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A new cup journey begins at SV Straelen

The DFB Cup is a law unto itself. Heroes are born and unforgettable games of football unfold. And though it is usually clear who is expected to win a first-round encounter, the underdogs can suddenly find themselves on an equal footing. For FC St. Pauli, Saturday's outing against fourth-tier Regionalliga outfit SV Straelen (13.30 CET) at the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena in Duisburg is meant to herald the start of a new cup journey.

Last season, the Boys in Brown survived the first two rounds for the first time in 15 years. The 2-1 home defeat of holders Borussia Dortmund, where 2,000 fans managed to turn the Millerntor into a cauldron, was an unforgettable highlight. The once-common self-mocking chants about no one giving a monkey's about the DFB Cup have been replaced by hopes of earning another big-name tie.

"We'd all like to play Dortmund again or Bayern," midfield orchestator Eric Smith told journalists in midweek. "It's every footballer's dream". Against the Boys in Brown, the dream of playing on a bigger stage will become a reality for the players of SV Straelen, who qualified for the first round of the DFB Cup for only the second time in their history thanks to a 1-0 win over Wuppertaler SV in the final of the Lower Rhine Cup back in May, having lost on each of their three previous final appearances.

The last time Straelen reached the DFB Cup first round was 24 years ago. Then of the fourth tier Oberliga, they faced second-division Fortuna Düsseldorf on 29 August 1998. In an eleven-goal thriller, Fortuna secured a 7-4 victory thanks to five goals from Marek Lesniak in front of 3,400 fans in Straelen.

Timo Schultz and his coaching team will no doubt prefer to see a forceful and controlled performance from their charges rather than a goal fest like that one. The Boys in Brown gained first-hand experience of the ever closer performance levels below the top two tiers against FC Magdeburg in the first round last year. Though the Schultz XI emerged victorious by three goals to two, they got off lightly against a dominant home side. Smith even went as far as to call it one of the toughest games of his career.

With that in mind, hardly anyone is likely to make the mistake of underestimating the opposition. Straelen coach Sunday Oliseh, who won the league title with Borussia Dortmund and Olympic gold with Nigeria, has one of the youngest squads in the fourth-tier Regionalliga West at his disposal, with an average age of 22. The home side will be motivated to the hilt, and so the Boys in Brown will have to prove their mettle if a new cup journey is to begin.

Photos: Witters