The background to this complaint was that Darmstadt had been very careful with money, spending only what it earned, while other clubs went into debt to sign expensive players.

The Darmstadt captain, Aytac Sulu, says the move is extra motivation for the team, who are seeking to remain in the top flight for the second straight season. Sulu says the “link to Johnny will give us an extra push”.

But there are a number of details that make Darmstadt's rise special, almost unprecedented. This century, only Hoffenheim have moved from the third division to the top-flight in just one year, but they had what Darmstadt never had -- money.

Heimes' father Martin said the club and its sponsors had made a "great gesture".

However, the game still wasn't over. Two minutes later, Bielefeld's fullback Arne Feick headed the ball goalward, but it struck left-hand post of Darmstadt's goal and deflected out. Shortly thereafter, at last, Schuster could race onto the pitch with outstretched arms and his fingers pointing at the sky.

Darmstadt surprised most people last season by avoiding relegation despite limited means.

But three days later, in a return leg played under the away-goals rule, his team put in one of the most inspired performances ever seen from any team at any level. With 11 minutes left, midfielder Jerome Gondorf rifled an incredible first-time shot from 25 yards into the top corner to give Darmstadt a 3-1 lead and send the game to extra time.

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The ground will carry the name “Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion am Böllenfalltor” after technology company Merck gave up its naming rights. Heimes died in March at 26.

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The reason for the piece was that third-division Darmstadt were about to host second-division Arminia Bielefeld in the first leg of the promotion/relegation playoffs and that the match -- which Darmstadt lost 3-1 -- could have been one of the last big games ever staged at this venerable stadium.

The statement admitted that relegation was a setback, but it also alluded to the fact that Darmstadt had been at a disadvantage. "Darmstadt 98 has paid a bitter price for acting with integrity and responsibility," the directors declared. They added: "We have pointed out to the authorities that other clubs' continued economic mismanagement shouldn't come at the expense of Darmstadt 98. We won't accept injustice and inequity."

When the final whistle rang 20 minutes later, thousands of delirious fans invaded the pitch until the field was a sea of blue and white. Two days after their club's 117th birthday and following a 33-year-absence, Darmstadt 98 had been promoted to the Bundesliga.

But hardly any money was put into the squad. Darmstadt went into their first second-division season in 21 years with one of the smallest budgets in the league. In July 2014, Kicker magazine predicted that Darmstadt "will be fighting for survival until the last day of the season." Two weeks later, Stern magazine said that "avoiding the drop would be a sensation."

SV Darmstadt's first game at their newly named stadium is Saturday's Bundesliga meeting with Eintracht Frankfurt (14:30 BST).

His goals took Darmstadt all the way to the playoffs against Bielefeld which triggered last May's club profile. At the Bollenfalltor, the players known as the Lillies (after the fleur-de-lis in the crest) were beaten 3-1 and the dream was as good as over. "The third goal didn't exactly increase our chances," Schuster said after the game with the sort of expression that told you he thought the journey had ended.

The hosts fell behind early, but with only six minutes left, veteran Elton da Costa, a Brazilian, levelled the score. The players looked towards the bench. Was this enough? No. Coach Dirk Schuster informed the team that Dortmund's reserves were leading 1-0, which meant that Darmstadt needed the full three points.

Despite winning promotion, the club didn't change its prudent ways. During the offseason, the state granted the city of Darmstadt considerable funds to be used to gradually rebuild the decrepit Bollenfalltor into a proper, modern stadium. Additional help came from the local chemical company Merck, which acquired the naming rights for 300,000 euros.

Suddenly Schuster's men were back in the third division.

After winning the 2010–11 Regionalliga Süd in dramatic fashion, Darmstadt were promoted to the 3. Liga. In 2012, Dirk Schuster was appointed as head coach, and he signed Darmstadt's future captain Aytaç Sulu. In the 2012–13 season the club was initially relegated but their fiercest rivals Kickers Offenbach were refused a 3. Liga licence due to going into administration and were relegated to the Regionalliga instead. SV Darmstadt 98 took Offenbach's place.[2]

The team's most recent successes include wins in the Hessen Pokal (Hessen Cup) in 1999, 2001, 2006, 2007 and 2008 as well as three consecutive Possmann-Hessen Cup wins from 2000 to 2002. In the German Cup Darmstadt advanced as far as the third round in 1989 and 2001, and to the quarter-finals in 1986. In 2004 the club claimed the Oberliga Hessen (IV) championship under manager and ex-player Bruno Labaddia and were promoted to the Regionalliga Süd (III).

