet so effective!
Willi Korth also came up with some moving words on the stage. The defender, who joined Bayer 04 from Schwarz-Weiß Essen ahead of the promotion season of 1978/79 and was, what is today called a squad player, touched the audience with a personal assessment of the evening. "I'm not in such close contact with the group any more and I definitely haven't seen most of the lads for 30 years or more. But one thing I can say with conviction today is: The invitation to be here in this group is a highlight of my life."
There isn't enough space in this report to recount all the anecdotes, jokes and sayings that the young at heart stalwarts shared with the audience. The undisputed front runner in this discipline was obviously the special guest of the evening: Reiner Calmund enthused the audience with yarns from the club's history – and with his effervescent communication skills he was able to draw out hearty laughter and knee slapping.
But even somewhat more reserved contemporaries also had a snappy one-liner or two to tell. Peter 'Pitschi' Klimke, more of an uncompromising full-back on the pitch, also summed up another successful formula for the 79 group: "Our commitment in the game was always top but so were our celebrations after the wins."
The round-table discussions on stage were again and again interspersed with films from the promotion season – TV highlights of the games at Wattenscheid and Wuppertal, against Münster, Essen and Uerdingen aroused surprise and active interest in the audience. Whether it was the pitch conditions or the emotional abilities of the original commentators – everybody could see how much things have changed in the past four decades.
Nearly all of the 1979 promotion heroes attended the event but others were sorely missed. Peter Hermann, current assistant coach at FC Bayern, could not attend due to his work, Dieter Herzog and Klaus Meul were missing for family reasons, Peter Szech has passed away and Hubert Makel is seriously ill. Goalkeeper legend Fred Bockholt said some moving words to and for his former number two. "I'd like to be serious for a minute," said 'Fredi' into the microphone. "Back then we had a second goalkeeper who had an incredible amount of quality but perhaps wasn't mentally strong as me. Hubert Makel, it's a pity you can't be with us tonight. All the best and lots of luck."
Amongst all the joy and cheerfulness it was quite moments like that which particularly stood out on the Day of Promotion. And it made it very clear on this night: This group is full of tradition and still lives as a band of brothers with great affinity and empathy.
The following promotion heroes were at the event on Friday: Fred Bockholt, Matthias Brücken, Klaus Bruckmann, Jürgen Gelsdorf, Harry Gniech, Heinz Heitmann, Thomas Hörster, Gerd Kentschke, Peter Klimke, Willi Korth, Willibert Kremer, Walter Posner, Hans-Jürgen Scheinert, Klaus Schulze, Dieter Trzolek and Norbert Ziegler.
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