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Why we Watch German Football
This is what makes the Bundesliga so special, through the eyes of those who follow it all around the globe.
With knee surgery keeping me out for all of this week, this Friday’s newsletter is a sharp change of pace from the normal content you’ve come to expect this season.
Rather than take the labor of love to dissect the promotion race in the Zweite Bundesliga, come to grips with Niko Kovac’s high-flying Wolfsburg, or get to the bottom of Julian Nagelsmann’s shortcomings, I’ve handed the reigns over to the reader this week.
With the help of some long-time readers, Twitter friends, and general German football aficionados, we’ve got a special issue looking at each individual’s personal reason for falling in love with German football.
This is what makes the Bundesliga so special, through the eyes of those who follow it all around the globe.
Founder of Halb Vier, A German Football Fanzine
My love for German football has been a slow and tortuous affair.
Though I first developed a love for Fortuna Düsseldorf - and regretted it soon after - back in the 1980s, my fascination for all of German football didn’t emerge until far more recently. I was despairing of the foothold that TV companies, and later the global financial elite, had taken in the English game. I felt ostracised and treated more like a consumer of a product as opposed to a passionate supporter of a football club.
I soon lost interest in the ‘Disneyfication’ of the game and looked to somewhere where football was still ‘slightly rough around the edges. Germany was the port of destination.
Most people when asked why they love German football quite rightly point to the relatively cheap tickets, the fact that you are able to stand and drink a beer without being treated like a common criminal, and the passionate support of the fans. All of these ring true, but there is also one even more valuable point; the fact that clubs are embedded in a region and the connection they still have with their fan base stemming from the 50 plus one rule.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still problems with the German game – the over-zealous nature of the Police, the monopoly that Bayern holds on the Bundesliga, the non-existent vegetarian food at most grounds (maybe that’s only me), and the prevalence of drums at certain clubs, but there’s still a soul in the game that has long since disappeared from the Premier League.
Global Football Analyst
I watch the Bundesliga because of the constant thrill and excitement.
Everything from individual players to matches, to the massive race for all the European spots and relegation! Even with only 18 teams, it always seems like there are at least 10 teams battling for a crucial spot in the last few matchdays of the season.
Furthermore, as someone with a passion for young prospects, the Bundesliga is the #1 league in the world for having some of the most talented young players reaching their peak or developing to their potential. It is almost taken for granted that teams, no matter where they are in the table, give valuable minutes to young players.
And we haven’t even mentioned the atmosphere!
Even through the TV, the environment is palpable. The vast majority of stadiums are always full of lively and loud fans, singing before the first whistle and after the last, regardless of the score, and regardless of where they are at in the table.
Beyond that, the culture of football is truly something else in Germany.
Despite only having fairly elementary German skills, there is no shortage of news and analysis for me to find. Everything from quick post-match reactions to deeper dives into one specific event. You are able to truly live and breathe all things Bundesliga to any depth your heart desires. There is also a ton of information in English, which can’t always be said for other leagues.
From an outsider's perspective, everything about the Bundesliga typically screams “well-run”. Especially with the 50+1 rule, clubs typically feel like they are of, by, and for the fans. The passion and the emotional connection between the clubs and their fans translates to the pitch and resonates across the Atlantic into my home.
Even though I try to watch as many leagues as possible, the Bundesliga is too high of a bar for any league to ever hurdle.
A Passionate European Football Fan
There are so many reasons I love the Bundesliga. It is a fun, physical league to watch with a lot of exciting youngsters. Jamal Musiala, Jude Bellingham, Randal Kolo-Muani, how many words do I have, the list goes on and on!
The Bundesliga is also a league with a lot of smart coaches who rarely get the credit they deserve in wider Europe. The fans are another incredible factor, while the accessibility through the large stadiums, great public transportation, and relatively cheap tickets make it an ideal weekend destination for European football fans!
European Football Fan & Journalist
German culture, for the most part, is synonymous with conservatism, discipline, and generally reiterates the importance of doing things by the book.
This has for decades translated to success for their national team, with “Die Mannschaft” striking a great balance between elite mentality and polished technical ability.
However, part of what makes the country's domestic league so enticing seems to be the very opposite.
The spontaneous and in turn entertaining nature of it is highlighted by the number of goals scored week in and week out - over 3.2 per game. All but one team in the league averages a goal a game, while front-runners like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, and Eintracht Frankfurt are all averaging at least two goals scored per game after 21 matchdays.
Moreover, in a seemingly overly tactical era of the game, with limited space for players to showcase their talent having become the norm, most teams in the Bundesliga still boldly deploy a high defensive line in a bid to win the ball back in opposition territory. These clashing tactical outlooks result in very open, back-and-forth games that are often as enthralling, as they are intense to keep up with.
Lastly, for the first time in what seems an eternity Bayern's throne looks to be under threat, as the top 6 is only separated by a handful of points. It sets up a mouth-watering second half of the season which I will be keeping a key eye on until the very end!
