Archive for the ‘Bundesliga’ Category

The one and only 1. FC Kaiserslautern Soccer Club It is a question we are often asked in life, usually as it relates to that first kiss, the first sexual encounter or our first real love interest. As you know, The Real Futbol is a soccer blog so our ‘first time’ memories are squarely focused on the beautiful game and what first got us dreaming of bicycle kicks and last second match winners.

In this post, our ‘first time’ will take you to Kaiserslautern, the quaint town’s footballing pride and joy, Germany’s Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and the crown jewel of it all, Fritz Walter Stadium (auf dem Betzenberg).

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team.

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team

My first trip to “K-Town” to see the ‘Roten Teufel vom Betzenberg’ was some 26 years ago. I was not particularly pumped up to see FCK play but definitely curious since this would be my first professional soccer game. I had zero expectations going in and was more excited about sampling the Stadion eats and treats then I was about having a front row seat to some of the most fanatical Fussball ‘Fandom’ in all of Germany. The roughly 50 mile drive from Roemerberg was one to remember as the last 20 miles of our route was bumper-to-bumper traffic chock-full of FCK fans commuting to this Friday evening match from all over the region.

The FCK Westkurve ist one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

The FCK Westkurve is one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

Cars were decorated with FCK scarves, flags, decals and any number of fan items you can imagine, passengers wore their FCK jerseys and jackets and took every opportunity to ‘serenade’ the home team with a Hupkonzert (car honking concert) and popular FCK fan songs.

By the time we parked at Kaiserslautern’s Messeplatz and took the bus up ‘Zum Betze’ (the ‘mountain’ where the stadium sits), I had forgotten about Bratwurst  and Cola and was part of the mob singing “Hoeher Hoeher FCK” at the top of my lungs and quivering with excitement about what I would experience next.

The Betzenberg in Kaiserslautern (also known as Fritz Walter Stadion) is the home of the FCK red devils

Back then, all German Fussball stadiums had legitimate terraces (standing room only supporter sections) so nobody except a few pampered VIPs would dare sit during the game.

The Red Devil is FCK's lucky mascot, devil horns and all

The Red Devil is FCK’s lucky mascot, devil horns and all

Standing during a 90 minute soccer match may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but I can’t think of a better way to intimately experience the pulse of the game, every bad shot, every hair-raising foul and of course every sweet goal.  I remember we played Bayer Leverkusen and the legendary South Korean striker Cha Boom known not only for his awesome name but thunderous ball striking ability. The biggest highlight by far was admiring the vast sea of red, made up of 20,000+ FCK supporters crammed into the West-end fan section (the legendary FCK Westkurve)

The rest of the evening was a blur but I remember coming home and discovered I had left my voice in Kaiserslautern. What a night! What a team! What awesome fans! I was hooked for good.

Fritz Walter Tribute Choreography

FCK fans honor hometown hero and Germany World Cup winner Fritz Walter with a choreographed pre-game celebration to remember

Second division German Bundesliga soccer is back after an action-packed first week of the 2013/2014 season ended on Monday with freshly relegated Fortuna Duesseldorf’s 1:0 victory over Energie Cottbus. Our Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern was equally successful in its season opener with a fairly ‘decisive’ 1:0 win in Paderborn last weekend. Simon Zoller celebrates FCK debuteDie Roten Teufel featured a ‘new look’ Elf with four starters making their FCK debuts including Finnish International Alexander RIng and youngster striker Simon Zoller, both of whom thoroughly impressed, and in the case of Zoller, even netted the winning goal. This Friday evening FCK hosts FC Ingolstadt 04 at the Betzenberg marking both the FCK Faithful’s first look at the ‘new and improved’ squad as well as the return of former coach Marco Kurz and FCK defender Leon Jessen. Although Kurz got the Pfaelzer boot (aka his dismissal from the club) back in March of 2012, K-Town is still a fan of the well-traveled Fussball teacher and Lautern fans won’t quickly forget his leadership and coaching ability that led to FCK’s Bundesliga promotion back in 2011, after four long years in 2. Liga.

The mystical Betzenberg in K-Town

The Betzenberg and the Fritz Walter Stadion are the pride and joy of Kaiserslautern and every 1. FCK fan around the world. Built in 1920 and majorly upgraded in time for FIFA’s 2006 World Cup in Germany, the stadium packs in 50,000+ fans and is known throughout Germany and Europe as one of the toughest ‘away’ places to play.

Match wise, Kaiserslautern should have the upper hand, especially if you look at the teams’ last four encounters dating back to 2008 (3 wins, 1 draw) and this season’s FCK squad and its new weapons both among strikers and midfielders. Add to that, the support of 40,000+ hometown Lautern fans at the Fritz Walter Stadion at the Betzenberg and “6 points after 2 matches” should not come as a surprise.

