Verein fur Leibesubungen Wolfsburg e. V., commonly known as VfL Wolfsburg (pronounced [ˌfaʊ ʔɛf ʔɛl ˈvɔlfsbʊɐ̯k]) or Wolfsburg, is a German professional sports club based in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony. The club grew out of a multi-sports club for Volkswagen workers in the city of Wolfsburg. It is best known for its football department, but other departments include badminton, handball and athletics.
The men's professional football team play in the Bundesliga, the top tier of the German football league system. Wolfsburg have won the Bundesliga once in their history, in the 2008–09 season, the DFB-Pokal in 2015 and the DFL-Supercup in 2015.
Professional football is run by the spin-off organization VfL Wolfsburg-Fusball GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group. Since 2002, Wolfsburg's stadium is the Volkswagen Arena.
A new team in a new city
The city of Wolfsburg was founded in 1938 as Stadt des KdF-Wagen to house autoworkers building the car that would later become famous as the Volkswagen Beetle. The first football club affiliated with the autoworks was known as BSG Volkswagenwerk Stadt des KdF-Wagen, a works team. This team played in the first division Gauliga Osthannover in the 1943–44 and 1944–45 seasons.
On 12 September 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, a new club was formed and was known briefly as VSK Wolfsburg. This side began play in the green and white still worn by VfL today; local youth trainer Bernd Elberskirch had ten green jerseys at his disposal and white bed sheets donated by the public were sewn together by local women to make shorts.
On 15 December 1945, the club went through a crisis that almost ended its existence when all but one of its players left to join 1. FC Wolfsburg. The only player remaining, Josef Meyer, worked with Willi Hilbert to rebuild the side by signing new players. The new group adopted the moniker VfL Wolfsburg, VfL standing for Verein fur Leibesubungen. This can be translated as "club for gymnastics" or "club for exercises." Within a year they captured the local Gifhorn title. In late November 1946, the club played a friendly against longtime Gelsenkirchen powerhouse Schalke 04 at the stadium owned by Volkswagen, emerging as the successor to BSG as the company sponsored side.
The club made slow but steady progress in the following seasons. They captured a number of amateur level championships, but were unable to advance out of the promotion playoffs until finally breaking through to the top tier Oberliga Nord in 1954 with a 2–1 victory over Heider SV. Wolfsburg, however, struggled in the top flight, narrowly missing relegation each season until finally being sent down in 1959. When Germany's first professional football league, the Bundesliga, was formed in 1963, Wolfsburg was playing in the Regionalliga Nord (II) having just moved up from the Verbandsliga Niedersachsen (III), reaching the German Amateur Championship Final that same year (0–1 vs. VfB Stuttgart Amat.).
Second division and advance to the Bundesliga
Wolfsburg remained a second division fixture over the next dozen years with their best performance being a second-place finish in 1970. That finish earned the club entry to the promotion round playoffs for the Bundesliga, where they performed poorly and were unable to advance. From the mid-1970s through to the early 1990s, Die Wolfe played as a third division side in the Amateur Oberliga Nord. Consecutive first-place finishes in 1991 and 1992, followed by success in the promotion playoffs, saw the club advance to the 2. Bundesliga for the 1992–93 season.
Wolfsburg continued to enjoy some success through the 1990s. The team advanced to the final of the German Cup in 1995 where they were beaten 0–3 by Borussia Monchengladbach, but then went on to the top flight on the strength of a second-place league finish in 1997.
Early predictions were that the club would immediately be sent back down, but instead, the Wolves developed into a mid-table Bundesliga side. In the 1998–99 season, Wolfsburg, under Wolfgang Wolf, were holding onto the fifth spot in the 33rd round of fixtures, and they had hopes of making fourth place, to gain UEFA Champions League participation. Losing 6–1 away to MSV Duisburg in the final fixture, the Wolves finished in sixth place with 55 points and qualified for next season's UEFA Cup. They also qualified for the Intertoto Cup in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005, enjoying their best run in 2003 after reaching the final in which they lost to Italian side Perugia. This was followed by a couple of seasons of little success for the club, just narrowly avoiding relegation with two 15th-place finishes in the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons.
For the 2007–08 season, the club hired former Bayern Munich manager Felix Magath, with whom they managed to finish in fifth place at the end of the season, the highest finish for the club at the time. This also enabled the Wolves to qualify for the UEFA Cup for only the second time in their history.
