Of course, everyone knows the new champion of German men's football, Bayer 04. But what is their home really like?

Red and black electrical box in a residential area.

Spots of red and black throughout the city reveal which club rules here Photo: Michael Brake

LEVERKUSEN taz | Ultramarine is a dark but extremely intense, almost luminous shade of blue. In painting it was previously used mainly for representations of Jesus and Mary. The pigments for this could only be made from lapis lazuli, which had to be transported to Europe by sea, hence the name overseas. For a long time it was very valuable.

Exactly 200 years ago, in 1824, a cash prize was offered in France for the invention of synthetic ultramarine, and a young German chemistry student from the Land Bergisches, then living in Paris, also followed the competition closely. Returning to his hometown of Wermelskirchen, he founded the first German grocery factory in 1834 and a few years later moved it, for location reasons, 25 kilometers southwest, to the Rhine. The man's name: Carl Leverkus.

Without overseas it can be said with certainty that there would be no German football champion named after two chemists: Bayer Leverkusen. There wouldn't even be a city for it.

If you walk around this new master city this spring, you will rarely see overseas. The colors of Leverkusen are different: yellow, beige, white and gray on most house facades. The chemical park's pipes are light green and silver gray and surround brown buildings. The bushes, trees and side strips, parks and forests, which abound in the extensive urban area that extends into the countryside to the east, are also green. The streets are dark gray and white, which also plays an important role: if you look at Leverkusen from above, you do not see any familiar urban structures, you do not distinguish any historic center, the view can only stop at one place, almost exactly at the middle freeway interchange.

Look, we exist!

Yellowwhitegreenyellowgray. It's a pale looking base, but it offers a nice contrast with two pops of color that can be found in every corner when you visit: dark red and black. T-shirts, banners and pennants in the colors of Bayer Leverkusen hang from windows, garden fences and entrances to houses, sometimes even from a clothesline across the street. Additionally, in what appeared to be a concerted effort, black and red ribbons were wrapped around streetlights throughout the city and stretched over the center islands of the roundabouts; if necessary, balloons or plastic plates were also used;

This text comes from Laborable day. Our left-wing weekly! Every week, wochentaz is about the world as it is and as it could be. A left-wing weekly with a voice, attitude and a special vision of the world. New every Saturday on newsstands and of course by subscription.

The Leverkusen team celebrates their team, but to the viewer it seems that they are also celebrating themselves a little and presenting themselves. Look, we exist! There is a lively city in this club! Because it is like this: Bundesliga fans criticized Bayer 04 Leverkusen as a plastic club without a soul, TSG Hoffenheim was still playing in the regional league, the Red Bull brand did not even exist and Leipzig was still in another country. “Pillenkicker”, “Werkself”: Bayer's cash flow ensured business operations, but also ridicule from the competition.

Because what was the difference between Bayer Leverkusen and a tram? Correct: the tram has more followers. It is true that an average of 29,000 spectators in the Bundesliga is not much. But what should you do if your city only has 165,000 inhabitants? Of the more than thirty football champion cities in West, East and Germany, only five are smaller than Leverkusen: Wolfsburg, Kaiserslautern, Fürth, Jena and Zwickau. There wasn't even enough here for our own federal constituency; We are part of WK Leverkusen – Cologne IV, which Karl Lauterbach has represented for many years.

As for beer, the country of Kölsch

So what kind of city is this that can now call itself a teacher? Between Cologne and Düsseldorf it is located on the right bank of the Rhine, at the mouth of the Wupper, and is considered the gateway to the Bergisches Land. From here, from today's Wuppertal, the defining second name came to the city. In 1895, Carl Leverkus' factory was taken over by the chemical company Bayer, which had also started out as a paint manufacturer. Once again, location factors were decisive: Bayer could not continue growing in the narrow Wupper valley. On the banks of the Rhine there was space for chemical plants and employees. They weren't necessarily excited. “If he can't ruin you, / He'll send you to Leverkusen. / There, at this end of the world / you will be left outside forever,” was the rhyme of the time.