Some things are just meant to be … We expected Boston and all New Englanders to rise up, rally and hunt down the Boston Marathon terrorists, we knew Manchester United couldn’t be relegated to 2nd place for long and to no ones surprise they easily re-claimed the English Premier League championship this year. It’s with the same conviction and confidence that I predict that 1. FC Kaiserslautern, ‘das Herz der Pfalz’, will once again be ‘first class and at the conclusion of the 2013/2014 2. Bundesliga Season be promoted back to the German ‘Oberhaus’.  Like team GM and FCK legend Stefan Kuntz said after the relegation playoff to Hoffenheim in May, “what saddens me the most is that we have first class fans who deserve to support a first class team.” I admit I was crushed after ‘die roten Teufel’ so narrowly missed promotion this year, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was too early and the talent pool was too thin to make it last. FCK Erst Klassig

Kaiserslautern is a so called Traditionsverein- a club with tradition, tradition for being a strong member of the German soccer Elite not a ‘yo-yo’ club consistently fighting relegation.  Before the 1996 season, Kaiserslautern was one of only four of the original sixteen teams that had played in each Bundesliga season since the inception of the league in 1963, never having been relegated. Since then, FCK has been relegated thrice with the darkest period being the 2008/09 season when the club was one loss away from being demoted down to the 3rd German Liga. Stefan Kuntz, who was brought in as savior and GM in 2008, has had his share of ups and downs (near demotion to league 3 and relegation in 2011/12) but continues to build a solid foundation for future success. Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of 1.FCK’s preparations for the 2013/2014 season on TRF and the Bundesliga Fanatic and an ‘Ausflug nach Kaiserslautern’ pictorial later this month.  For now, let’s remember what the squad accomplished last year and agree ‘Das war Erstklassig’. Maybe not first class in terms of gaining promotion, but first class for re-energizing fan spirit and the unequivocal Herzblut that defines FCK fans throughout the region and all over the world.

About a year ago I stumbled upon a timely and well written article about German Bundesliga footballers migrating to Major League Soccer and before I knew it I was 2 hours and 30 comments into my eight article on something German soccer related … I had just discovered the Bundesliga Fanatic, an English language site dedicated to German football. According to BF founder and brainchild Gerry Wittmann, “the blog’s aim is to publicize and spread the history, culture, quality,and competitiveness of the Bundesliga and German football to the English speaking world.”

But it offers so much more. Thanks to the gifted staff writers and to an extremely diverse team of contributors (of which I am one), no German soccer story, past, present or future is left unturned. Content ranges from match reports and analysis to historical and cultural pieces as well as interviews with prominent figures and players.

Beyond the content, the interaction with other contributors and BF readers is awesome and truly makes blog content come to life with commentary and opinions. In fact, I have discovered numerous other tasty football sites and resources thanks to the Fanatic.

With roughly 30 new articles per week, the content never gets old, and during the German Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga season (August t0 May) things really start to heat up. Nearly each major Bundesliga team has a loyal fan/analyst who contributes match reports and analysis on a weekly basis, and thanks to a deep writing roster, many less popular, often obscure topics and teams are spotlighted. Speaking of, as a passionate 1. FC Kaiserslautern fan, I will continue to contribute match previews/reviews for the Fanatic kicking off with a 2012/13 ‘K-town in der 2. Bundesliga’ preview later this summer.

Currently, the Fanatic is doing a full court press on the Euro 2012 tournament with more than 60 articles (since June 8th) focused on the German National Team, profiles of Bundesliga players competing for other Euro teams, and many historical Euro match pieces.

My favorite part is the Euro 2012 contest Gerry and his team came up with which tests your German national team soccer knowledge in exchange for some fancy football gear and other prizes. The final Euro contest is going on now so check it out and see if you can win some cool memorabilia including a Germany ultimate fan goodie bag donated by yours truly and The Real Futbol blog.

Last month, we featured 17 must-see April football matches, all of importance in regards to very tight domestic league competitions in England, Germany and Italy, and the Champions League. In Germany, the April 11 Bayern v. Dortmund clash of the Bundesliga Titans and resulting BVB victory, sealed the championship for the ‘Westphalians’. Borrusia’s unbeaten run (currently at  27) included consecutive wins against 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed teams to clinch the repeat Bundesliga crown. In the English Premier League, it was the ‘worst of times, it was the best of times’ for Manchester City as their April 8th match-up with Arsenal ended in an ugly 0:1 defeat and the near end to their domestic championship hopes — rival Man U was 8 points ahead in the table. Fast forward to earlier this week and City’s thrilling home victory against United putting them atop of the table on goal differential. All eyes will be on City this weekend as they face 5th place Newcastle in their second to last encounter of the year.

While the English and Italian domestic titles are still up in the air, Spain just today crowned Real Madrid its 2011/12 La Liga champion for the first time since 2007/08. The decisive victory came April 21st vs. arch-enemy Barcelona breaking a four-year unbeaten streak. Barca’s dip in form culminated in a 2 match losing streak, a loss in the Champions League semis to FC Chelsea, and the resignation of iconic Barca manager Pep Guardiola.

Speaking of the Champions League, the two away-legs of the semis featuring Chelsea at Barcelona and Bayern at Real Madrid produced some of the most dramatic and memorable moments in CL history.  While 10-man Chelsea defended to the death against a dominant Barcelona team culminating in a 90th minute decisive break-away goal by Chelsea underachiever Fernando Torres, the confident Bavarians clinched their second CL final appearance in three years in a wild penalty shootout win versus favored Real.

