Created on 01-08-2009 at 00:00 AM
Master butcher Sauer is selling 'cup bangers', Mr Mayer the baker has made footballers from dough, the team held an autograph-signing session at the local supermarket, and one of the local WAGs says she'll strip for the cameras if her lad ends on the winning side: minnows Neckarelz meet Bayern on Sunday, and it's safe to say cup fever has gripped the community of 6,500 souls between Heidelberg and Heilbronn.
For all the hype, the part-timers are clearly keeping their cool ahead of the clash at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Sinsheim: the squad extracted the promise of a win bonus from club boss Thomas Ulmer this week. Ulmer, chairman for the last 24 years and who freely acknowledges the club is his "life's work", is realistic enough to accept David is extremely unlikely to slay Goliath on this occasion.
Advice from Hoffenheim
"The draw matters more than the score," smiles the 52-year-old MEP, who cannot imagine the overwhelming favourites underestimating the underdogs. Various FCB 'spies' have been spotted watching the Neckar-Odenwald district club play and train. "Bayern never leave anything to chance," says coach Peter Hogen.
However, despite the fact the sixth-division outfit barely stand a chance against the nation's top pros, Hogen has told his lads to be courageous. "We want to be determined and fearless, and get forward if we can," he announced. The coach has sought advice from Hoffenheim counterpart Ralf Rangnick, and has also devised a pre-match programme to match the full-time stars.
First-ever pre-match retreat
Hogen, assistant boss Stefan Strerath and skipper Rolf Lang personally observed Bayern's 4-1 Audi Cup victory over AC Milan. And on Saturday, the sixth-tier side will withdraw for a pre-match retreat at a local hotel for the first time in their history. They will travel by coach to the Arena on Sunday afternoon, where a capacity 30,000 crowd will be waiting.
Normally, the team would meet up two hours before kick-off, with car-sharing the order of the day for away games. Ulmer has one thing in common with his more illustrious counterpart Uli Hoeneß, in that he spends matches watching from the dugout. "It'll stay that way for the biggest game in our club's history," observed Ulmer.
Flowers for Renate
A touch of superstition has also crept in. Last weekend, Hogen took his lads to the Hotel Engel in nearby Krumbach for a training camp – the same base used by FV 09 Weinheim in 1990 before facing Bayern in the cup. Thomas Schwechheimer struck the only goal of the game that day as Weinheim sensationally won 1-0.
For all the festivities on the great day, life in the North Baden district league will go on afterwards, with the aim of promotion to the fifth division as soon as possible. "And my dream," says Ulmer, "is the Regional League [fourth division]". The club will make some €300,000 from the cup tie, and will invest it in the team, the youth section and their infrastructure. One small amount has already been spent – on a bouquet for former Germany women's international Renate Lingor, who drew the plummest of plum first-round ties in the first place.