Head of the City Report Podcast & Bundesliga
The arguments for not watching the Bundesliga are, admittedly, strong ones.
It’s a league that for the past decade has been won by the same team. 10 years in a row.
Ice bucket challenges, selfie sticks, and a global pandemic have all come and gone (well, sort of in the case of Covid-19), since any team other than Bayern Munich last won the Meisterschale. Away from that, the Bundesliga isn’t exactly littered with world-class top talent either, as is the case in some of Europe’s other top leagues.
So why the Bundesliga?
Away from Bayern’s domination lies a league full of intrigue. From the stadiums to the culture and even the playing styles, nowhere else does it quite like Germany. Where in other leagues an indiscreet meeting between two mid-table sides would likely provide a pretty dull affair, in Germany, five, six, and even seven-goal thrillers are regular occurrences. Just ask Werder Bremen supporters!
Then there are the atmospheres. German football is a place where passion in the terraces is encouraged, not frowned upon. In a growing world of sanitised and commercialised football culture , the unfiltered devotion and constant noise created by fans of German clubs is something that should be considered sacred.
Ethiopian Football Reporter & Commentator
I believe the reasons that make one fall for a certain league could get lost over time.
Yet, we would most likely continue to follow it, as ever, adjusting ourselves to the new norm.
That's what the sport is all about, I guess. Emotions and attachment.
My first Bundesliga experience was just before the big transition around the 2006 World Cup. A brawl after the final whistle which resulted in a red card for Rafael van der Vaart is my vivid memory of the first Bundesliga game I've ever watched. Shortly after, it gets a completely new dimension.
Young blood both on the pitch and in the managerial dugouts, transition football, and more and more goals. But I was totally committed to the cause before it became the hipsters' league.
As such, it's so hard for me to single out the reasons why it remained my favorite for 15+ years.
My confidence in that dedication remaining with me for life wraps my argument quite well, I suppose. Once you go Bundesliga, you'll never go back.
The passion and fan culture. Exciting football and goals galore. The football tradition and the way the clubs run. All of those things make it easier to keep me interested in Bundesliga. No doubt about that.
But, then again, I'll never let it go even if German football loses those aspects one day (season).
Instead, as Pep would say, "I'LL BE THERE"!
Avid Bundesliga Fan from Australia
I was a teenager when I first started watching German football, having found it through my family’s Foxtel (cable TV) subscription, which included BeIn Sports. What hooked me was a particularly fiery, vibrant character named Jurgen Klopp, what kept me was the sheer, unabashed lunacy of the game.
I love the Bundesliga because of Union Berlin. Because of Lars Windhorst’s Hertha Berlin. Because of Klopp’s Dortmund, and Peter Bosz’s Dortmund. Because of Streich’s Freiburg and Kohfeldt’s Werder. There’s always a story, always something new to latch onto, and the football is always pure.
People would say “but Bayern wins every league!” And I’d always counter with “sure, that can be annoying, but everything below Bayern is sheer chaos.” It’s brilliant seeing teams like Tedesco’s Schalke make the Champions League, just like it’s entirely gripping watching that Schalke team then become one of the worst football teams I’ve ever watched a mere three seasons later.
I absorbed most of my Bundesliga watching through the “it’s absolutely superb” 1-hour Highlights Show. It became my equivalent to Match of the Day on a Monday evening in Melbourne, and it only spurred me on to watch more.
Most significant was the lack of money seeping into everything; it’s hardly pure, but I wasn’t (and still am not) having to willfully ignore the fact that I’m watching a sporting team owned by a state, completely squashing any sense of sporting parity. Don’t get me wrong, there are troubling owners (or sponsors), but the sense of purity is so clearly defined as compared to a lot of other murky, boring, morally tricky leagues.
The Bundesliga is just fun. It’s always been fun, in a chaotic kind of way, and that’s the best kind of football.
Freelance Report & Actor
How does a young Korean American from California fall in love with German football?
He falls in love by watching Oliver Kahn dominate the first World Cup held on Asian soil.
Then, he witnesses the German national team play the most exciting brand of football in the world from 2010 to 2014. Instead of the boring “death by a thousand cuts” approach taken by Spain, Jogi Löw and his men made it their mission to entertain. The intricate combination of counter-attacking and constant pressure made the German machine a thing to marvel at.
Now as an adult, I maintain an avid interest in German football even though the national team has fallen from grace.
The Bundesliga is the one league that has yet to be invaded by insane transfer prices. Instead of shelling out loads of money for star players, Bundesliga clubs are dedicated to strong recruitment principles that find the best young players at reasonable prices This means that fans get to watch these youngsters develop properly before they go mainstream.
I can’t tell you how proud I feel knowing that I hyped up Bundesliga products such as Joshua Kimmich and Kai Havertz long before the British media knew who they were.
The 2022-23 Bundesliga title race is shaping up to be one of the closest in recent memory.
Here’s to hoping that the finish is just as exciting as the beginning!