Readers who are unfamiliar with Bundesliga history may be laughing at Werder Bremen right now. Die Grün-Weißen have not had the most impressive season thus far; they sit in 14th place on the table, having only taken 28 points from 27 games. They have conceded 54 goals, an average of two a game, giving them the worst defensive record in the Bundesliga this year, and they sit a too-close-for-comfort single point off of the bottom three. Yes, the boys in Green have been down on their luck and have yet take out a relegation battle from the realm of possibiltles, but, for those of us who value context and the (surprisingly recent) past, Werder Bremen are a special club.
From the humblest beginnings, Werder Bremen have always beaten the odds. Started by a few teenage boys who happened to win a football in a contest at school, and played their games on a riverside pitch (Werder comes from an obscure regional word meaning "river-island"), the club has evolved into a staple of the Bundesliga. They were part of the original 16 clubs inducted into the Bundesliga in 1963, and since then, have only been relegated once, during the 1979/80 season.
The manager who made sure the team only spent one season in the 2. Bundesliga, was the same man who steered the team into the first of its two golden ages, Otto Rehhagel. Rehhagel, who now coaches third place Hertha BSC, picked Werder Bremen out of the second division in one fell swoop, winning the league with ease in the 1980/81 season, then, using his own unique brand of defensive football, which incorporated the fossilized Libero position and the use of creative centre-backs, he guided Werder Bremen to two league titles in the 1987/88 and 1992/93 seasons. On top of two league titles, the team were also runners-up four times, won the DFB Pokal twice, and felt the sweet taste of European success with a Cup-Winners' Cup in 1992, all in the span of 13 years when they remained a force to be reckoned with in the league.
After the departure of Rehhagel in 1995, the club took a turbulent turn. After four coaches in four years and the club slipping closer and closer to relegation, the former golden age player, and at the time, amateur coach Thomas Schaaf, took the reins in May of the 1998/99 season. It was a gamble at the time, but amazingly Schaaf transformed the team completely and in the 2003/04 season he won the elusive league and DFB Pokal double, a feat only matched by four other teams in the history of the Bundesliga. Schaaf spent 14 years managing Werder Bremen, adding another DFB Pokal to his cabinet and qualifying for the Champions League five years running from 2004 to 2009.
Schaaf left by mutual consent in 2013 after a disappointing 14th place finish, and currently the club find themselves in the same position they did in the late 90s, but if history is any indicator of the future, expect the Bundesliga perennials to make another come back.
Fans and Culture-
SV Werder Bremen play in the Weserstadion, named for its place along the Weser river (Whoa, full circle). It has the a capacity of over 42,000 and was completely rebuilt in 2008 and now features a facade of futuristic photovoltaic panels which give the stadium a reduced carbon footprint.
Werder Bremen fans are cut from the same beautiful cloth as all fans in the Bundesliga are, as seen above. Locals turn out in consistent droves and take part in all the ecstasy intrinsic to the German game. A favorite match day food is a Bremen special, fish and onion sandwich, which looks as appetizing as it sounds, and the club song is "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)" by the Proclaimers, which his sung after every goal (You gotta love this club).
The region also harbors one of the best rivalries in German football as well. The Nordderby, in the derby of the north and takes place between SV Werder Bremen and arch-rivals Hamburg SV.