GERMANY'S NUMBER ONE
Soccer is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Germany, and the German Football Association (DFB), also known as Deutscher Fußball-Bund, is the largest sports association worldwide. Although other team sports like basketball or ice hockey are also played in Germany, soccer has an unparalleled position as Germany's national sport.
During the time of the nation's division, the first national league (Bundesliga) was established in 1963 in West Germany. However, the German Democratic Republic had already founded its national league back in 1949. After Germany's reunification, the Bundesliga integrated the clubs from the east in the 1991-1992 season. Today, the Bundesliga boasts of 18 clubs that compete for the title of the German national champion. It has the highest attendance globally and has become a cornerstone of German culture.
The success story of soccer in Germany can be attributed to several factors, including affordable ticket prices, new stadiums, exciting games, and a genuine passion for the sport. Besides the national league, there are two subordinate leagues - the Bundesliga 2 and Bundesliga 3 - that enjoy immense popularity among fans.
In 1874, August Herrmann and Konrad Koch, two schoolteachers, organized the first soccer match on German soil, which took place on a school ground. The event created a cultural struggle because the German Empire considered the game un-German. Both patriots and educators argued that soccer was too rough and compared it to an English disease that aesthetics could compare to an elephant. Karl Planck, a gymnast, even argued that stretching the knees would deteriorate the Germans back into monkeys on the evolutionary level. This fight resulted in a ban on soccer for Bavaria's youth. However, the enthusiasm for this new sport soon spread across other towns, and shortly after the first game had been played, Koch published the first German rulebook based on the 1863 rules of the English Football Association. The term "soccer" derived from an abbreviation of "association football." Most soccer clubs were established in bigger cities, and graduates from technical universities played a significant role in promoting soccer by founding new soccer clubs. Notably, these new clubs had names like "Germania" and "Alemania" and took over rituals from fraternities that did not accept them while they were students, such as wearing hats and ribbon bands. The game was still a mixture of rugby and football, but cross-border competitions promoted coherent rules. Since 1908, there has been a national team in Germany, and a significant upturn in soccer history took place during the roaring twenties in the Weimar Republic when new stadiums sprung up across the country.
To understand the success story behind soccer in German cultural life, it is crucial to consider German history, according to an article published by Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education. Soccer represents German culture just like baseball is associated with the United States. The year 1954 marked the end of shame and gave Germany a boost when the national team won the first World Cup.
Since 2016, soccer has become a symbol of German patriotism, and this is now even accepted by critical contemporaries. To combat former citizens' skepticism, the historical significance of the black, red, and gold flag was highlighted. Today, soccer is appreciated by people from all walks of life, making Germany a true soccer nation, unlike in the past.
Soccer, also known as football, is a sport that is played between two teams of eleven players each. The objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team by kicking the ball into the opposing team's goal.
The rules of soccer are as follows:
The game begins with a kickoff from the center of the field, with one team passing the ball to their own teammate. The ball can be played with any part of the body except the arms and hands of the players. A goal is scored when the ball passes over the goal line between the goalposts and under the crossbar.
A free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits a foul, such as tripping, pushing, or using excessive force. A yellow card is given to a player for a cautionable offense, such as unsporting behavior, and a red card is given for a sending off offense, such as serious foul play or violent conduct.
Offside is called if an attacking player is beyond the last defender when the ball is passed to them.
The game is divided into two 45-minute halves, with a 15-minute halftime break.
In the event of a tie, the game can either end as a draw or go into extra time and/or penalty shootouts to determine a winner.
Fouls: Players are not allowed to use excessive force or make any contact with an opposing player while trying to win possession of the ball. Fouls can result in free kicks, penalty kicks, or even yellow or red cards, depending on the severity.
Offside: Players cannot be in an offside position when the ball is passed to them. This means they cannot be closer to the opposing goal than the second-to-last defender at the moment the ball is passed.
Throw-ins: When the ball goes out of bounds on the sidelines, the team who did not touch the ball last is awarded a throw-in. The player must keep both feet on the ground and throw the ball with both hands from behind their head.
Goal kicks: When the attacking team sends the ball over the end line, the defending team is awarded a goal kick. The ball is placed within the goal area and can be kicked by any defending player.
Corner kicks: When the defending team sends the ball over the end line, the attacking team is awarded a corner kick. The ball is placed within the corner arc on the side of the field where the ball went out of bounds and can be kicked by any attacking player.
