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Deutscher Sportclub Arminia Bielefeld e.V. or commonly known as Arminia Bielefeld is a German sports club from the city of Bielefeld in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Region of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Sometimes referred simply as Arminia, the name was derived from a Cheruscan chieftain who defeated the Roman army in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest during the early years of the 1st century AD.

Arminia Bielefeld is well-known for its professional men’s football team which is part of the Bundesliga, the foremost league system in Germany and has featured in 17 seasons at its top-tier called the 1.Bundesliga.

Arminia has a total of 12,000 official members and its traditional colours are black, white and blue. Besides football, the club also offers field hockey, ice skating and cue sports.

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History of Arminia Bielefeld

The club was founded on 3rd May 1905 as ‘1.Bielefelder FC Arminia’ by 14 gentlemen from the upper middle-class section of the local populace. The club was inducted to the German Football Association that same year and started playing in a league that had just 3 other teams from Osnabrück before other teams from Bielefeld joined in.

The Early Successes

The first major success for Arminia Bielefeld came in 1912 when it won the Westphalia champions with a 4-1 win over BV 04 Dortmund although the outbreak of World War I curtailed its rise to the top of German football. After the war in 1919, the club merged with Bielefelder Turngemeinde to form TG Arminia Bielefeld but dissolved the merger 3 years later and both parent clubs returned to their former selves.

In 1922, Arminia Bielefeld went on to lift the West German championship. The club had finished level on points with Kölner BC 01 but the latter was adjudged to have fielded an ineligible player in one match. The following year, Bielefeld captured the West German championship in dramatic fashion once again. While trailing by 1-3 to TuRU Düsseldorf at half-time, the team rallied back to win 4-3 in extra-time.

Arminia Bielefeld won the Westphalia title from 1924-1927 but could not repeat its successes in the West German championship. In November of 1925, a game between Arminia and SC Preußen Münster became the first football match in Germany that was broadcasted live on radio. On January 26th 1926, the club assumed its current full-name Deutscher Sportclub Arminia Bielefeld and later that year moved into the Bielefelder Alm stadium, which remains its home to this day.

Life in the Lower Divisions

Following the rise to power of the Nazi Party in 1933 which replaced the top regional leagues with the Gauligen structure, Arminia Bielefeld were relegated from the Gauliga Westfalen in its inaugural season. After 3 failed promotions, Arminia returned to the top-tier and even secured a 2nd place finish in the 1939/40 campaign. In 1943, the club then merged with local rivals VfB 03 Bielefeld, but finished in last place in its Gauliga.

After the end of World War II, Arminia Bielefeld competed in a new league comprising teams from the Gauliga Westfalen but the club was relegated and failed to win back promotion. For the 1947/48 campaign, Arminia competed in the 3rd division for the first time in its history. It did dominate the Bezirksklasse but was later penalised 14 points for fielding an ineligible player. The following year Arminia went on to win its league and followed it by gaining promotion to the Oberliga West for the 1949/50 season.

But the club was again relegated after only a single season back at the top-level and then spent the next 4 campaigns in the 2nd tier before getting dropped into the 3rd division at the end of the 1953/54 season. Arminia Bielefeld remained in the 3rd tier for the next 7 years before regaining a promotion right before the DFB announced the formation of a national league as the new top-division. At the start of the Bundesliga in the 1963/64 campaign, Arminia featured in the Regionalliga West of the new 2nd division.

Arminia Bielefeld remained part of the Regionalliga West for the next 6 campaigns, producing a series of mid-table finishes. The highlight of this period came when it beat ATSV Alemannia 1900 to clinch the West German Cup for the first time in the club’s history. The following year, Arminia signed Ernst Kuster who would go on to become its all-time leading goal-scorer. In the 1969/70 campaign, Arminia Bielefeld finished on 2nd position to make its return to the top-tier once again.

Scandal and Disgrace

In 1970/71, its first season in the Bundesliga, Arminia Bielefeld made a poor start to the campaign but eventually recovered to end up in 14th position. Towards the end of the season however, evidence was uncovered that implicated many Bundesliga clubs of being involved in match-fixing, where results were sold for money. The investigation by the DFB discovered that at least 18 matches were predetermined, including every relevant fixture for the relegation-battle.

Of these, 3 were directly concerned with Arminia Bielefeld with 2 of its players getting lifetime suspensions. Eventually 56 players from 6 clubs and coaches and officials of two others were punished. Yet the results stood as the new season had already begun by the time of the verdict although Arminia had its Bundesliga license revoked and would be relegated at the end of the season regardless of the outcome as punishment for its part in the scandal.

Arminia Bielefeld struggled in the 2nd tier, nevertheless the club was considered good enough to become part of the newly created 2.Bundesliga in 1974. After finishing the next couple of seasons in the mid-table, Arminia took a runners-up spot in the 1976/77 campaign but lost to TSV 1860 München in a third playoff tie. In spite of the massive disappointment, the club clinched the 2.Bundesliga championship the following season to make its return to the top-division.

Return to the Top Flight

For the 1978/79 season, Arminia Bielefeld was back in 1.Bundesliga but its stay once more remained very short. Despite putting up some fine performances, which included a memorable 4-0 win away at FC Bayern München, it finished in 16th position and was relegated again. Nevertheless, the club was able to retain the same group of players which then clinched the 2.Bundesliga title in 1979/80, setting a new record with 30 wins from 38 fixtures, scoring 120 goals and a 28-game unbeaten-run.

