Schalke could equal the Bundesliga’s record winless run of 31 matches this weekend – but they are not the only ones keen they avoid adding their name to the history books.
It is one of several records which have been held by Tasmania Berlin for more than 50 years and, as curious as it may seem, the Berlin side are desperate to retain the title of the ‘Bundesliga’s worst ever’.
The worst campaign in the league’s history has come to define the identity of the club, establishing a reputation which extends far beyond their present fifth-tier standing.
Tasmania Berlin never expected to compete in the 1965-66 Bundesliga.
But the revocation of Hertha Berlin’s licence, accompanied by the desire to have at least one Berlin team in the country’s top flight, saw Tasmania’s amateur squad cast among Germany’s elite.
The outcome was somewhat predictable. In addition to the competition’s longest winless run, ‘Tas’ also boast the fewest number of wins (two), lowest number of points (eight; 10 when adjusted for three points for a win), and most defeats (28) in a Bundesliga season.
The records for most goals conceded (108), fewest goals scored (15), and worst goal difference (-93) are, naturally, theirs too.
There is no sense of embarrassment about it, though.
Far from a taboo topic, the supporters openly want to keep their worst-team tag. Several turned up outside the Olympiastadion with signs of support and others reading “Save the record for Tas” as Schalke’s problems continued with defeat away to Hertha Berlin last weekend.
The club’s owner, Almir Numic, makes no secret of the financial opportunities it offers either, with the club’s reputation creating demand for merchandise worldwide.
“I wouldn’t mind if Schalke continued without a win and were even relegated in the end,” Numic, a fan of Schalke’s rivals Borussia Dortmund, told website Fussball.De in December.
“On the other hand, this story is simply part of the identity of Tas. It is true that our only Bundesliga season was five and a half decades ago, but we are always a topic nationwide.
“We don’t really have to do anything for this advertising, which makes us more interesting for sponsors. Few are familiar with the regional league clubs FC Viktoria Berlin and Berliner AK, but [they are] with Tasmania, although we are only in fifth class.”
Now led by former Tottenham manager Christian Gross – Schalke’s fourth coach of the season – the seven-time German champions and 2018 runners-up are bottom of the league after 14 games, seven points short of automatic safety and without a clean sheet in 26 matches.
An 18-match winless run saw ex-Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner sacked two games into the new campaign, before his replacement Manuel Baum lasted just 79 days in the role and was replaced on an interim basis by club legend Huub Stevens.
“This is the big challenge. It’s the challenge,” Gross said following his side’s 3-0 loss to Hertha in his first game in charge.
“Football is a wonderful game and we will try hard to make the mission complete. It will be very hard. Everyone knows this. But this is football.”
Schalke and Sheffield United are the only sides in Europe’s top five divisions yet to win this season, with the Royal Blues requiring a first league win in 358 days against 13th-placed Hoffenheim on Saturday to steer clear of Tasmania’s record.
Failure to do so would mean they could go on to equal the record winless run in Europe’s top five leagues – the 32 set by Derby County in the Premier League in 2007-08 – when they face E