These are just a few of the basic rules of soccer. The sport has many other rules and regulations that are enforced to ensure fair play and safety of the players.
THE PROMINENT ROLE OF SOCCER
IN GERMAN SPORTS CULTURE
Soccer, without a doubt, holds an exalted status within German sports culture. It is more than just a game; it embodies a national identity, passion, and an intrinsic part of the German way of life. From grassroots levels to professional leagues, the game serves as a unifying force, bringing communities together and creating lifelong bonds. Soccer matches are more than mere spectacles; they are showcases of unwavering loyalty and unbridled enthusiasm.
German fans are renowned for their passionate chants, choreographed displays, and colorful fan culture. The "Ultras," organized groups of dedicated supporters, bring unmatched fervor to stadiums, creating an atmosphere that is second to none. These fan traditions, with their distinctive songs, scarves, and flags, contribute to the unique identity of German soccer.
Soccer also plays a pivotal role in fostering social integration within German society. The sport acts as a common ground, bringing people together from diverse backgrounds and fostering a sense of belonging. Local soccer clubs serve as vital community hubs, providing a platform for people to interact, forge friendships, and share experiences. Soccer transcends societal divisions and acts as a catalyst for social cohesion.
Germany's commitment to youth development and grassroots soccer is another testament to the sport's importance in the national sports culture. The country boasts an extensive network of soccer academies and training centers, nurturing young talent and ensuring a sustainable pipeline of future stars. The emphasis on youth development underscores the long-term vision of German soccer and its desire to maintain a competitive edge on the global stage.
GERMANY'S FOOTBALL TEAMS
PROMOTION AND RELEGATION: The Bundesliga, Germany's top professional football league, follows a principle known as promotion and relegation. This system allows teams to move between different divisions based on their performance. In contrast, the Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States and Canada does not employ promotion and relegation. The promotion and relegation system creates an environment of competitiveness where clubs strive to remain in the top tier or earn promotion from the lower divisions. It provides opportunities for smaller clubs to rise through the ranks and challenge the established teams, fostering excitement and unpredictability throughout the league.
SUCCESSFUL FOOTBALL CLUBS: From traditional powerhouses to up-and-coming challengers, each team brings its unique strengths to the pitch. The following list is not complete but aims to introduce some of the most notable football teams in Germany.
One team that needs no introduction is FC Bayern Munich. With a rich history and a record number of Bundesliga titles to their name, Bayern Munich is synonymous with success. The team's attacking prowess and technical brilliance have made them a force to be reckoned with both domestically and on the international stage. This football team consistently sets the standard for excellence.
Another team that captures the hearts of fans is Borussia Dortmund. Known for their passionate supporters and electric atmosphere at Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund has a reputation for nurturing young talents and playing an exciting, high-intensity style of football. The "Yellow Wall," as their fan section is known, creates an intimidating atmosphere for opponents.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a club with a rich history in German football, consistently competes at the top end of the table. Leverkusen's success stems from their emphasis on developing young talents and playing an attractive, attacking style of football. Leverkusen has produced several notable players over the years and remains a strong contender in the Bundesliga.
RB Leipzig is a relatively new addition to the Bundesliga but has quickly made a name for themselves. With a unique ownership structure and a focus on data-driven analysis, Leipzig has built a talented squad capable of challenging the established giants.
Founded in 1945, VfL Wolfsburg has emerged as a competitive force in the Bundesliga. Wolfsburg is known for its solid defensive play and has consistently challenged the top teams in the league.
Eintracht Frankfurt is a team with a passionate fan base and a reputation for exciting and attacking football. They have a history of performing well in cup competitions and have made their mark in European competitions in recent years.
Based in Berlin, Hertha BSC is one of the oldest and most traditional clubs in German football. While the team has had its ups and downs, they have a loyal fan base and the potential to compete at a high level.
FC Schalke 04, based in Gelsenkirchen, has a passionate fan base and a storied history. While the team has recently faced challenges and was relegated to the second division, they have a loyal following and a strong desire to return to the top flight.
Sources / Quellenangabe:
"Die DFB Geschichte."Deutscher Fussball-Bund, DFB
Gebauer, Gunter."Vom Proletensport zum Kulturgut."Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, bpb, 16 February 2016.
Gunkel, Christoph."Ein Spiel? Ein Kampf!" Spiegel Geschichte, vol 6, 2020, pp.74 -78.