FOUR promotions into their epic journey back to the Bundesliga, Austria Salzburg face new competition for a fifth – from none other than Red Bull, whose rebranding of their club prompted fans to reform it in Austria’s footballing basement in 2005.
Saturday’s 3rd division topspiele der woche saw second-placed FC Liefering enter Salzburg’s violet quarter to face the side they trail by a single point. From their red & white colours to the familiar styling of their club badge, FC Liefering are Red Bull in all but name; a monstrous club, a patchwork of body parts from pilfered graves – all because one team’s seemingly not enough for the drinks firm’s Dr Frankenstein, Dieter Mateschitz.
The story goes a little something like this. A few years ago, Bundesliga reserve sides were prevented from playing any higher than the 3rd tier: the Regionalligas East, West and Central. This was much to the annoyance of Red Bull, whose reserves had remained in Regionalliga West having won it in 2011. So they paid off cash-strapped USK Anif and changed its name to FC Liefering, then handed FC Liefering Red Bull Salzburg’s reserve squad, then formed a new club called FC Anif and gave it Red Bull Salzburg’s reserves’ league spot.
Confused? Well there’s another team, FC Pasching, under Red Bull’s evil wing now too, so there. The upshot of all this is that Red Bull have control of three 3rd division clubs – FC Anif and FC Liefering in Regionalliga West, plus FC Pasching in Regionalliga Central – and claim none of them are reserve sides, therefore all should be able to be promoted.
Furthermore, because promotion from the Regionalligas is clinched via a sequence of play offs, it’s conceivable that FC Liefering and FC Pasching could contend a bizarre end-of-season decider between two Red Bull teams. The Salzburg FA say they’re powerless to prevent this, but the Austrian FA surely face an administrative headache if such a situation were to arise.
On Saturday, a nervy tussle between Regionalliga West’s top two ended all square, with all the action saved for a fantic last 15 minutes which featured both goals and a red card for Red Bull in front of a rapturous Maxglan full house. With three games to go before der winterpause, Austria Salzburg remain undefeated in their latest exhilarating tilt at what could turn out to be their most impressive feat yet.