Without further ado, let’s look at the barn-burners on tap for May:

FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium, Chelsea vs. Liverpool, May 5th: Both sides have had rather strange, yet fairly fruitful campaigns. While both have under performed domestically, Liverpool has already secured one trophy (Carlin Cup) and Chelsea is still in the running for a FA Cup/Champions League double. If momentum were the deciding factor, the nod would have to go to Chelsea.

EPL, Newcastle vs. Manchester City, May 6: Newcastle will try to secure a Cl-spot for next season and would like to spoil City’s attempt at domestic championship glory.

Serie A, Inter Milan vs. AC Milan, May 6: AC Milan is currently in 2nd place in the Serie A table, one point behind undefeated Juventus Turin.  Inter has yet again underachieved and will try to spoil their rival’s title hopes and secure themselves a Europa league spot by winning this local derby.

EPL, Blackburn vs. Wigan, May 7: We picked this one because of its importance in the EPL relegation fight. Blackburn is a surefire relegation candidate if they lose this one on.

EPL, Liverpool vs. Chelsea, May 8: Three days after squaring off in the FA Cup final, the two meet yet again, this time more for pride and final table placement than anything else.

Europa League Final, Arena Nationala, Bucharest, May 9th: The 2012 UEFA Europa League Final will oppose two Spanish sides – Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao with Madrid having last won the cup in 2010.

German Cup (DFB Pokal) Final, Olympia Stadion, Berlin, May 12th: FC Bayern vs. Borussia Dortmund, ‘Clash of the German Titans, part three’. Dortmund has not lost a match in 26 tries and has beaten Bayern in its last four tries. Bayern is trying to rebound from a disappointing domestic season, but use it’s Champions League momentum to shoot for part 1 of the part 2 trophy double.

Champions league final, Allianz Arena, Munich, Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea FC, May 19th: Bayern is the first CL finalist to play in front of a home crowd so the ’12th man’ definitely favors the Germans to with the crown. Both Bayern and Chelsea could be viewing for double championships – both are also in the finals of the domestic cup competitions.

nPower Championship Play-off Final, Wembley Stadium, May 19th: As of May 2nd, the final match-up was still undetermined but a 2 game play-off between Cardiff City v. West Ham United and Blackpool v. Birmingham City will determine the May 19th finalist. Wembley Stadium, the site of last year’s Champions League Final will once again host the final match which determines who earns promotion to the English Premier League. Last year, Welsh side Swansea City defeated Reading to win its first ever promotion to the EPL.

Coppa Italia, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Juventus vs. Napoli, May 20th: The 2012 Coppa Italia Final will be the final match of the 64th Italian domestic cup season of the top cup competition in Italian football. The match features Juventus and Napoli both of which are having very succesful seasons. Juventus, which as of May 2nd had not lost a match in Serie A competition, may be able to complete the Coppa/Serie A trophy double with a victory.

OK folks, it’s that time of the year again … we’re approaching mid-March aka crunch time for many struggling German Bundesliga 1st division soccer teams. There are 10 games left on the 2011/12 Bundesliga season schedule, and my beloved 1. FCK is in last place with no place to go but up (or down into 2nd division football in 2012/13). And that’s the thrust of this post, to provide 7 real world reasons why all FCK fans should keep the faith and believe in the ‘miracle of Betze’- our team’s ability to scratch and claw and avoid demotion to the 2. Bundesliga come May 5th. Why 7 you ask, because it is one of my lucky Roulette numbers, and, in addition to fan support and quality play on the pitch, the thing we need most right now is LUCK! Here’s my lucky seven:

Do the math: Like my good buddy T-Bone Callahan, FCKler 4 life and TRF contributor mentions, there are 30 points yet to be had and approximately 17-19 needed (based on past league stats) to remain ‘first class’.  While this translates to 4 wins (12 points) and 5 further draws (5 points) by matchday 34 on May 5th, the remaining opponents are, for the most part, beatable … Stuttgart today is a must win; Schalke at home, why not? Freiburg did it last week; away game in Freiburg, a must win of course; Hamburg- we should have won the 1st time, this time we’ll do it; Hoffenheim- a tough local rival, but with some momentum and guts …; Nürnberg and Hertha are definitely win-able while Dortmund, Hannover and  Leverkusen are probable losses.

Will wearing his heart on his sleeve save his job and his team from relegation? I sure hope so!

Stick with Marco Kurz: This is NOT the time to hire and fire. If anything, think long and hard about the future of GM Stefan Kuntz and his   recent player acquisitions, but don’t mess with Kurz. He brought the back to the 1. Bundesliga in 2010 and has great chemistry with his players.

More than a ‘one trick’ pony: As T-Bone has pointed out on numerous occasions, hoping to convert goals based on standards (free kics, corners and the like) and ‘pray for rain’ style ‘kick and rush’ soccer alone will not break the goal drought. Orchestrate attacks from the flanks and take advantage of the midfield speed and youth up front. All players are advised to watch a Miroslav Klose (ex FCK striker) highlight reel since most of his goals are of the aerial/header variety.

