Behind the badge: the story of FC Köln and Hennes the goat

Behind the badge: the story of FC Köln and Hennes the goat

Behind The Badge is a series by COPA90 exploring football’s unique crests. These Football Times teamed up with their COPA Collective partners to tell the story behind each one.

The final scene of 1933 film King Kong is regarded as one of the most famous moments in early cinema. In it, the ginormous ape is seen scaling New York City’s Empire State Building. Fighting off an incoming attack from four planes, he destroys one but is eventually killed by their gunfire.

The cathedral of Cologne is one of Germany’s most visited tourist spots. More than six million visitors flock to this part of North Rhine-Westphalia each year to witness its beauty. The connections to monstrous fictional gorilla seem fairly non-existent, unless you travel some 7km west to the Müngersdorfer Stadion.

Home to the city’s football team, one could be forgiven for doubting themselves. Such is the prevalence of giant goats jumping on the side of the building in these parts, perhaps you’ve missed something. Confused, you Google pictures of the cathedral in an effort to prove your sanity. No goats. Case closed. This, of course, begs a question, namely what the hell is all this about?

To explain this, one must travel back to 13 February 1950, two years after Kölner BC 1901 and SpVgg Sülz 1907 were merged to create 1. FC FC . The club were visited by a travelling circus, who had found a stray goat and her kid when travelling from Prague to Neustadt at the end of the Second World War. As part of that year’s Karneval celebrations, circus director Carola Williams gifted the now-adult goat to the club as a good luck charm. Köln adopted this as their mascot and have become synonymous with the animal ever since.

Despite this association, it took over 20 years for the club to incorporate it into the badge. Prior to this point, the design was a sleek looking circle featuring a silhouette of the cathedral and diagonal sash bearing the club’s name. The colours of red, black and white are taken directly from Cologne’s flag and translate over into the club’s kits.

In 1973, however, the club felt the need for an update. As a well-known part of the club’s identity, with their nickname Die Geißböcke (The Billy Goats) stemming from the mascot, it was decided to add the animal to the badge. Given that Cologne Cathedral is over 470 feet tall, the almost one to two ratio in favour of the goat puts him at a rather worrying height.

Ironically his scaling of such a magnificent piece of Gothic architecture would coincide with one of the club’s most successful periods. The years that followed saw the club reach four DFB-Pokal finals in seven years, three of which ended in victory. In 1978, fired on by the goals of Dieter Müller and Hannes Löhr, they won their second and to date most recent Bundesliga title to complete the double under the guidance of legendary coach Hennes Weisweiler.

It is after such a figure whom the goat mascot is named, with a continuation taking us through to Hennes IX today. Since August 2014, he has been housed in a special enclosure at Cologne Zoo, decorated in Köln badges where fans can come to visit him in. Inside is HennesCam, which allows supporters to keep up with the day-to-day life of their club’s most famous devotee.

Ever since being gifted to the club, Hennes has been present on matchdays, paraded around prior to kick-off and at half time. In a 2. Bundesliga match against VfR Aalen in March 2014 he managed to escape from his lead, proceeding to run around the pitch much to the delight of supporters. Dozens of stewards were required to capture him, with fans booing when he was finally retained.

Unfortunately, such antics caught up with Hennes VIII, with arthritis forcing him to step down last summer. “We do not want our club mascot ever having to stand in pain in the stadium. After promotion, it is now the perfect conclusion and time for Hennes VIII to enjoy his retirement,” commented club managing director Alexander Wehrle. This is an important point to make regarding the care of the animals, with it highly commendable the attention which Köln provide him with.

Having made several signings to bolster their squad following a return to the Bundesliga, perhaps the most important arrival last summer was that of a new Hennes. “Number 9”, as once famously uttered in a psychedelic Beatles song, made his debut at the first home match this season against Borussia Dortmund.

Most clubs have a mascot these days, although they are too often a cringeworthy combination of fabric and foam. Not so in Cologne, where over 70 years after being introduced, Hennes still plays a central part in Köln’s identity. Just don’t go looking for him at the cathedral.

By James Kelly @jkell403
Art by Tom Griffiths @ARTomGriffiths

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