Enlarge image (© picture alliance / dpa) Attractive football, a fast game, plenty of variety, full stadiums and a colourful fan culture – that’s what makes the Bundesliga so fascinating. Just a few years ago, it was considered too static, comparatively backward and no match for Europe’s best. Now it has joined the ranks of the world’s strongest leagues.
Germany’s topfootball league has come a long way. Once derided outside Germany as the drab ‘also-ran’ of European club football, it is now increasingly earning the image of a league that showcases attractive and tactically excellent football. It features established world-class players like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry. Promising up-and-coming hopefuls like Mario Götze, Thomas Müller and André Schürrle are attracting international attention. Young, offensive and successful. With players’ ages averaging just under 25, the Bundesliga is one of the youngest premier leagues in the whole of Europe. That this need not signify a lack of experience was perfectly demonstrated last season by reigning champions Borussia Dortmund whose very young team and thrilling brand of offensive football took them from victory to victory.
What makes Germany’s top league so special is the fact that it is more homogeneous than many other national leagues, not only financially but also in terms of performance. The increasingly intense competition within the league guarantees an exciting season likely to hold some surprises, as the recent past has shown. Even though FC Bayern is still seen as occupying the top spot, in the past five seasons four different teams managed to secure the highly coveted ‘salad bowl’, as the Champions Trophy is popularly known because of its shape. Last year, presumed underdogs like Hannover 96 and FSV Mainz 05 both qualified for an interna Enlarge image (© picture-alliance / dpa) tional competition. This diversity by European standards hasn’t harmed the league’s success. On the contrary: viewed as a loser just a few years ago, the Bundesliga has recently managed to catch up with what are probably the strongest leagues in England and Spain. The Bundesliga’s ascent is evident not only in the growing media interest abroad but also in the UEFA’s five-year league ranking, which determines who qualifies for international competitions and in which Germany recently displaced Italy from third spot.
The fascination surrounding the Bundesliga is also due in no small measure to the venues to which home and away supporters flock every match day, week after week. The German top league’s stadiums are among the biggest and most modern in the world. Many of them have been newly built or completely renovated – in some cases for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. In stark contrast to many other European top leagues, Bundesliga matches invariably draw big – most often capacity – crowds. With stadiums filled to approximately 94% of capacity and an average of some 46,000 spectators per match, Germany is the world leader, way ahead of England’s, Spain’s and Italy’s national leagues. Quite remarkable, in view of this, are the moderate admission charges. Ticket prices in Germany are much lower than at English Premier League or Italian Serie A stadiums.
Enlarge image (© picture alliance / dpa) Even though Germany is not totally immune to the increasing commercialismin Europe’s football stadiums, German football has still managed to retain its identity. It’s a familiar process: the more comfort the modern football temples offer and the more spectators they draw, the more the supporters see the identity of their club and its fan culture in jeopardy. England is often viewed as an example of what has gone wrong. While many clubs there are increasingly in the hands of foreign investors and astronomical ticket prices have driven a once legendary fan culture from many of the country’s stadiums, German football venues preserve their unique atmosphere. Despite the readily perceivable increasingly mainstream nature of football, Bundesliga stadiums remain home to a vibrant fan culture in terms of atmosphere, supporter choreography, chanting and singing. Perfect examples are matches at the home stadiums of Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04 and 1. FC Köln.
The ball has been rolling in the stadiums again since 5 August. In the 2011/2012 season, Borussia Dortmund is set to defend the title. The Bundesliga’s 49th season once again promises attractive football, gripping games, drama, thrills and passion – the fascination of football, the fascination of the Bundesliga.
© Auswärtiges Amt // Benedikt Coekoll