Consistency is vital, stop changing the recipe: Any one watching the team play this year would attest to a great degree of inconsistency on the pitch. Midfielders have been swapped all year, the Sturm (strikers) has had many, less successful faces and now, even the goal is becoming a position of controversy. Pick a starting 11 that is dedicated to the cause and willing to go to battle together and ‘just do it’. With that said, I do agree with comrade T-Bone that selecting a more aggressive, dual attacker formation during home games is a wise strategy. If FCK fans show up to the remaining home games, the ’12th’ man, along with the a more attack-minded formation, can really make the difference and hopefully turn draws into desperately needed 3 point victories.

Christian Tiffert has had a lousy season but it's never too late to make up for it with key goals and assists down the home stretch.

Converting goal opportunities. In FCKs 10 tie games this season (3rd highest of all 18 Bundesliga clubs), we counted an average of 2 legitimate, ‘you don’t have to be Messi to score’, missed goal chances per match. Last week vs. VFL Wolfsburg, the red devils squandered  4 such golden opportunities. Key to success: Get out of your own heads, convert the goal shots  you worked hard to create and say ‘yes’ to freebies your opponents might afford you

Don’t cry over spilt milk: Or as my economics professor used to say, ‘sunk costs are sunk’ – what happened yesterday is irrelevant, the past investments you made in players, the great players you lost … all that matters not in the present. Don’t make decisions based on what you did yesterday! With that said, play the game and fight like you meant it and focus on goal getting at every turn versus still lamenting the loss of former FCK strikers such as Lakic, Jendrisek and Hoffer. Belief starts from within!

1.FCK Herzblut: FCK fans are the truest, most loyal fans in the world. We bleed red and white and ‘would walk 500 miles and 500 more’ to not only support our Jungs but also see them fight their way to safety this year. Remember Fritz Walter, remember Klose, Kuntz, Rehagel, and the miracles of ’91 and ’98, hell remember the Alamo if it helps save our arses this year!

Check out this clip of FCK fans at their finest … These scenes are from last August’s home game vs. Augsburg … a not too distant memory. Hoeher Hoeher FCK! 

This is my long overdue post on the German first division of football, ‘Die Bundesliga’, and why its Rodney Dangerfield “I get no respect” mantra of years past has been replaced by stiff competition, great players, a rabid fan following and media attention around the world.

Modern Bundesliga football makes the heart sing

What was my personal wake up call? The turning point that made me think, woah, the Bundesliga is much more than a bunch of local ‘Provinzkicker’ and a few strong regional teams with a faithful fan base within their Bundesland (German state) and maybe a few expat stragglers. Here are some musings …

Who the hell is Wolfsburg? Founded in 1938, the football club grew out of a multi-sports club for Volkswagen workers in the city of Wolfsburg and is a wholly owned subsidiary of VW Group. Aside a 2nd place finish in the 1995 DFB Pokal (German Cup), the team was anything but impressive and spent decades trading places in the German 3rd and 2nd division before staying put in the 1. Liga after the 1997 season … And then there was the 2008/9 Bundesliga season.

Top Bundesliga goal-getters and champions VFL Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko and Grafite

Not only did ‘Die Woelfe’ (the wolves) win the Bundesliga title, they did so in dramatic fashion with a must-win victory the last game of the season. Beyond that, they tied the Bundesliga record for consecutive wins and were the only team to boast two 20+ goal strikers with Brazilian Grafite and Bosnian Edin Dzeko scoring 28 and 26 respectively. While Grafite is past his prime and now plays club football in Dubai, UAE, Dzeko is a reliable striker and steady goal scorer for English Premier League side Manchester City. The other big sensation that year was 1899 Hoffenheim, a freshly promoted team that shocked the league winning the Herbstmeisterschaft (autumn title) at the season’s halfway mark. While devastating injuries and bad luck spoiled their championship run, it was refreshing to have the newbies along with VFL Wolfsburg dominate the footballing headlines. These epic performances and the entire roller coaster 2008/9 Bundesliga season made me realize how fun the Liga is and how extremely competitive many teams are, all with the desire and ability to give Bayern a run for their Euros.

Why would Raúl play in Germany? Raúl is a Spanish footballing legend who spent most of his career with Spanish club Real Madrid. He’s s the club’s all-time top goalscorer, a three-time winner of the UEFA Champions League and its all-time leading scorer. When he left Spain in 2010 and headed for Bundesliga club Schalke 04 most figured he’d have one more year of quality football left in his now 34-year-old body.  But why Germany? Why learn a new language at such a ‘ripe’ age? And why subject yourself to inevitable disappointment after decades of top flight football accolades and accomplishments. To sum it up in Raúl’s words: “I really enjoy playing in the Bundesliga. No matter where we play, the stadiums are full and the atmosphere is incredible”. Enough said. Judging by the caliber of the league’s players and the number of foreign stars making the move to Germany, the league’s reputation has gotten a major boost. And yes, Raúl is still ‘Auf Schalke’, still playing is aging butt off.

