A Weekend In The Life of a Bundesliga Virgin.

23 08 2010
I have never been completely ignorant of the Bundesliga. It has always been there or thereabouts in my football consciousness, but never at the forefront. The Premier League saturates my television screen daily. I spent my youth watching Football Italia on Channel 4, whilst La Liga has become ever more prominent in the UK over the past ten years through Sky Sports’ frequent coverage, coupled with the national side and Barcelona winning everything under the sun. Despite it being consistent in quality and support, a British football fan could be excused for putting the Bundesliga on the back-burner.

Until now. Germany’s success in the 2010 World Cup, coupled with ESPN’s comprehensive (not to mention, excellent) coverage leaves little excuse for the ignorance of a league riddled with positives. This season, I have decided to devote a large portion of my footballing attentions to the Fatherland, and throughout the first weekend of the top division, there were numerous examples of all that is good and great about German football. Here are my original observations after my initial dip into the waters of the Bundesliga.

Noise and Colour.

After a weekend where even St James’ Park was left with 12,000 empty seats upon their return to the Premier League, the sheer numbers that attend games all around the Bundesliga are extremely impressive. No league in Europe has a higher average attendance than the top tier in German football, and indeed, only the Indian Premier League and the NFL, in sport as a whole, can top the Bundesliga in terms of crowd volume. Full stadia means volume of a different kind, with the crowds in Munich, Dortmund and Hamburg at this weekend’s televised games creating an outstanding atmosphere, with only the Westfalenstadion falling silent after Leverkusen’s early dominance. However, these grounds do not only sound good. They look good. Flag and scarf-waving unlike anything seen in the Premier League paint stadiums around Germany vividly in team colours. The 24,000 strong Südtribüne stand at the south end of the Westfalenstadion hosts the largest terraced standing area in Europe, something many British fans would give their right arm for. The Allianz Arena takes that extra step and adds colour to the outside of the stadium as well, with the stadium lit to honour whichever Munich side happens to play at home. The sights and sounds of the Bundesliga generate a desire to be a part of the game; to be one of those standing in ‘The Opera House’ of German football in Dortmund, to drink in the indoor beer-halls of the Allianz or be part of the sea of blue in the Volksparkstadion. This kind of jealousy does not smack me to anywhere near a similar level whilst watching an empty DW Stadium, or one of those quieter nights at the Nou Camp where Barcelona hammer a lesser side. I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest the atmosphere in Germany not only rivals, but betters any seen in the rest of the major European leagues.

Stars of the Future.

Every football fanatic has an elitist locked within them. Whether it rears its ugly head at the surface, with the man in the pub waxing lyrical about the latest Moldovan 15-year-old superstar set to take over the world, or lies buried within the classier and less vocal pundit, most enjoy the notion of discovering a footballing prospect unknown to most. Whilst I wouldn’t be so bold to suggest that anybody starting a game in the Bundesliga is an ‘unknown’ in world football by any means, there is certainly a degree of mystery to the odd youngster in German football, and this can add an enjoyable feature to viewing the division. This summer Thomas Müller lit up the World Cup, and continued this form on Friday in the Allianz, whilst Eljero Elia showed flashes of brilliance during the tournament and in Saturday’s clash with Schalke. Despite the arrivals of old-timers Michael Ballack and Raul to the division, the Bundesliga remains relatively young with respect to the average age of its players, and the chance to discover young talents long before international tournaments presents itself en masse to the objective Bundesliga viewer. Whilst this is true of any league, an outside viewer of German football can follow young talents without the over-exposure and hype of national media, something which the British press, and in turn British fans, are frequently guilty of.

Football Made To Be Enjoyed.

I’m not going to lie. I get fairly passionate about football. Even angry at times. During each Premier League game, I can pretty much guarantee I want one team to win, for one reason or another, and often those reasons are tainted with negativity and bitterness. Therefore, the 270 minutes of Bundesliga I watched at the weekend were pure, unbiased, bliss. I could sit back and enjoy the football itself, cheering each goal, observing each player, like a real football fanatic should. The football itself was pacy, in a similar vein to the national side’s performances, and entertaining as a whole. The game in Munich switched back-and-forth, and always remained competitive, where as Hamburg’s flowing football got the result it deserved against Schalke. However, the individual results and performances mattered little to me, since I have no ties to either of the sides. From an outsider’s point of view, the Bundesliga provides an enormously exciting prospect for a season’s viewing: the ability (and rarity) to enjoy football at face-value.

Football remains eleven men against eleven at any level, on any stage, in any country. The Bundesliga has the same rules, similar ideals and a similar style to any other league in Europe. However, the subtle nuances of every league make football so dynamic, and in turn, enjoyable on so many different levels. The elements listed above will probably not be shared by football fans within Germany itself, and German football fans may even feel the same whilst watching the English Premier League. Such is the beauty of a game seen through so many eyes, from so many different viewpoints that it can be enjoyed in so many different ways. I will certainly enjoy the Bundesliga in my own way in the coming months.

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One response

24 08 2010
Alistair Leadbetter

Great article. I went to see St Pauli play Aachen last season in Budesliga 2 and on the same weekend saw Wolfsburg play FC Koln. Two brilliant experiences – the Wolfsburg game was great fun, skillful and end to end. The St Pauli game was less of a footballing spectacle but in both games the crowd really made the difference.

I reckon I’ll be back for more this season. I’m a Bundesliga convert

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