BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Stuttgarter Kickers have a proud history dating back 113 years and after promotion to the 3.Liga last season, the club now hopes to continue its climb back towards the top levels of German soccer.
Stuttgarter Kickers have spent most of the last decade in the Regionalliga Sud division with the 2008/09 season being the only exception when the club managed to qualify for the 3.Liga. For most of the 1990's they were in the 2. Bundesliga. Their last appearance in the Bundesliga was in 1991/92.
Last season, however, the club won the Regionalliga Sud division convincingly with a nine point difference over second place Sonnenhof Grobaspach. Winning that title earned the club another chance in the 3.Liga.
American central defender Royal Dominique Fennell was on the field for the Kickers in their 1-0 win over Memmingen on May 4 that secured the Regionalliga Sud title. Fennell has been a veteran with the Kickers and earning promotion was a special moment for him.
"It was very emotional," Fennell told YA. "Everybody was happy and having fun. I was so proud of my team that we had achieved our goal and also that I had reached the next step in my career."
Fennell, 23, and his teammates engaged in a memorable celebration with their fans by climbing the fence on the edge of the field to celebrate the title for their fans.
The Kickers have been toiling in the lower levels of the Regionalliga but Fennell knew that they should be playing at a higher level. He hopes that promotion to the 3.Liga is part of the team's climb back towards where they feel they belong.
"For my club, my team, the fans, and the city is the 3.Liga very important because Stuttgarter Kickers is a very traditional club and played in the past in the 2.Bundesliga," Fennell discussed. "And the 2.Bundesliga is where Stuttgarter Kickers belongs. That's why it is so important for all."
In Germany, there is a big difference between the Regionalliga and the 3.Liga. Most notably, the 3.Liga is fully professional whereas the Regionalliga is not. The Kickers will now be facing against established players and clubs with much larger budgets.
Fennell knows that a challenging season lies ahead but he is confident that the club can avoid immediate relegation and establish itself in the 3.Liga.
"Our goal for this season is to establish in the 3.Liga and make it to the middle of the table," Fennell explained. "In any case it will be a tough season. There will be many big clubs that have already played in the first or second Bundesliga. They have better players, bigger stadiums and more fans. So the feeling in the 3.Liga will be totally different."
Last season, Fennell was a regular starter for the Kickers despite missing a few weeks in April due to an illness. He was such an integral part of the team and their push for promotion that club officials did not release him to the US U-23 team in March for Olympic qualifying.
Fennell has one year left of his contract but he is happy to be part of a club that he believes has great potential. It has been over a decade since the Stuttgarter Kickers were in the 2.Bundesliga but Fennell is confident that a return could be in the near future.
"I think our team has a lot of potential," Fennell concluded. "We have many young players that already play at a high level. It took us three years to get to the 3.Liga and the next step is to go up in three years to the 2.Bundesliga."