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How Germany's 'Carnival Club' is finding success

By Greg Duke, CNN
  • Bundesliga minnows Mainz have won their first six matches this season
  • Their latest victory saw them stun giants Bayern Munich 2-1 at the Allianz Arena
  • Mainz's prominence has come under the guidance of young coach Thomas Tuchel
  • They will equal the German record of seven straight victories if they defeat Hoffenheim
  • FSV Mainz 05
  • Bundesliga
  • FC Bayern

(CNN) -- Which football team has the best record in one of Europe's elite leagues? Well it isn't Barcelona or Real Madrid, Manchester United or Chelsea, or even one of the Milan giants.

In fact, a 2-1 victory at the home of German champions Bayern Munich has put this particular side, who are virtually unknown outside their native country, on the verge of entering the record books.

The "Carnival Boys" of FSV Mainz 05, the club that represents the city of the same name on the west bank of the Rhine, equaled a Bundesliga record of seven straight wins from the start of the season after beating Hoffenheim 4-2 last weekend.

Mainz are nicknamed the "Carnival Boys" for good reason. From November through to March, every year, the city plays host to the "Mainzer Fastnacht" a traditional carnival that places an emphasis on political and literary humor and commentary.

It is an important and long-standing event in the German calendar and the football club has embraced the cultural significance that the carnival brings with it.

German football expert Rafael Honigstein told CNN that Mainz had risen to the summit of the Bundesliga by creating a similar party atmosphere around the club.

"The youth and exuberance of the side blends in perfectly with the party atmosphere that the city of Mainz cultivates," said Honigstein.

"Mainz have always been known as the carnival club. The players have a close link with the fans and go and celebrate with them at the end of each game, win, lose or draw.

"In the past they were just happy to be members of the Bundesliga -- and that was worth a celebration in itself. But now with the success of this young team, some of the players have taken things one step further.

The media have really picked up on the fact that the players like to party with the fans.
--Frank Trautman, a spokesman for the Mainz supporters' club

"Three of the players, Lewis Holtby, Andre Schurrle and Adam Szalai, have taken on the self-proclaimed title of the 'Mainz Boyband.' When anybody scores a goal they start playing imaginary musical instruments. One is the guitarist, one the drummer and also the singer.

"It has become a big theme for the players and the team are riding the crest of a wave on the back of the atmosphere generated by coach Thomas Tuchel, himself only 37.

"Basically Tuchel is a coaching genius, he is just like (Real Madrid coach) Jose Mourinho -- but minus the ego," added Honigstein.

That interaction with their supporters is another ingredient which sets Mainz apart from the majority of their Bundesliga rivals.

Frank Trautman, a spokesman for the Mainz supporters' club, told CNN: "The atmosphere for home matches is unbelievable and I love the fact the profile of the team and the city has risen during this winning run.

"For a long time there has been a great rapport between the fans and the players -- and the media have really picked up on the fact that the players like to party with the fans.

"The image of Mainz, both the team and the city, used to be of people and players not to be taken seriously. But now, with our current success, we are being seen in a different light."

And Mainz's success on the pitch is now translating to an increased awareness of the city off the pitch. With the carnival just over a month away, the city is now suddenly on the front pages, as well as the back pages, of national newspapers.

"We are starting to get more emails and queries about the carnival and the city," Ralf Peterhanwahr -- a press officer for the city of Mainz -- told CNN.

"The team are now being viewed as being young, successful and good looking and that is a great image for the city to have, especially with the carnival almost upon us.

"The people of Mainz love to party and having the team making the headlines is the best advertisement the city can have. Everybody in Germany is talking about Mainz now."

And not just in Germany; with Hoffenheim going the same way as Bayern Munich, the "Carnival Boys" continue to be making headlines across Europe.