As I begin to write that 1FC Köln is the city’s representative club, I begin to hear a growling from the southern quarters and Fortuna Köln, whose fans are baring their teeth at my dismissal of them.
All cities in whatever country tend to see themselves as unique and distinctive, and this is no less true of Köln, and maybe even a little more true. There is a feeling widely held, and disputed by many, that the inhabitants of Cologne are just different, even as represented by their distinctive brand of beer Kölsch and by their extremely over the top Karneval, and their dialect, largely incomprehensible to outsiders. But then lots of towns have distinctive beers, over the top Karnevale and incomprehensible dialects.
Anyway, 1FC Köln is the biggest club in the city, and when a few years ago it was relegated to the second division, it appeared to be experienced as a great disaster. The support is as passionate as elsewhere, you might say a little more so. But do they have rivalries? There is a certain contempt for the “Lauterer”, Kaiserslautern some 50 km to the west, and they play Bundesliga matches against the more successful recently Bayer Leverkusen, but is there really rivalry? I’m not quite sure; if you have any ideas, let us know. Borussia Mönchengladbach may command more respect.
The other prominent team, currently playing in the Dritte Bundesliga, the third division, is Fortuna. They played for some 25 years without interruption in the second division, until financial difficulties intervened and the club dropped to the amateur leagues, before having to end its competitive fixtures in the 1990s. It was refounded with new finance and has worked its way back up to the third tier of the game.
Viktoria Köln, were based on the opposite bank of the Rhine, are currently playing in the tier below, still professional, where the leagues are organised on a regional basis.