Leverkusen's reputation was already mediocre, although the city did not yet officially exist. It was not founded until 1930, when the municipalities of Wiesdorf, Schlebusch, Steinbüchel and Rheindorf united and chose the common name of a former Carl Leverkus factory.

The Leverkusen-Mitte train station is now located in the old Wiesdorf (there is as little main station as there is an ICE stop) and anyone who gets off there can go in two directions. One route passes first over a highway and over Rialto Boulevard, a mall-shaped bridge that is somewhat empty; The “Brückenschänke” is also closed, but reveals that, from a beer point of view, Leverkusen is Kölsch country.

Immediately after it says like this; The entrance to the city center of Leverkusen looks like an exhibition area of ​​shopping areas covered for decades. A donut-shaped building sits above the newest and busiest of these centres, which opened in 2009. It is Leverkusen's town hall and, which has sparked some discussion lately, it has no balcony. This means that the common place where a successful football team usually presents its trophies to the fans is missing. Instead, the celebration will take place on May 26 with a trophy (and possibly two more trophies won) in the stadium.

Sport as a source of identity

Not much more can be said about the centre, which was largely built in the post-war period and is dismal even by the BRD's concrete standards. If you want to see historic Leverkusen, you have to go to the other side of the train station. Here begins the Johanna workers' settlement, built in 1912, a completely preserved complex of renovated architecture, with front gardens and pavilions in the corners. Even more magnificent is the Anna neighborhood, a little further north, which has the character of a garden city with its curved streets.

Leverkusen lacks the large, old brick factories of other industrial cities, and the dominant chemical plant is located in a restricted area in a corner of the city. Therefore, the current industrial culture is mainly what Bayer created for its employees. It wasn't just apartments, the group also built consumer stores (the last of the nine Bayer department stores closed in 2007) and cultural institutions such as the Bayer leisure center, which is still used for concerts, and supported clubs. sports.

Top attractions include a water tower with an observation deck and the world's largest neon sign.

The handball and basketball players of Bayer 04 were for a long time the best German team and the athletics department is still at the top today. In a city whose main attractions include a water tower with a viewing platform (closed for renovation), the world's largest neon sign (the Bayer Cross with 1,700 light bulbs) and some small castles, sport has long been a source of identity.

That's why Bayer 04 Leverkusen can be accused of having a competitive advantage in the Bundesliga, but not of a lack of tradition. Rather, the synthesis of corporation and association represents part of the industrial history of the beginning of the last century. The “Farbenfabriken vorm Gymnastics and Games Club” was created. Friedrich Bayer & Co. in Leverkusen” on the initiative of 170 Bayer workers. These factory sports groups are not an exclusive Bayer story: Arsenal London (founded 1886), Carl Zeiss Jena (1903), PSV Eindhoven (1913) and Wacker Burghausen (1930), among others, have similar roots.

The trauma of the vice-cuse

Leverkusen long ago made “Werkself” a marketing term. And in the new master anthem they sing proudly about the “City of Colors.” However, bitter irony of Leverkusen: now, when the club has finally been able to break the trauma of the eternal second, vice president, the Bayer group is on the ground. The stock has fallen 75 percent since 2015, the Monsanto acquisition is a disaster, and there is the threat of job cuts, including at management.

Finally, detour to the BayArena, which is located right next to the highway interchange. Bayer's stadium was formerly called the Ulrich Haberland Stadium and is, of course, named after a chemist. Haberland was CEO of Bayer AG from 1951 to 1961 and had previously had a career at IG Farben, where he also served on the board of directors. However, he escaped prosecution at the Nuremberg trials.

Drinks are currently being delivered at the BayArena. A Turkish family wanders in front of the stadium: tourists would like to come in and pay a visit, but there are none. One is content with a souvenir photo. Suddenly, a car passing by starts honking and a fan scarf hangs inside. A spontaneous one-man parade. You have a lot to catch up on here in Leverkusen.

Failed to fetch data from the URL.