West Ham United players and staff prepare to tour the Black Forest

The story of West Ham United's historic first visit to Freiburg, 100 years ago in 1924

West Ham United and their UEFA Europa League round of 16 opponents SC Freiburg will meet for the third time this season on Thursday evening, when the Irons visit the ultra-modern Stadion am Wolfswinkel, which opened as recently as 2021.

However, the Hammers first faced opposition from the city of Freiburg im Breisgau in the far south west of Germany almost exactly 100 years ago, back in May 1924, when the Londoners became the first English team to visit the country following the end of the First World War six years previously.

Fresh from completing their first-ever campaign in the First Division, the Irons travelled for a five-match post-season tour which saw them make stops in Cologne, Mannheim, Mönchengladbach and Frankfurt before culminating their trip in Freiburg.

The Hammers arrived having won four out of four on tour but Freiburger FC proved too strong, winning 5-2 despite goals from West Ham’s Vic Watson and John Campbell. The result marked the Hammers’ first ever away defeat by continental European opposition.

Formed in 1897, Freiburger FC were initially the dominant club in the city, winning the German national title in 1907, but have since been overtaken by SC Freiburg and now play in the regional leagues, kicking-off the 2023/24 season in the sixth-tier Verbandsliga Südbaden (South Baden State League).

While Freiburger were a strong team in their own right a century ago, there were mitigating circumstances, too. West Ham had played in Frankfurt the previous day before rising at 6am and taking a six-hour train journey south to Freiburg!

The historic game was held at the Möslestadion in the east of the city, which had opened in 1922 and was named in honour of the Mösle area of Freiburg.

The Freiburger FC team which defeated West Ham United in 1924
The Freiburger FC team which defeated West Ham United in May 1924

Despite ending their tour with a defeat, the travelling Hammers were treated to an open-air cabaret on the edge of the nearby Black Forest that evening.

The following day, large motor cars collected the players and staff from their hotel and drove them on a circular tour through the nearby mountains. Among the stops were the town and lake of Titisee and the Abbey of St. Peter in the Black Forest.

When the Bundesliga was formed in 1963, Freiburger FC found themselves placed in the tier II Regionalliga Süd, while Freiburg SC were placed in the tier III Amateurliga Südbaden.

Freiburger FC were in Bundesliga 2. as recently as 1981/82, but were then relegated and SC Freiburg established themselves as the city's leading club.

In 2024 the Möslestadion is home to SC Freiburg's Academy

In 2000, financial issues saw Freiburger FC vacate and sell their Möslestadion and SC Freiburg take ownership to use the facility as its Academy.

Initially, SC Freiburg II - the reserve team - played there, but they themselves moved to the Dreisamstadion when the first team moved from that venue to the newly-completed Stadion am Wolfswinkel in 2021, which West Ham visited in October 2023 and will play at again on Thursday evening.

And to complete the story, Freiburger FC now play in the west of the city at the Rosskopf-Arena im Dietenbach-Sportpark.