Let’s dig a bit deeper and compare Bundesliga facts and figures with the other ‘big’ leagues — the English Premier League (EPL), Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A.

Bavarian translation: "We are who we are" and " We are Champions"

Competition: This is what it’s all about … teams clawing and scratching to gain an advantage in the league table and hopefully finish in a favorable position that will bring the club major revenue via a Europa League or Champions League spot, or perhaps even a league championship. Let’s look at titles — according to a recent Kicker Sportmagazin statistic, the last 7 Bundesliga championships have been won by 4 different teams (Bayern, Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Dortmund). Compare that to England, Italy and Spain, where 2 teams have dominated the league during that same time frame. Let’s look at table positions among the top 4. As of late January, 1 point separated Bayern at the top from 4th placed Borussia Moenchengladbach; 6 points separated Italy’s 1st place Juventus Turin from Inter Milan’s 4th position, while the point difference between one and four was 13 in England and 18 in Spain. Lastly, when looking at ‘first vs. worst’ matches dating back to 2000, German Bundesliga underdogs have a 26.3% chance of beating their top ranked rivals compared to only 17.6 % in England and a shocking 0% in Italy. Yes, within the last 11+ years, not one Italian last placed team has beaten a first placed rival.

Diversity: Thanks to an awesome German football statistics site called Transfermarkt (with English, Italian and Spanish versions among others), we know that 49% of all 519 players in the 1. Bundesliga are foreigners compared to 38% in La Liga, 48% in Italy and a whopping 63% in the English Premier League. The foreign player statistics are useful because they help silence naysayers that claim the Bundesliga is isolated and insular to top foreign player investment. In terms of attracting top international talent to Germany, the ‘homegrown’ approach has worked really well, and within the last 3 years in particular, German-born stars such as Mueller, Goetze, Reus, Kroos, and Schuerrle have single-handedly taken Bundesliga competition to the next level. The tables are slowly turning with Spanish and Italian teams recruiting the likes of Oezil, Khedira and Klose away from the homeland.

Another unforgettable match at FCK's Betzenberg

Fan base: The Bundesliga continues to boom. Average per match attendance in the first 17 games of the 2011/12 season was 44,791, the best in the league’s history, and 48% higher than Serie A figures, 32% more than La Liga and 23% higher than England’s top flight. A total of 6.78 Million fans saw 153 games in the first half of the season, a 7% increase from 2010/11 when a total of 12.88 Million filled German stadiums to see Bundesliga action.

Media exposure & global curb appeal: Ironically, the German Soccer League (Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL)), has done a much better job of promoting and more importantly providing match access abroad than at home. That’s good for us in the states, yet crappy for my family and buddies in Deutschland. While the German pay-per-view option (Sky TV) has a few million Bundesliga package subscribers, the other 80 million Germans have to wait for Saturday nights and the Sportschau (celebrating 50 years in 2012) to get their Bundesliga fix. The local channels ARD and ZDF do broadcast occasional Bundesliga clashes as well as Champions League action but our options stateside are much better! On any given weekend (starting with the solo Friday night game), I can tune into 3-4 Bundesliga matches on GolTV, the Spanish language ESPN Deportes, or ESPN Now’s internet stream, which is also available via my XBOX 360. In addition, GolTV offers two Bundesliga-specific programs, a 30 minute weekly match preview called Bundesliga Magazine and a 30 minute match review with Hallo! Bundesliga.

So to sum it up, I strongly believe old Ben Franklin’s enduring saying “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” most accurately applies to the Bundesliga in 2012.

Staying connected with friends, family and football (soccer/fussball) are vitally important (sehr wichtig!) and over the past 3 years in particular technology has led the way in keeping us tuned in … think Skype, Vontage, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  On the ‘access to football’ side of things we have experienced a true Renascence and between cable/satellite/ and online streaming sources I can tune into virtually ANY Serie A (Italy), La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany) or Premier League (England) match.

Germany's only Bundesliga footie radio

However, my absolute favorite and 100% reliable source for German Bundesliga games is 90elf (90 eleven), Germany’s football/soccer radio, and THE source for live German language audio coverage of all Bundesliga games, German Cup (DFB Pokal) matches as well as select UEFA Europa League and Champions League fixtures featuring German clubs. Thanks to 90elf’s media & PR guy Martin Huelsmann, we recently completed a Q&A (Frage/Antwort) session explaining the who? what? where? when? of the station. I left the original Auf Deutsch (in German) and translated the essence for non-German readers. While the language barrier might keep you from enjoying 90elf coverage to the fullest, I contend listening to a Bundesliga game this way is the best method to learning Deutsch, or if nothing else, getting a true flavor of the beautiful game, German style … Enjoy!

90 sekunden, 11 Fragen (90 seconds, 11 questions)

Am Besten mit etwas 90elf Background starten: Wie lange in Betrieb? 90elf, Deutschlands Fußball-Radio,  überträgt seit August 2008 alle Spiele der 1. und 2. Bundesliga in voller Länge, einzeln und in der Konferenz, dazu den DFB-Pokal.

90-11 background: Germany’s soccer radio has been broadcasting since August 2008 including all Bundesliga (1st and 2nd division) games, in full length, individually or in conference  mode. Additional broadcasts include the German cup.

