Hamburg SV are affectionately known as "The Dinosaurs" in German football, and the reason is very obvious.
Hamburg flying on three fronts
DUBAI // Hamburg SV are affectionately known as "The Dinosaurs" in German football, and the reason is very obvious. Since the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963, 49 different teams have taken part in the country's top division. From them, Hamburg remain the only side never to be relegated.
It is a history they are proud of, but it has been 25 years since they last won the league title. However, the signs look promising this season with a young squad. After 17 rounds, Hamburg are fourth, two points behind joint leaders TSG Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich, who are also in Dubai at the moment, getting ready for the re-start of the league after the winter break. Martin Jol, the manager of the three-times German champions, hopes the camp here and tomorrow's Dubai Football Challenge match against AC Milan will set the tone for their challenge in the months to come.
"When we got the invitation to come to Dubai we were really happy," said the Dutchman. "We are playing AC Milan, but that is not the main thing. The main thing is to prepare well for all the competitions. "The season will restart in three weeks and this is our first camp. So for us, it is important that we play against high-profile teams, and AC Milan are one of the top sides in the world. "We play in the Uefa Cup, the German cup and the league so we need to be very fit and hope all the players do well."
With his side battling on three different fronts, Jol is hopeful that Hamburg's drought might finally come to an end this season. "You feel your name is on the cup all the time," he said. "It is the dream that you have got. You need a bit of luck as well. We saw Manchester City losing to Nottingham Forest so if you have a bit of luck, you can do everything. "Our immediate goal is to get into the next round of the Uefa Cup. Of course there are some great teams in the competition, so it will be difficult, but you never know.
"Being two points from the top of the Bundesliga is good, but it is only January now. We will see what happens in May. That is the most important thing." When Jol was in England, managing the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur, he saw red at every mention of Emirates Airline - the red of Arsenal, their North London rivals. The airline, for Jol, signified Arsene Wenger in his "Fly Emirates" emblazoned suits and his group of talented youngsters.
Now Jol works for a club whose title sponsor just happen to be Emirates. "When I was in England, we were always a bit envious because Arsenal had 'Fly Emirates' on their shirts and training suits," he said. "So playing with the Emirates kit was a bit strange at first, but you get used to it." Emirates became Hamburg's main sponsor in May 2006 and they have now extended that deal by another three years.