·7 December 2023
·7 December 2023
TSG will face an unpleasant opponent when they take on VfL Bochum at home on Friday evening (20:30 CET / Live Ticker at tsg-hoffenheim.de) – the Ruhr club are well acquainted to battling relegation and will travel to the Kraichgau on the back of a successful result.
The sense of relief was palpable in the far west: the 3-1 victory against VfL Wolfsburg was the first time VfL Bochum had won in front of their own supporters this season following five previous unsuccessful attempts. Patrick Osterhage and the Brazilian Bernardo scored their first Bundesliga goals, before Christopher Antwi-Adjei netted to seal a liberating triumph and a jump to 12th position in the table. Two days earlier, VfL had made an important statement and extended head coach Thomas Letsch's contract until 30 June 2026. "For me, it is and continues to be a privilege to coach VfL Bochum going forward," said the 55-year-old, who took over the reins with the team down in 18th place in September 2022 and felt "a bit like at Christmas" following the 3-1 success against Wolfsburg. An unsurprising sentiment given that it was the Blue & Whites' first home victory since beating Bayer 04 Leverkusen 3-0 – a result which saw Bochum escape the clutches of relegation on the final matchday of last season.
The fight for sporting survival is deeply and firmly anchored in Bochum's DNA. Following promotion to the Bundesliga in 1971, a resilient Bochum side established itself in the top flight for over two decades despite their meagre financial resources, with club icons such as "Ata" Lameck, Jupp Tenhagen, Lothar Woelk and "Tiger" Hermann Gerland helping to cement their seemingly unbreakable reputation as "The Undescendables". But VfL dropped down into the second tier for the first time in 1993 and subsequently became a yo-yo team, experiencing five more relegations between 1995 and 2010. After that, the club suddenly seemed incapable of promotion – until making their long-awaited comeback in the top tier in the summer of 2021 after an absence of more than a decade.
Since then, Bochum have been looking to secure a lasting residency in the top flight through tried-and-tested methods and perseverance. However, the season began with setbacks in the form of DFB-Pokal elimination against third-tier Arminia Bielefeld and a 5-0 opening day loss at VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. That was followed by eight more winless games – including a 7-0 thrashing away to FC Bayern. But the first win – a by a 2-1 scoreline in Darmstadt – has been followed by five more points from their games against Köln, Heidenheim and Wolfsburg. Led by their evergreen 37-year-old captain Anthony Losilla, VfL are back on track in sporting terms. Nonetheless, top-tier football remains a fundamental challenge in Bochum, as management spokesman Ilja Kaenzig explained: "We've been left behind by clubs like Mainz, Augsburg and Union Berlin in the space of 10 years. We have to catch up. It's a case of making a lot out of very little."