Warum gegruendet? Weil Fußball das beste der Spiel der Welt ist und in Deutschland für einen Spartensender bei König Fußball das größte Potential ist.

Why did you start/found the station? Soccer is the best game in the world and in Germany provides the best potential as a succesful niche station.

"Einfach Play Button klicken" (just press play) to hear live Bundesliga games

Hoererzahlen (historisch bis Heute): Mit über 2 Millionen Hörkontakten hat 90elf einen meisterlichen Auftakt in die Bundesliga-Saison 2011/2012 hingelegt und feiert damit gleichzeitig ein Rekordergebnis in seiner nun dreijährigen Geschichte. Zum Vergleich: In der letzten Saison wurde Deutschlands Fußball Radio pro Spieltag durchschnittlich 1 Million Mal eingeschaltet.

Listener statistics: Heading into the 2011/12 season, we registered over 2 million listeners, a new record in our short three year history. Comparatively, this is one million more than tuned into Bundesliga broadcasts last season.

Ausser Bundesliga-LIVE, was sind die LieblingsprogrammeGanz klar der 90elf-Bolzplatz, der interaktive Fußball-Talk auf 90elf in der Woche (dienstags, mittwochs, donnerstags 19.00 Uhr CET)  Hier kommen Fußballer, Experten, aber auch Fans zu Wort.

Besides the Bundesliga-LIVE broadcast, what are some other favorite programs? Clearly, our 90elf-Bolzplatz (training ground) show, featuring interactive soccer chats involving our experts, professional players and fans, is a big hit. It airs during the week – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday- 7PM Central European Time.

Was is der ‘Fan-Favourite’ Lieblingsfeature auf der Webseite? Neben den Livestreams natürlich die Beiträge und Sendungen zum Nachhören, aber auch allgemeine Infos zum Tabellenstand und zum Programm.

What is the fan favorite/ fave website feature? The Livestreams and various on-demand programs and regarding. Also, anything related to the league table and stats.

Bitte erklaeren Sie das Verhaeltniss/Zusammenspiel zwischen 90elf und social media: Social Media ist gelebter Bestandteil unseres Programms: Wir binden die Hörer über Facebook & Co. aktiv ein, wo es geht. Bis hin zur Fankonferenz bei Facebook: Hier werden die User zum Programmdirektor und haben Einfluss zu welchem Spiel geschaltet werden soll und worüber gesprochen werden soll.

Please explain the interplay between 90elf and social media: Social media is a vital part of our programming and we try to connect our listeners at every turn through popular services like Facebook and our fan conference feature. The conference lets our listeners put on the ‘director’s hat’ and make decisions on which games are broadcast and what the play-by-play reporters should talk about.

Wie lauten die Zukunftsziele des Senders? Englisches Programming? Pay-per-view Abo/Subscriptionmodelle? Videos, Live-Stream oder andere Multimedia Formate? Mit der hohen Qualität unserer Berichterstattung sowie weiteren Live-Rechten und Übertragungskanälen wollen wir ganz klar auf die große nationale Fußball-Bühne. Mit den aktuellen  Zahlen  sind wir auf dem besten Weg dahin und haben die Qualifikation sozusagen erfolgreich bestanden.

What’s in 90elf’s future? Based on the high quality programming and reporting, we plan to take the station to the larger national soccer stage. The current fan interest and downloads give us the demand proof we need to move forward.

Das Prachtstueck des 90elf Fussball-Radios ist meiner Meinung nach der Moderatorkader. Wer gehoert den Bei Euch in die ‘Startelf’ ? Wer ist Mannschaftskapitaen? Kapitän ist Programmchef Fabian von Wachsmann, Chefreporter ist Tom Hilgers. Beim gesamten Kader gilt aber eigentlich: Der Star ist die Mannschaft. Aber natürlich freuen wir uns auch sehr, so einzigartige Reporterpersönlichkeiten wie Manni Breuckmann oder Günther Koch in unseren Reihen zu haben.

I am convinced the ‘crown jewel’ of 90-elf radio is your team of match reporters and commentators. Who comprises your top 11 and who is your captain? Our captain is program director Fabian von Wachsmann, chief reporter is Tom hilgers, and larger than life radio personalities Manni Breuckmann and Günther Koch are among our reporter ranks as well.

Letzte Frage: Der neue 90elf Fan hat nur 2stunden pro Woche Zeit fuer Euer Programming? Was ist eine ‘must listen’ Sendung oder Uebertragung? Beides: 90 Minuten Spiel und die restlichen 30 für den 90elf-Bolzplatz in der Woche, um keine Entzugserscheinungen zu bekommen.-)

Last question: What are the ‘must listen’ shows you recommend for a new 90elf fan who has 2 hours per week to spare? I say they listen to a 90-minute Bundesliga broadcast of their choice (or the conference option for all games in 90 minutes) and spend the other 30 minutes tuning into the ‘Bolzplatz’ broadcast.

Now that you have read this … you know what to do; check out, Germany’ go-to-source for Bundesliga radio broadcast action.

