The condition of a stadium often gives a good indication of the fortunes of a club and vice versa. It is no different in Uhlenkrug Stadium, the stadium of NRW-liga club ETB Schwarz-Weiss Essen.
Granted, we didn’t expect such a neat arena, but the still clearly visible outlines of what has ever been betray a much richer past for both Stadium and club than the contemporary existence on level 5 of the German soccer.
Besides winning the DFB-Pokal in 1959 the club from Essen never celebrated large successes after the second world war. The ex-club of UEFA Eruo ’96 “golden goal“ scorer Oliver Bierhoff never even played at the highest level in the post-war period. They were close a few times, mainly in the early sixties and mid-70 ‘s of last century, but after the voluntary return of their Prolicense in 1978, ETB said goodbye to professional football forever.
Schwarz-Weiss Essen has been playing since 1922, when Uhlenkrug Stadium was built, at the current location in the South of the city. The stadium was mainly funded with donations from members and sympathizing benefactors had next to a stand with an iron skeleton also about 2 practice fields and a tennis court. Unabashed luxury for which the bourgeoisie club was the envy of the region.
After the second world war it started to go downhill for both stadium and club. The last time the stadium sold out was on 23 november 1951 when the Mannschaft defeated the neighbors from Luxembourg with 4-1. The record crowd on Uhlenkrug of 45,000 that that day was established is likely to remain for all eternity. The heyday of ETB Schwarz-Weiss Essen was over however and the wall that separated the main stand of the playing field got mockingly nicknamed “wailing wall“ because on the main stand wailing rather than cheers echoed.
But the lack of sporting successes also meant crowds no longer found their way to the Uhlenkrug. The Christian Democratic tinted club in social democratic Essen was barely staying alive. The sympathy of the “red“ City Council almost unanimous went towards rival Rot-Weiss Essen, the traditionally proletarian club on the other side of the city. The amount paid by the City Council in 1973 to take over the club‘s Uhlenkrug Stadium was a joke but the ailing club could not fail to bow to the ridiculously low bid. When the stadium no longer met the DFB-standards licensing requirements in 1975 Schwarz-Weiss was forced to spend the next three seasons in exile. A last highlight before the exile was in 1975 when they as a leader in the 2nd Bundesliga played host to the number 2 VfL Osnabrück. On a Wednesday night 19,000 people suddenly made their appearance at the stadium. A true tidal wave.
Today we estimate the capacity of Uhlenkrug Stadium, located next to the eponymous pub, at about 10,000 places. The main stand is still proudly showing off but the stands have largely disappeared after the last renovations. Only the Unterrang behind one of the goals and along part of the long side of the field is still there. There were new crash barriers made while the escape routes were brightened with a fresh coat of red paint. Fortunately, the legendary Stadium clock did not fell prey to the reorganisation urge of the stadium owners. This four-sided clock designates another hour on each of the four sides. Perhaps to avoid that soon time for both club and stadium will have run out?