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Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Thursday, 5 August 2010 15:23 UK

Sunderland face Hoffenheim test

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim have had plenty to celebrate over the last few years

By Paul Bramley

Sunderland travel to south-west Germany for their final warm up game against Bundesliga side TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on 8 August.

Only six days before the start of the season, the final test for Steve Bruce's men will be a stern challenge against a team that has made a splash in German football in the last two seasons.

BBC Sport takes a look at one of the surprise packages of European football.

HISTORY

Dietmar Hopp
Former player Hopp co-founded the SAP software company

A former village team, Hoffenheim were playing in the eighth tier of German football when former player Dietmar Hopp returned to buy the club in the early 1990s.

Hopp brought with him his personal fortune, made from the software company SAP, and a dream to take his former club to the top level of German football.

Initial investment came in the form of state-of-the-art training facilities and the large scale development of youth academies.

This provided the foundations that saw Hoffenheim rise through the divisions with a team made up entirely of products of the youth set up.

After rising to the second tier of German football, Hopp saw the opportunity and for the first time invested heavily in the squad and management.

Former Schalke 04 boss Ralf Rangnick was appointed boss, and subsequently helped the club to back-to-back promotions, realising Hopps' long-term vision of making TSG 1899 Hoffenheim a Bundesliga club.

But this rags-to-riches story is not appreciated by everybody.

After pouring in over £120 million in the last 19 years, comparisons with Roman Abramovich and Chelsea have been drawn and fans of rival Bundesliga clubs voiced their dismay at the club's quick rise up the divisions.

MANAGER

Ralf Rangnick
Rangnick took charge in 2006

Starting his career with VFB Stuttgart's amateur set-up, Ralf Rangnick had an uneventful playing career before taking over the reigns at SC Korb in the late 1980s.

A career based mainly around the lower divisions brought limited success, before he was given a crack at the Bundesliga in 1999 with former club Stuttgart.

After he was sacked in 2001, Rangnick spent three years in charge of Hannover 96, but it was the spell at Schalke 04 that made his name.

He led his team to near glory, finishing runners-up behind Bayern in that year's competition and securing champions league football for the first time.

But despite this, the following season went badly and Rangnick was on his way to Hoffenheim - dropping three divisions in the process.

Cynically known as the 'football professor' after an appearance on German television in the late 1990s that saw him explaining extensive football tactics on a blackboard, Rangnick showed once again his ability as a lower league manager, taking Hoffenheim to the top flight.

STAR PLAYER

Andreas beck
German international Beck missed out on the World Cup

The current star of the squad is German international Andreas Beck.

The Russian-born, 23-year-old right-back has proved a worthy recruit since his signing from VFB Stuttgart in 2008 for an undisclosed fee, and his solid club performances, added to his key involvement in the German Under-21 European championship victory in 2009, led to a full international call up.

And Beck, who narrowly missed out on this summer's World Cup after his exclusion from the initial squad, is no ordinary defender.

More of a wing-back than a traditional centre-back, he is famed for not only being Hoffenheim's highest earner, but a keen reader of psychology and philosophy, a fluent Russian speaker and the owner of a 1989 Saab 900.

STADIUM

Rhein-Neckar-Arena
The Rhein-Neckar-Arena has a capacity of 30,164

Hoffenheim play their home games at the Rhein-Nekar-Arena in Sinsheim - about a mile and a half from Hoffenheim - on the A6 highway.

The 30,164 capacity stadium is an all purpose arena that has been their home since 2009.

Financed by owner Hopp, it is a far cry from their previous home that only had a capacity of 5,000.

And despite Hoffenheim having a population of only 3,000, the club regularly attract capacity crowds and had an average attendance of 29,937 last season.



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