Tucked away in the southwest corner of Germany, the state of Saarland is one of the Federal Republic's smallest states (population was just under 1 million in the 1950s). A mixture of villages and mining towns, plus an industrial center of Saarbrücken, the capital, the Saar was mostly known as the most economically depressed region prior to reunification.
The French have always had their eye on the province, perhaps as a sort of "revenge" of the Germans coveting Elsaß-Lothringen. (pronounced "Alsace-Lorraine" in Frenchie.) While a glance of the map might indicate that the sole legacy of French ambition is the renaming of the town Saarludwig to Saarlouis, and perhaps Oskar La Fontaine, in fact throughout much of the 20th century, France has played a heavy role in Saar politics, economics, ...and sport.
France was in fact the only western power to "react" to the Nazi invasion of Poland when they launched the socalled "Saar offensive" for a few days in September. This half-hearted attempt flopped when the French Army was stumped by anti-personnel mines. They then beat a tactical retreat to the impregnable Maginot Line. It took until the 1980s under the generalship of Michel Platini to recover...
After the war, the Americans turned over jurisdiction of the province to French military authorities, who immediately began to severe links with the rest of Germany and set up a puppet government. The long term goal was of course the annexation into France proper. (And although Germans were probably enraged over the French heavy hand, at least they didn't line up everybody in front of a firing squad.) In November 1947, the puppet parliament seceded from German territory; 3 weeks later the border was closed and the French Franc was introduced as currency. (Note the "independant" flag above.)
French ambitions were thwarted when the Saar population voted by around 70% not to join France. By 1955, France and the Federal Republic had agreed in principal of the return of Saar to the Reich, oops, Republic, but in order to ease French economic conditions, this was postponed until 1957.
French occupation had dire results for the Saar based football clubs. In all of Germany, sports associations were initially banned, but in most western areas, the Allies soon relented. Things took a bit longer in the French Zones. Soon the main clubs, such as Neunkirchen and Saarbrücken were competing in the Oberliga Südwest. However, in May of 1948, pro-French bureaucrats decided to split from German soccer. The teams participating in German leagues would only be allowed to finish the season. In July 1948, the independent Saarländische Fußball-Bund was founded to govern local soccer. The puppet government fully expected the SFB to join the French federation, FFF, but the delegates voted down decisively (609-299). So instead, they decided to become independent, and were accepted by FIFA on July 23rd, 1950 - before West or East Germany.
The new national championship suffered from an immediate crisis in strength. VfB Neunkirchen (Borussia) and FC Saarbrücken were the only strong ex-Oberliga teams. Vöklingen and SV Saarbrücken were half-way decent, but the rest of the clubs had to come from the 2nd level Landesliga Saar. Thus the creation of the new Saar Championship, the so-called Ehrenliga. However, the big clubs, especially FC Saarbrücken, were opposed. Instead of attractive matchups with other Oberliga teams (example Kaiserslautern and Fritz Walter), they would have exciting derbies with TuSpVgg Höcherberg-Mittelbexbach. That would be sure to bring the fans out. So FC Saarbrücken took the unprecedented step and applied to the French 2nd Division. The FFF hemmed and hawed, since although the politicians wanted to integrate the Saar, the soccer officials weren't so sure. As it turned out, AS Angouleme had to withdraw for financial reasons, so FC Saarbrücken was allowed in - but only as a "guest" under the name of FC Sarrebruck. This turned out to be a problem, as the French footballers must have felt the Blitzkrieg all over again, as the Saarbrückers romped through the division and won it easily. Now they wanted to be promoted to the 1st Division. For the FFF, that went over like a turd in the punchbowl. So there was nothing left to do but withdraw from French soccer, and they did. But they only partially joined the Saar Ehrenliga - the reserve squad signed up to compete, and actually ended up winning the title in 1951. Meanwhile, the first team of FC Saarbrücken organized an elaborate series of friendlies under the guise of the Saarlandpokal. The first year 1949/50 turned out to be a reasonable success, as crowds of 35,000 turned out in Saarbrücken. the locals ended up winning everything by routing the Frenchies Stade Rennes 4-0 in the final. However, in 1951, Saarland teams were allowed back in German competition, so the next season was somewhat of a fiasco.
Meanwhile, the Ehrenliga was turning out to be a flop. VfB Neunkirchen won the inaugural title in 1949, but withdrew the next season for the more lucrative Saarlandpokal. With the two main draws removed, the Ehrenliga basically reverted to the old Saarliga amateur status, with little interest. Meanwhile, the new SFB President, Hermann Neuberger, was able to negotiate the return of Saar clubs into German leagues for the 1951-52 season. However, like Wales until recently, the SFB remained an independent member of FIFA till 1956. At that point, the SFB disbanded, and the newly created Saarländische Fußball-Verband joinded the DFB.
Saar international matches
The Saar took advantage of membership in FIFA to play in several internationals. Although many were against the "B" squads of nearby countries, they also had some respectable results against the top squads. The highlight was undoubtedly the campaign of the World Cup 1954 Qualifiers, when the Saarland was drawn against Norway and...West Germany!
The Saarland squad was made up almost entirely of FC Saarbrücken and VfB Neunkirchen players, with an occasional Saar 05 member. None other then the famed Helmut Schön was the head coach. The ex-Dresden international had been building up the local Dresden team and Sachsen provincial squad in the East Zone, when he wisely decided to skip town.
