Andreas Lambertz is Mr Fortuna Düsseldorf. A club legend, team captain, darling of the fans, a player who embodies the rebirth of Fortuna and a player unique in German football history. “Lumpi”, as he is more commonly known, became the first player to have achieved promotion from the Oberliga (fourth division) to the Bundesliga with the same club earlier this season.
He’s the player all us fans love. Not the most skilful, not a player that will score beautiful goals but a player who will always work hard, run all day, fill the gaps, make the tackles and never give up.
When Lumpi joined the club from neighbours VfR Neuss in 2002 Fortuna were in a bad way. After dropping out of the Bundesliga in 1997 a series of relegations and financial crisis’ meant the club were in the wilderness of the Oberliga Nordrhein.
The financially stricken club were not in a position to offer professional contracts and risked losing Lumpi. It was only after a team of Düsseldorf based journalists organised the “Mythos Fortuna” game between the then current 2003 team and the team that won Fortuna promotion to the Bundesliga in 1995 that the club were able to finance a deal for Lambertz and Axel Bellinghausen.
After a year in the youth team of Fortuna Lambertz made his début against Adler Osterfeld in August 2003 in front of just 2,765. A full début followed shortly after against Borussia Freialdenhoven and a first goal for the club in September, during a 4-1 win against Borussia Wuppertal.
In Lumpi’s first season the club achieved promotion to Regionalliga Nord with five games remaining. Lumpi made 23 league appearances and scoring two goals. After a last day victory over Ratingen 04/19 the 4,800 Fortuna fans in the Paul Janes Stadium stormed the pitch with many making a beeline for Lambertz, “it was like they all wanted a piece of you“, said Lumpi afterwards.
The 2004/5 season saw Fortuna finished a respectable 8th. During the season the club moved to their new home, the LTU arena, with Lumpi leading Fortuna out against Union Berlin in front of 38,123, a new third division attendance record. During the following season rumours apart the departure of Lumpi were circulating but according to the Finance Director Werner Sesterhenn the club clearly weren’t keen on losing their talisman, “The sale of Lumpi isn’t in question. We’ll chain him to a tree“
After four seasons of consolidation in the Regionalliga Nord, where Lumpi made 120 appeareances, scoring 21 goals, Fortuna qualified for the new 3rd Bundesliga in 2007/8 under new coach, Norbert Meier.
A period of poor form in early 2008, culminating in a 5-1 defeat to Rot Weiss Ahlen, saw the fans chanting “Except Lumpi you can all go!“. At this time rumours were again growing again that Lumpi might leave with Osnabruck, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach linked with the midfielder. Fans reacted by setting up online petitions urging him to stay and even Lumpi himself hinted about a departure “I feel very happy at Fortuna. If we get promoted of course I will stay.“
At the end of the season Fortuna finished 3rd place which saw the club narrowly miss out on promotion but crucially earn a place in the newly formed 3rd Bundesliga, which was to act as the catalyst for the contiuning upsurge in Fortuna’s fortune and Lumpi remaining at the club. During this final season in the Regionalliga Lambertz was voted “Düsseldorfer of the year“,cementing his plce as an icon of the city not just the club. Lumpi received another honour in early 2009 when he was voted into the “Best Fortuna team of all team“, alongside club legends as Toni Turek and Klaus Allofs. Not bad for a player who hadn’t played higher than the 3rd division!
In 2008/9 Fortuna stood a chance of direct promotion to the 2. Bundesliga. In the penultimate game of the season, away to VfR Aalen, Lumpi gave a dominant performance and scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win which put Fortuna in an automatic promotion place. After a 1-0 victory at home to Werder Bremen II on the last day of the season in front of 50,095 spectators Fortuna secured second place and achieved a return to professional football after 10 years away. According to Fortuna‘s website Lumpi played through injury and was unable to recognise the pain due to a “promotion hormone“. Captain Lambertz said of the celebrations, “That was crazy. The emotions that were released at that moment, the way the fans celebrated….“
The 2009/10 season began with a DFB Pokal game against Hamburg, a game in which Lumpi scored a memorable goal. With Fortuna losing 2-3 in the last minute of extra time Lumpi skipped passed a defender and scored with the last kick of the game to send the tie into penalties. The season was a success with Fortuna exceeding expectations to finish 4th.
The 2011/12 season saw Fortuna go unbeaten for the first 12 games. A significant victory was achieved over promotion rivals St Pauli in October. Lumpi scored two important goals, including one “Goal of the Month“ contender in an inspirational performance as Fortuna left Hamburg with the three points signifying Fortuna as real promotion contenders. As the season went to the winter break Fortuna were top of the league and were the “Herbst Meister“.
During this season Lumpi reaffirmed his commitment to the club by signing a new contract until the end of 2014, “where else could I go“ said Lumpi on signing the contract. Lumpi was keen to make the next step “It is my dream to play in the Bundesliga with Fortuna. As quick as possible“
By the end of the season Fortuna had stuttered and finished third, therefore having to play a two-legged promotion play of against the Bundesliga’s 3rd bottom team Hertha Berlin. After a 2-1 win in Berlin Fortuna drew the home game 2-2, a game that ended in chaotic scenes as jubilant fans stormed the pitch before the match had actually finished. Lumpi made an fierce appeal to fans to return to the stands, which they eventually adhered to and the game completed and Fortuna could celebrate a return to the top flight.
During the post match celebrations Lumpi was photographed with a flare in his hand being carried aloft by spectators. The DFB took a dim view of this and banned him for the first two games of Fortuna’s return to the Bundesliga and issued a 5,000 Euro fine. “The issue with the torch was a mistake – even if I only had it my hands for a couple of seconds”, said Lambertz.
As with every promotion there were doubts whether Lumpi could make the step up and once again successfully raise his game for the next level “that won’t be any different in the Bundesliga. Lambertz is the heart of the team….Lumpi has really experienced everything at Fortuna.” was the opinion of Meier who retained Lambertz as the team captain despite making 18 new signings.
Nine years after an 18-year-old Andreas Lambertz made his debut for a club down on its luck Lumpi led Fortuna out at VfB Stuttgart on the 15th September 2012 to make his Budesliga debut and complete the sensational rise from the 4th division to the Bundesliga. Lumpi greeted his achievement with his usual humility, “That is a great side effect, but here it’s not about me but the team.“
This season has seen Lumpi on the bench for a few games. “He doesn’t get diarrhoea when he doesn’t play. Or lock himself at home, or beat the kid”, said Meier and Lumpi has now fought his way back into the team. The relationship between Fortuna and Lumpi doesn’t look like ending any time soon. “I’ve reached all my aims with Fortuna, I love the town and the fans“. Düsseldorf loves you too Lumpi!
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