Almost exactly one year ago, we covered a small, unfashionable club by the name of Darmstadt 98 and looked at the history of its hopelessly outdated ground, the Bollenfalltor.

But somehow the Lillies hung in there and ground out results. With four days left, they defeated promotion hopefuls Kaiserslautern 3-2 and climbed into third place. One week later, they travelled to another promotion candidate, Karlsruhe.

In the summer of 2013, Darmstadt signed a tall, lanky striker by the name of Dominik Stroh-Engel on one of those free transfers that are a club specialty. It's not as if Schuster had to ward off competition to get his man. The 27-year-old Stroh-Engel had been around quite a bit and even made three Bundesliga appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt as a young man.

It was the last match-day in the third division and Darmstadt were playing Kickers Stuttgart. Whoever lost this match would be relegated to the fourth division. A draw was enough for Kickers but, depending on other results, probably not for Darmstadt.

The team threw everything forward. Da Costa hit the post. Aytac Sulu clattered the crossbar. Then came the final whistle. The players in blue shirts sank to the ground. Many of them were sobbing uncontrollably. Schuster, always an impeccable sportsman, congratulated the opponents and never mentioned that his team had been denied a clear penalty for handball.

Southern Hesse is well known for its mild climate which allows winegrowing on a large scale in the region south of Darmstadt. The weather is often volatile with the summers being warm and humid with frequent thunderstorms, the winters mostly relatively mild with frequent periods of high fog. Snowfall is most likely in January and February, but mild winters without considerable snowfall can occur.

Jonathan Heimes raised hundreds of thousands of euros for charity before he died from cancer, aged 26.

Darmstadt are not the first team to win back-to-back promotions and move from the third division to the top-flight in only one year. For some weird reason, this was almost common between 1994 and 1999, when no less than five clubs pulled off this feat (1860 Munich, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Arminia Bielefeld, Nurnberg and finally Ulm).

The Bundesliga club Darmstadt have added the name of a fan who died of cancer to its stadium title for one season.

In 2013–14 having finished third in league and thus gaining entry into the promotion-relegation play offs, Darmstadt defeated Arminia Bielefeld in the second leg through away goals after losing 1–3 in the first leg at home to secure promotion to 2. Bundesliga for the first time in 21 years in dramatic circumstances.

In the following 2. Bundesliga season Darmstadt surprised everyone by securing the 2nd spot in the league and securing promotion to the Bundesliga again after 33 years in their final league game against St. Pauli by winning 1–0 at home through a 70th minute free-kick by Tobias Kempe. This was the second consecutive promotion for the team, led again by coach Schuster, and captain Sulu.


"I only realised what has happened when I woke up this morning," Sailer, wearing a blue wig, told Sky Germany on Monday. "The city is exploding." Asked who had partied the hardest during the night before, Sailer replied: "Oh, our coach was very prominent." Then, in an attempt to explain his hoarse voice, he added: "But you know, us players always follow him."

It was the goal that put Darmstadt in second place. For good, as we now know, because two weeks later, Kempe scored again to defeat St. Pauli and clinch a fairy-tale promotion.

Darmstadt, who played in the third division of German football until 2014, finished 14th in the Bundesliga last season, following back-to-back promotions.

The Merck-Stadion am Boellenfalltor will be known as the Jonathan-Heimes Stadion am Boellenfalltor for the duration of the 2016-17 season.

But his career never got off the ground. When Darmstadt signed him, Stroh-Engel had just scored a measly three goals in 34 games for Wehen Wiesbaden in the third division. Under Schuster, he -- and there is no other term for it -- went through the roof.

Still, Schuster never spoke of promotion and instead liked to call Darmstadt "the small Gallic village," referring to the indomitable Gauls from the comic strip series Asterix. He seemed to have a point, because his key player Stroh-Engel, who started the season on fire, scoring on each of the first five matchdays, suddenly didn't find the target anymore. Without him the team found it very hard to score and at one point, Darmstadt drew 0-0 three games in a row.

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There have been a number of surprising promotions in recent years, just think of Eintracht Braunschweig, Paderborn and the club we looked at last week, Ingolstadt. But it's safe to say that Darmstadt's rise from rags to riches -- or whatever passes for riches at this notoriously impoverished club -- is the most unlikely success story of the past 15 years.