The opening match was a surprise 3-2 win in Oslo against Norway. (West Germany could only manage a 1-1 draw against the Norwegians in the same venue!) A sellout crowd of 55,000 in Stuttgart saw Sepp Herberger's German squad beat the scrappy Saarländers 3-0. After a capacity crowd of 40,000 then saw a scoreless draw beween Saar and Norway, the stage was set for the final qualifier. Some 53,000 managed to jam into the Ludwigspark. It turned out to be a tough match. The Germans again opened up with a double by Max Morlock, but the Saarländers pulled one back on a penalty by Herbert Martin. A late goal gave the Germans the final margin. Interestingly enough, Herberger and Schön apparently had a gentleman's agreement, wherein an injured player could be substituted...in the 1st half only. As it turned out, West Germany took advantage, and Fritz Walter came out, to be replaced with his brother Ottmar. But then with two players hurt in the 2nd half, Saarland couldn't switch, so Schön had to watch them limp around like invalids.
As for the players, Waldemar Philippi (FC Saarbrücken) was the most capped player, with 18 internationals. He was followed by Hernbert Martin (FC Saarbrücken) with 17 and Gerd Siedl (Neunkirchen) with 16. Siedl also had the distinction of playing for the West Germany squad later in his career. After moving to Karlsruhe and then Bayern, the forward completed 6 A-internationals for Germany, scoring 3 goals. Of course Helmut Schön would go on to become one of the most successful DFB international coaches. After taking over for Herberger in 1964, he led Germany to 2nd, 3rd and 1st place finishes in the World Cup, along with a dominating European title. And of course Hermann Neuberger, the President of the SFB who lead the way back into German soccer, was the boss of thee DFB from 1975-1992...
How strong was the Saarland?
From a club perspective, only 1.FC Saarbrücken was in fact quite a decent club in those days. During the "independence", they showed strength in friendlies, beating Real Madrid among others. In official play, the caused a sensation in the 1955 Champions Cup, as they stunned AC Milan in the San Siro 4-3, only to get knocked out in the return match at home.
The national team had some decent results as well. While hardly even a potential power, they were at least an opponent to be respected, and they certainly gave a good account of themselves in the Wolrd Cup Qualifiers, especially against Germany.
Saarland Ehrenliga Champions
1948-49 1. VfB Neunkirchen (O) 26 106:25 42-10 2. Saar 05 Saarbrücken (O) 26 77:42 32-20 3. FC Homburg 26 48:32 32-20 4. Sportfreunde Burbach 26 61:49 31-21 5. 1.FC Saarbrücken II (N) 26 82:78 31-21 6. FC Ensdorf 26 60:48 30-22 7. SV Völklingen (O) 26 56:47 29-23 8. Preußen Merchweiler 26 60:60 27-25 9. ASC Dudweiler 26 50:57 25-27 10. FV Püttlingen 26 44:61 22-30 ------------------------------------------------- 11. SV Ludweiler 26 54:80 17-35 12. SC Brebach 26 40:66 17-35 13. Hellas Marpingen (N) 26 56:95 17-35 14. SpVgg Merzig 26 25:80 12-40 O = ex-Oberliga club Burbach renamed themselves to Saarbrücken 1949-50 1. Sportfreunde Saarbrücken 22 64:33 35-9 2. Borussia Neunkirchen (M) 22 74:31 33-11 3. 1.FC Saarbrücken II 22 55:41 28-16 4. Saar 05 Saarbrücken 22 53:43 25-19 5. FC Ensdorf 22 56:42 24-20 6. SV Völklingen 22 39:47 19-25 7. Preußen Merchweiler 22 32:42 19-25 8. SV Mittelbexbach (N) 22 34:46 19-25 9. FC Homburg 22 26:39 18-26 10. SC Friedrichsthal (N) 22 38:60 17-27 11. ASC Dudweiler 22 37:51 15-29 --------------------------------------------------- 12. FV Püttlingen 22 31:64 12-32 1950-51 1. 1.FC Saarbrücken II 26 81:38 39-13 2. Preußen Merchweiler 26 55:41 33-19 3. SV St.Ingbert (N) 26 58:45 33-19 4. SV Völklingen 26 45:40 30-22 5. Viktoria Hühnerfeld (N) 26 55:47 29-23 6. Saar 05 Saarbrücken 26 62:52 28-24 7. FC Homburg 26 36:42 27-25 8. ASC Dudweiler 26 64:47 26-26 9. Borussia Neunkirchen 26 50:39 26-26 10. Sportfreunde Saarbrücken (M)26 47:49 26-26 11. SV Mittelbexbach 26 47:47 25-27 12. SC Altenkessel (N) 26 37:60 17-35 --------------------------------------------------- 13. FC Ensdorf 26 33:82 13-39 14. SC Friedrichsthal 26 37:87 12-40
|| World Cup Qualifier
|| World Cup Qualifier
|| World Cup Qualifier
|| World Cup Qualifier
MATCHES PLAYED: 19 ( 6 Wins, 3 Ties, 10 losses)
GOALS SCORED: 36
GOALS AGAINST: 54
SC Altenkessel SC Halberg Brebach ASC Dudweiler FC Ensdorf SC Friedrichsthal TuSpVgg Höcherberg-Mittelbexbach FC Homburg (1949 SV Homburg, now FC Homburg) Viktoria Hühnerfeld SV Ludweiler-Warndt FC Hellas Marpingen SV Merchweiler SpVgg Merzig VfB Neunkirchen (now Borussia) FV Püttligen FC Saarbrücken SpFr Saarbrücken SV Saarbrücken (now Saar 05) SV Sankt-Ingbert SuSG Vöklingen (now Röchling)
(c) Abseits Guide to Germany