Last week kicked-off the first round of the 2011/12 DFB Pokal competition including 64 German professional and amateur football teams. The German Cup, equivalent to other countries’ domestic competitions such the FA Cup (England), Copa del Rey (Spain) and Coppa Italia (Italy),  lasts 10 months culminating in the cup final in Berlin on May 12, 2012.

To me, the coolest thing about this competition is the many ‘David vs. Goliath’ scenarios that unfold, especially during the early rounds. One such match-up last weekend included 5th tier BFC Dynamo vs. top flight Bundesliag club 1.FC Kaiserslautern. My dear friend, fellow Speyer Boy, and German football rowdy Wolfie D. braved the elements and attended the 1st round match-up which ended up with a lot more action than ‘just’ 9o minutes of cup football. This is much less a football match review but an eye-witness report of goonish rowdies looking for ‘aggro’.

Here’s Wolfie D. … The German Cup, like almost all national cup competitions in Europe, often provides great drama opportunities, especially in the early rounds. The early match-ups are often replays of old rivalries or like this one, brand new, never before played ones. This match featured the former serial champion of the GDR Oberliga, East German secret police Stasi backed Berliner FC Dynamo, which racked up an unbelievable 10 championships in series thanks to successful match-fixing commissioned by Stasi chief Erich Mielke between 1979 and 1988. On the visitor’s side, the glorious 1. FC Kaiserslautern, in no need of further introduction (at least I hope, as the merits of this club from deep in the Palatine Woods easily fills a proper book!).

Right after the 1st round draw, I absolutely knew this would be a big one! It’s no wonder BFC Dynamo’s luck went down the drain after the wall came down. With the Stasi (officially) disbanded, Erich Mielke behind bars, and all the best players hitting the exits for the wealthy clubs in the West, the club didn’t even make it into the combined German second division in 1991 and had to start again in the regional Northeast division, a league they have not been able to be promoted out of since. Money was tight with crowds getting smaller and smaller, and having probably one of the most violent and right-wing followings in Germany, didn’t really help acquire lucrative sponsorship deals. You might now rightfully ask why a communist secret police backed club attracted a bunch of right-wing violent loonies from the worst tower block areas of East Berlin?! Simple answer: they chose to support the most-hated club in the country because aggro following the club was almost guaranteed!

Which brings us to the present day, where the club plays in a lowly fifth division in the northern part of the German East in front of a couple of hundred fans at average games against teams who have only a handful supporters let alone hooligans. To put it bluntly, they’re in deep shit and qualifying for the national cup brings them BACK WIV A BANG on the big German football stage, prime-time TV coverage included.

Thanks to having resided in Berlin for quite some time now, this 1.FCK-BFC Dynamo match really wasn’t an away game, just a fifteen minute car ride and a ten minute walk and we were in the thick of things, literally! Making our way towards the away-end in the pissing rain – almost constantly pouring down for 36 hours at that point – we walked down the street where hundreds of proper hard-hitters, a lot of them in their forties, were boozing it up in front of a few pubs, closely monitored by a serious police presence, all with worried looks on their faces.

Entering the away-end and definitely feeling a lot safer (for the moment) it was a nice surprise to see almost 2000 FCK fans who had made their way to Berlin, sadly only about 20 who would be willing to have ‘a go’ if push came to shove. Violence would of course not be a smart move on a day like this, but that’s not what this whole game is about anyway.

Oh yeah, there was also a football game played that day, a quite uneventful 3:0 win for an FCK side which didn’t do more than they had to, but this was not what the majority of the spectators had come for on that day anyway. The away end consisted of one half of the stands behind one goal, separated by a large empty block towards the covered main stand, filled with 4000 to 5000 BFC supporters. The locals put on a good show singing and celebrating and started to let off smoke bombs during the second half, which led to a break by the referee trying to achieve the impossible: get things in order again… Not with this lot, my friend!

About five minutes before the end, we had already talked about leaving early to not get cordoned in for an hour until the police had cleared the surrounding streets, it was clear that something was seriously happening on the other side. People were leaving the covered stand towards our end although there wasn’t even an exit for them on that side. So we thought we better have a look what was going on outside while the majority of the all too care-free FCK supporters celebrated the team after the game had finished. Walking down the steps behind the end it was pretty clear what was going on; we basically walked in the middle of about 60 BFC boys on the right opposite of 10 K-Town lads on the left, with the police standing 30 meters behind looking away and unbelievably having no clue what was happening right in front of their eyes. This was the same police who had manned the separating block during the whole game but had mysteriously disappeared five minutes before the end of the game!