In the 2008–09 season, under Magath, Wolfsburg claimed their biggest success by winning their first Bundesliga title after defeating Werder Bremen 5–1 on 23 May 2009. During this campaign, Wolfsburg equalled the longest winning streak in one Bundesliga season with ten successive victories after the winter break. They also became the only team in the Bundesliga to have had two strikers scoring more than 20 goals each in one season, with Brazilian Grafite and Bosnian Edin Dzeko achieving this feat in their title-winning season, scoring 28 and 26, respectively, with Zvjezdan Misimovic adding a record 20 assists. As a result of their title win, Wolfsburg qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.
In the 2009–10 season, Wolfsburg dismissed their newly appointed trainer Armin Veh after the winter break due to lack of success, with the club sitting tenth in the league. In the Champions League, they came third in their group, behind Manchester United and CSKA Moscow, losing the chance for a place in the competition's successive round. As a result, they qualified for the Round of 32 phase of the UEFA Europa League. They defeated Spanish side Villarreal 6–3 on aggregate and Russian champions Rubin Kazan 3–2. In the quarter-finals, however, they were beaten 3–1 by eventual finalists Fulham.
On 11 May 2010, the permanent head coach's position was filled by former England manager Steve McClaren. After having guided Twente to their first ever Dutch title, he was rewarded by becoming the first English coach to manage a Bundesliga side. On 7 February 2011, however, it was announced that McClaren had been sacked and that Pierre Littbarski would be taking over. Wolfsburg lost four times in five matches under him and they finally slipped into the relegation places.
On 18 March 2011, Wolfsburg confirmed that Felix Magath would return as head coach and sporting director, almost two years since he led them to the Bundesliga title and just two days after being fired from his position at Schalke 04. He signed a two-year contract with the club. Magath steered the club to safety, but though the club invested heavily, Magath could only achieve a mid-table finish in the following 2011–12 season. After only five points in eight matches (and no goals and points in the last four games) in the 2012–13 season, Magath left the club by mutual consent and was temporarily replaced by former Wolfsburg reserve team coach Lorenz-Gunther Kostner. On 22 December 2012, the former 1. FC Nurnberg head coach Dieter Hecking was appointed as Wolfsburg's new head coach on a contract lasting until 2016.
On 2 February 2015, Wolfsburg purchased the German international forward Andre Schurrle for a fee of €30 million from Chelsea. With a reinforced squad, the club finished as runners-up in the 2014–15 Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich, thus automatically qualifying for the 2015–16 Champions League group stage. On 30 May, the team then won the 2015 DFB-Pokal Final 3–1 against Borussia Dortmund, the first German Cup victory in the history of the club.
On 1 August, to begin the 2015–16 season, Wolfsburg defeated the Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in the 2015 DFL-Supercup on penalties. At the end of the 2015 summer transfer window, Wolfsburg sold the 2014–15 Footballer of the Year (Germany) Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City for a reported Bundesliga record fee of €75 million.
The 2015–16 campaign saw Wolfsburg finish in eighth place. The Bundesliga match between Bayern and Wolfsburg saw an extraordinary five goals in nine minutes by Robert Lewandowski. In the Champions League, they reached the quarter-finals for the first time, where they faced Real Madrid and, despite a two-goal aggregate lead from the first match, were eliminated after losing 3–0 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.
In January 2017, Wolfsburg signed a letter of intent to partner the American side Chattanooga FC, which includes women's football, youth development and local social responsibility. The two teams mentioned the future possibility of international friendlies.
Wolfsburg struggled through the 2016–17 season, rotating through several managers and eventually finishing in 16th place in the Bundesliga with only 37 points, putting them in a playoff against Eintracht Braunschweig, which they won 2–0 on aggregate to remain in the top flight.
The 2017–18 season proved to be another disappointing season, in which they finished 16th place in the Bundesliga, putting them in a play-off against Holstein Kiel, a game that they won 4–1 on aggregate.
In the 2018–19 season, Wolfsburg finished 6th in the Bundesliga, thus automatically qualifying for the 2019–20 UEFA Europa League.
In the draw for the Europa League third qualifying round, Wolfsburg got the Ukrainian Team Desna Chernihiv and they won 2–0 at the AOK Stadion and they got to the Play-off round. At the Play-off round they lost 2–1 against AEK Athens.
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