Having spent 11 years at Arminia Bielefeld, cult striker Fabian Klos will leave the club at the end of the season. From a footballing standpoint, the hole in Bielefeld’s squad will undoubtedly be filled, but the character and influence of the 34-year-old will be sorely missed in years to come.
|Photo: DSC Arminia Bielefeld|
Having not been part of an esteemed youth setup during his early career, Klos did not take the traditional route to a career as a professional footballer. Whilst carrying out an apprenticeship as a bank clerk in his younger years, he played semi-professional football as a hobby. Having impressed for his local team, MTV Gifhorn, he gained the interest of Wolfsburg, where he played two seasons with the club’s second team before moving on to Arminia Bielefeld in 2011 and kick-starting his professional career. Klos’ humble beginnings in the game make him the perfect link between the fans and the players on the pitch. The Bielefeld striker has always been known in the city for his football fan-like spirit and wearing his heart on his sleeve, giving emotional and tearful interviews when the club were promoted to the second division in 2015 and celebrating long into the night after many of the club’s major accomplishments.
Patrick Koch, founder of the Arminia Bielefeld fan club ‘90plus3’, describes Fabian Klos as a player that perfectly personifies the club’s spirit. Klos joined Arminia at a time when the club was declared bankrupt. The current club captain (along with Manuel Prietl) has played across the top 3 divisions for the Bielefeld, having played a part in three promotions, one relegation and a DFB-Pokal semi-final. The club’s rise and descent between the Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga and 3. Bundesliga has earned them the label of ‘Fahrstuhlmannschaft’ (‘elevator club’). If anyone can identify with the trials and tribulations of the life of a Bielefeld supporter, Fabian Klos certainly can. Klos being determined to stay at the club and fight for promotion back to the second division and ruling out a move away from the club was one of the many ways in which he achieved his legendary status at the Bielefelder Alm (SchücoArena as it known these days). It must be said that in this day and age, a time where loyalty in football is constantly in question, a player such as Klos is a rare commodity.
With the promotion to the Bundesliga in 2019, Klos fired Bielefeld to the summit of German football. He played an important role in the club avoiding relegation in the first season back in the top flight since 2009 scoring a penalty on the final day of the season away win at Stuttgart which secured survival for the club. Klos has netted an impressive 162 goals and whilst providing 71 assists in 385 games for Arminia Bielefeld, making him the club’s all-time leading goal-scorer (Transfermarkt). The 34-year old is also currently placed as the ninth longest-serving player in the Bundesliga. It comes as no surprise then that he is regarded in such high esteem by the Arminia fan base, shouting ‘Fußballgott’ (football god) from the stands every time his name is announced at the stadium. Although Klos may not be the most technically gifted player in the world, he most certainly knows how to find the back of the net, and he has fully bought into the sentiment and the ideology of the club and its fan base, establishing himself as a cult hero.
Klos’ imposing style of play has proven to be a useful weapon for Arminia right through the German football league system, as shown with the club’s rise to the Bundesliga in 2019. The Gifhorn-born striker has knack for being in the right place at the right time. In combination with goalkeeper Stephan Ortega’s proficiency with long balls and his ability on the ball, Klos’ aerial prowess has been a real force to be reckoned with in recent years.
However, despite being a stalwart in the Arminia Bielefeld lineups for the last eleven years, this season has seen Klos’ minutes dwindle as young striker Janni Serra has broken into the team. Klos began the season as a starter, but is now mostly deployed as an impact substitute, playing less than half an hour in each of his last five appearances with his last goal coming in November of last year (Transfermarkt).
Comparing with last season, in which Klos played each of Bielefeld’s 34 games in the Bundesliga only playing less than 30 minutes once, it is clear to see that the experienced striker has fallen out of favour this season under manager Frank Kramer. Despite limited minutes this season, Klos has managed 0.31 xG per 90, compared with just 0.23 xG per 90 last season (understat.com), proving that he is still an effective option for Kramer’s team. Naturally the step up to the Bundesliga has been challenging for Klos, though he did finish as Arminia’s top scorer last term with 5 goals in the league.
Patrick Koch from the 90plus3 fan club believes the top-level is now simply too fast for the 34-year old and admitting that unfortunately the time is right for Klos to move on at the end of the season. Along with many other fans, Koch believes that Arminia’s transition to a more high-pressing style is more suited to younger and more mobile players such as Janni Serra (23) and Florian Krüger (23). Since Frank Kramer took over in March 2021, the club has adopted a clear philosophy of bringing in young players to develop and sell later down the line. The fact remains, however, that once Klos moves on at the end of the season, there will be players that can fill the role of centre forward, but to replicate Klos’ impact in the dressing room and his relationship with the club’s fans will be a huge challenge. Frank Kramer has recognised the impact Klos has in the dressing room by telling Kicker that “he is an important player with a good reputation in the team”, and it is clear to see that even when he comes on as a substitute, it gives the fans in the stadium a huge lift.
Recently there has been a petition for the club to build a statue for Klos to commemorate his time immensely successful 11-year spell in Bielefeld. The petition currently has 1213 signatures and the fan who set it up, Nico Jirsa, states in his description “Even if Fabi [Fabian Klos] says that Arminia can replace his qualities, we are missing a great player, a leader, a long-standing captain and above all a role model”. Patrick Koch from 90plus3 believes that Klos has earned the right to have the Arminia Bielefeld south stand named after him for his loyalty, commitment and his impressive career for the club. In his first press conference since announcing his decision to not extend his contract, the striker addressed the idea of a statue being built in his honour, thanking the fans and stating that he “feels honoured that this petition exists” but that he would prefer to have a small pathway near the stadium named after him that he could visit in the future when he returns the stadium as a fan.
Klos has admitted that the “hardest part was to tell the team” and that it was very emotional to see the positive fan reaction at the stadium after his announcement. When asked about how he wishes to say goodbye, Klos said that the perfect way for him to end his Bielefeld career would be with a full stadium in which everyone celebrated the team staying up again this season. Klos told the press: “I have achieved every goal that I never even set myself”, a great summary of a player that began his career in lower league football with no plans of a professional career who managed to work his way to the top of Germany’s football ladder.
Although Klos’ next destination is still unknown, the 34-year old has stated that he intends to continue his career beyond the end of the 2021/22 season. When asked about the possibility of contract offers for the summer, Klos refused to comment, though he did admit that he is open to all possibilities including opportunities abroad and even a future in management after his playing career comes to an end. One thing that is clear about Klos’ future is that he will dedicate himself to whichever club he joins in the hope of achieving more in football before he calls time on his playing days.
Irrespective of Klos’ future beyond this season, it is clear to see his impact on Arminia Bielefeld, the city of Bielefeld and German football as a whole. Klos will leave Bielefeld at the end on this season in a strong position for the future, with a young team who fight for the badge and all being well a Bundesliga team for the 2022/23 season, a legacy that no one would have imagined possible when the 34-year old joined Arminia in the third division back in 2011. From a footballing standpoint, the hole in Bielefeld’s squad will undoubtedly be filled, but the character and influence of the club’s captain will be sorely missed in years to come.