Earning promotion to the 1.Bundesliga for a 3rd time, Arminia Bielefeld barely survived relegation but stayed afloat for the next 5 seasons, its joint-longest stay in the top-flight. This was the brightest period of the club in the top-division as Arminia Bielefeld finished in 8th position in the league-table during the 1982/83 and 1983/84 seasons, which remains its best performance in the 1.Bundesliga. But in the 1984/85 campaign, the club finished in 16th spot and was therefore relegated into the 2nd tier.

In the Doldrums

Back in the 2.Bundesliga for the 1985/86 campaign, Arminia Bielefeld failed to earn an immediate return to the top-flight after finishing in 4th spot. Finishing in 9th position in the following campaign eventually left the club with a DM 4.5 million debt. As a result, Arminia ended the 1987/88 season in 20th place thereby putting the club in the 3rd tier of German football after 25 years.

The club now featured in the Oberliga Westfalen and ended the 1988/89 season in 2nd place. The next season it finished at the top of its league but failed to secure a promotion back to the 2nd tier after losing the playoff encounters against VfB Oldenburg and TSV Havelse. For the next 4 years, the club remained fairly competitive at this level although it was unable to come any closer to earning promotion.

A Yo-Yo Club

In the 1994/95 season, Arminia Bielefeld became part of the newly formed Regionalliga West/Südwest, which it went on to win in its inaugural year and moved up to the 2nd division. The club then lifted the 2.Bundesliga title in 1995/96 to secure back-to-back promotions, lifting it back onto the top-flight after more than a decade. Arminia ended in 14th place to remain in the 1.Bundesliga but was relegated at the end of the 1997/98 campaign after finishing at the bottom in 18th position.

Arminia Bielefeld immediately regained promotion back to the top-tier by winning the 1998/99 2.Bundesliga title. But it was relegated at the end of the 1999/2000 season once again after finishing in 17th place. At this time, the club was in severe financial distress and could only earn a 13th place finish in the 2.Bundesliga for the 2000/01 campaign. However, Arminia finished as the runners-up in the next campaign and earned its 6th promotion to the 1.Bundesliga.

Its stay in the top-tier was short-lived yet again as Arminia Bielefeld could only finish as high as 16th in the 2002/03 season and was therefore handed another drop back into the 2.Bundesliga. The club was able to respond with a runner-up finish in the 2003/04 campaign to ensure its return to the top-division of Germany and pick up its 4th promotion to the 1.Bundesliga over the course of the past 10 years.

The Recent Years

Arminia Bielefeld began the 2004/05 campaign in the 1.Bundesliga and went on to secure a respectable 13th place finish. The club plies its trade at the top-tier for 4 more seasons, equalling the best run in the club’s history. Arminia also reached the DFB-Pokal semi-finals in 2004/05 and 2005/06. But it could not climb much higher up the league-table with a 12th position in 2006/07 being its best performance during this era.

It was a renaissance period for the club nonetheless, with the number of members rising beyond the 10,000 mark while the team remained clear of relegation-scraps on the pitch. Yet off the field, trouble was brewing and many fans were disgruntled to see the Old East stand of Bielefelder Alm being torn down in 2007 while further marketing campaigns also alienated the supporters from the club-hierarchy.

Back In the Doldrums

In the 2008/09 season, Arminia Bielefeld finished in the rock-bottom of 1.Bundesliga standings, bringing an end to its 5-year stay in the top-division. It ended 2009/10 in 7th position of the 2.Bundesliga table with the club now in considerable financial difficulty. The 2010/11 season finished with the club in 18th position which dropped it back into the 3rd tier once again.

Arminia began 2011/12 in the 3.Liga, the new national league that represented the 3rd division of German football, with the club only getting a 13th place finish. It did end as runners-up in the 2012/13 campaign to earn a direct promotion back to the 2nd tier. But in the 2013/14 season, Arminia finished in 16th place in the 2.Bundesliga, before losing the playoffs on away-goals to SV Darmstadt 1898 which had ended 5-5 on aggregate.

At the end of the 2014/15 campaign, Arminia Bielefeld earned an immediate promotion to the 2nd division by clinching the 3.Liga title. The club featured in the 2.Bundesliga for the 2015/16 season, finishing in 12th spot. It remained in the 2nd tier for the next 3 campaigns without earning promotion; a 4th place finish in 2017/18 being the best that it was able to achieve in this period.

The Present

But Arminia unexpectedly went on to lift the 2.Bundesliga title in the 2019/20 campaign to secure a return to the top-flight after an absence of more than 10 years. The club had taken 2nd spot in the standings by defeating Westphalia rivals Schalke 04 at the end of October and reached the summit by the beginning of December, from which point it did not relinquish the lead. Despite the interruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Arminia kept up its form following the interval to end 10 points ahead of VfB Stuttgart.

For the 2020/21 campaign, Arminia Bielefeld began as the club with the lowest budget in the 1.Bundesliga. Despite an encouraging start, the team stayed within the bottom-5 places from Matchday 4 and inside the last-4 spots from Matchday 6, right until the end of the season. Nevertheless, it was able to hold its nerve to produce an inspired run of form in the last two months and secured a 2-0 victory over Stuttgart on the final day to end up just outside the relegation-zone in 15th position.

The 2021/22 season turned out to be even more challenging as Arminia Bielefeld failed to win any of its opening 10 league-fixtures and lay in the bottom-3 at the winter-break. It managed to improve its form following the midseason-interval and rose up to 14th place by the end of February. But the club then finished the season with an 11-game winless-run while collecting a meagre 3 points during this spell, which ensured that it would return to the 2.Bundesliga for the 2022/23 campaign.

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