Saturday, January 09, 2021
Incredible story from 1966
A white whale in the Rhine, Schalke and Tasmania
Posted by Ben Redelings
In the early morning of May 18, 1966, a report to the water police in Duisburg caused confusion. The crew of a tanker had just reported that they had sighted a white whale in the Rhine. Of course, the law enforcement officers suspected that alcohol would be involved in this very special case – but that quickly turned out to be a mistake. The white whale, as improbable and sensational as the news seemed at first glance, really existed. And shortly afterwards, the almost four-meter-long natural wonder in the dirty water of the river had its new name: “Moby Dick” dubbed it in the press. And from now on the white whale dominated the headlines of the republic.
Something almost as sensational had happened the previous weekend in Braunschweig – but nobody knew that at the time. Tasmania 1900 Berlin failed to win the Bundesliga for the thirty-first time in a row. The 1: 3 defeat at Eintracht Braunschweig put the icing on a record for the ages, as was believed until recently. But since no one suspected at the time that the game on the 32nd matchday in front of 6,000 spectators in the Eintracht Stadium would be the highlight of this negative series, hardly anyone noticed the less spectacular encounter more intensely.
And since there were only two games left until the end of the season, the hope at Tasmania that the team would make it again after the first win against Karlsruher SC an incredible nine months ago, the place after one game as the winner to leave. The fact that this actually succeeded again was largely due to another sensation this week. Because at the same time as the historic encounter, as we know today, the Berliner in Braunschweig, FC Schalke 04 played at home against Borussia Neunkirchen.
“Tanne” Fichtel still raves today
The Royal Blues, who had actually been relegated a season earlier, but had benefited from the exclusion of Hertha BSC and an increase in the league by two places to 18 participants, had little chance of staying in the Bundesliga at the start of the season. Similar to Tasmania, Schalke had only a few opportunities to strengthen the team on the transfer market due to the late judgment of the DFB. All the more surprising and sensational was what happened on the 32nd matchday in front of over 30,000 enthusiastic spectators in Gelsenkirchen’s Glückauf-Kampfbahn.
When the master player from 1958, Manni Kreuz, scored the decisive 2-0 against Borussia Neunkirchen in the 85th minute, the euphoria and jubilation of the Royal Blues knew no bounds. With a few exceptions, the unnamed troupe had achieved the almost impossible: FC Schalke 04 had been saved and the relegation predicted by so many experts had been averted. Now it was celebrated. And how! Klaus “Tanne” Fichtel, who has seen so much in his long career, still says today that the game and the events that followed were the greatest things that would have happened to him in his career.
Due to the defeat in Gelsenkirchen, Borussia Neunkirchen’s chances of keeping the class were now significantly reduced. The team was under pressure. Because of all things in Berlin against Tasmania the important points should be retracted a week after the game against Schalke. But when the meeting ended in the late afternoon of May 21, 1966, it was not the people of Neunkirchen who cheered in front of 2000 spectators in the wide area of the Olympic Stadium. Tasmania had actually made it. The guests were beaten 2-1 and after thirty-one games they were finally able to celebrate a victory again. This marked the end of a historically unique series that this weekend – through FC Schalke 04 of all places – can be discontinued for the first time in 55 years.
Happy ending for “Moby Dick”
Ben Redelings is a passionate “chronicler of football madness” (Manni Breuckmann) and supporter of the glorious VfL Bochum. The author, filmmaker and comedian lives in the Ruhr area and tends to his treasure trove of anecdotes. For ntv.de he writes down the most exciting and funniest stories on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Further information on Ben’s current book and his tour program of the same name (“Soccer. The love of my life”) can be found on his website www.scudetto.de.
Of course, none of this was known back then in May 1966. How could one suspect that so many years later one would speak so intensely about the events of the 1965/66 season? And besides, you had enough to do with this sensational natural spectacle in the Rhine. All of Germany held its breath because of “Moby Dick”. The images of the Duisburg zoo director’s desperate hunt for the white whale and his spectacular attempts to capture the animal with tennis nets went around the world. For four weeks, people looked at “Moby Dick” and were happy when the news came on June 16 that the beluga had arrived at the Hoek van Holland on the North Sea coast – and soon was free.
The hunt for the white whale in the Rhine was over then. Whether Schalke will end the “hunt” for the old Tasmania record of the century with a win against TSG Hoffenheim this weekend – you don’t know. In any case, one will still speak of this game in many, many years. Either way.