All hell started breaking loose after hundreds of BFC hooligans now made their way over the empty separation block abandoned by the police ten minutes earlier, chasing away families, kids, dads and younger FCK supporters, punching everyone in their way. Outside the grounds, the police were a sorry sight, with everybody, BFC and FCK, mingled together. It was sheer luck K-Town only had a small crew and BFC was too surprised about the ease of ‘infiltration’, that nothing more happened. BFC were now swarming in from the streets on all sides as well, but so were the police reinforcements so we got the hell outta Dodge and starting drinking to having gotten away…

The whole incident was all over the TV in the evening and the newspapers in the following days, with the police blaming the stewards for not having followed protocol. Apparently, they really had opened the gate between home and away ends, either because they were incompetent, scared of getting leathered by the big boys, or simply in on the whole goddamned thing! I just have a sneaking suspicion that the truth will somehow never come out.  Aside from this black mark, things might not be looking too good for BFC Dynamo’s footballing ambitions. Berlin suburb club Lichterfelder FC, the hosts of their first away game this coming weekend, have already announced that they’re not willing to play BFC under these circumstances. Stay tuned how another eventful 5th division season unfolds for BFC Dynamo.

If you are an aging German professional footballer contemplating your future, you might want to add the words Major (Haupt) League (Liga) Soccer (Fussball) to your English vocabulary. Warum MLS? Thanks to the ‘Beckham rule’, all 18 professional teams (16 US, 2 Canadian) can bid for higher salaried internationals outside of preexisting salary caps. Add increasing league competitiveness, and a major push in fan support and league commitment (building soccer-specific stadiums), and even a spoiled German superstar might look twice at making the trip across the ‘big pond’.

Within the last 20 days, two big name German players, Torsten Frings (formerly of Werder Bremen) and Frank Rost (formerly of Hamburger SV) have joined MLS teams. Whether Juergen Klinsmann, German Fussball legend  and Toronto FC soccer consultant, had any part in convincing Frings to head North; or to what extent Rost was influenced by other NY Red Bull internationals Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez ,who knows?  What we do know is that German futbolers have been heading to Amerika for 33+ years starting with Franz Beckenbauer’s transfer to the New York Cosmos in the late 1970s. [Interested in more Germans-to-U.S. football migration history (or anything Bayern Munich), be sure to check out Tim Russell’s excellent history lesson posted on the equally impressive Bundesliga Fanatic site.]

So now that Frings and Rost have made the  latest move stateside, what other German ‘Profis’ might want (or need) to consider migrating to the Land of Opportunity (and second chances):

Christoph Metzelder: ‘Metze’ is pushing 31 and has 2 years remaining on his 3 year FC Schalke 04 contract. The ex-German National Team (50 caps) central defender has lost a step in recent years but that could be a combination of not playing at all while with Real Madrid (2007-2009) and his many injury woes. Now that Felix Magath and his stifling strategies have once again departed for VW-city, Christoph, if he can stay healthy, should be able to really strengthen Schalke’s back-line  and increase his future value. He’ll be available, transfer fee-free, after the 2012 campaign.

Arne Friedrich: Friedrich is another German defender with plenty of fight, currently playing his football with VFL Wolfsburg after joining the club last season (since his hometown team Hertha BSC was relegated to Germany’s 2nd division in 2010). Compared to Metzelder, Friedrich is a lot more versatile, and often plays fullback, center back and sometimes a midfield position. Even at age 32, he is still a national team regular and along with Werder Bremen’s Per Mertesacker is the heart of the German defense. His current contract also expires after the 2012 Bundesliga season. His website states his favorite  vacation spot is the U.S., so maybe this will help sweeten any move west.

Gerald Asamoah: Best known for his 11 year-long club career at Schalke 04, the Ghanaian born forward spent the 2010/11 Bundesliga season with St. Pauli but left the club after relegation. Although his 32-year old legs are not as speedy as in the early and mid 2000s, he can still burst by many defenders and provides emotional and spirited leadership to any side. According to Kicker Online, Asamoah is actively looking for offers while working out and training in Schalke.


Thomas ‘Der Hammer’ Hitzlsberger: He’s unemployed (which in the UK apparently gives you the right to drive like a maniac) but I think still very employable as a midfielder for European teams as well as any MLS squad. He is a true journeyman and no stranger to playing overseas having made appearances for Aston villa, Lazio Rom and most recently West Ham United. It was while playing in the EPL that he garnered the  name ‘Der Hammer’ for his viciously powerful and accurate kick. He also spent 5 quality years at Bundesliga club VFB Stuttgart playing alongside Mario Gomez and Sami Khedira and winning the German League Championship in 2006-07.

David Odonkor: He might be my sentimental/emotional pick, and teams looking for a speedy and creative right winger should consider the ex Borussia Dortmund and Real Betis (Spain) player. He’s one of the younger (27) picks of the litter and if healthy has another 4-5 years left. I mentioned sentiment primarily because of Odonkor’s inspiring ‘off the bench’ performances during Germany’s 2006 World cup run. He was released by Betis in June and has been linked with German 2nd division team Karlsruhe SC.

Leonardo de Deus Santos (Dede): Brazilian Dede ended his 13 year Borussia Dortmund career after last season. The left back was a valuable asset in Dortmund and a true ‘Publikumsliebling’ (fan favorite). The club’s 2010/11 Bundesliga Championship was in part dedicated to him. He is now 33 but still physically capable of playing at a high level. MLS teams looking to add some Brazilian Samba flair should consider him.

Note: Of our German ‘pick 6’, Dede is the only non-German national but so integrated into Borussia culture that we’ll give grant him honorary citizenship.