Jumping on the Bundesliga Bandwagon

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I might be a little late joining the party, but the penny has finally dropped: I need to start following German football. It’s not like I’ve been completely oblivious to the re-birth of ‘Fußball’, but the recent exploits of Schalke in the Champions League quarter finals was the moment I said  “Alright, alright, enough already! You win.” It wasn’t just the manner of Schalke’s victory, it was the scenes that followed the match in Gelsenkirchen. Who wasn’t envious of those fans celebrating victory with Raul? I can only imagine what it’ll be like if they beat United.

I first became aware of the modern German football experience about five years ago. I went to see Hertha play Hamburg during a visit to Berlin and the scales were lifted from eyes. I am ashamed to say my perception of German football until this point owed more to tired stereotypes (efficient, clinical etc.) than any personal observations. However, as with many things in life, ignorance can be bliss. When you’ve spent the last few years becoming   increasingly cynical about rising ticket prices, sterile atmospheres and the predictable outcome of the Premier League, it rubs salt in the wound to discover that a modern football culture can thrive under an alternative model.  Germany is now presented as some sort of football fan’s utopia, with affordable tickets, modern stadiums with standing sections, and one of the most competitive top divisions of any major European league. Oh, and you can also enjoy the game with a beer stein and a decent hotdog. It’s a compelling argument.

Obviously, I’m jealous, but I’m also intrigued. It’s not just the football culture that’s impressive, it’s the quality of footballers Germany is currently producing. The national team plays with a dynamism and energy that is the antithesis of how I remember them during the 1990′s, and according to recent reports the likes of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller are just the beginning.

This is one bandwagon I definitely want to jump on, but to really enjoy the Bundesliga I need to have a vested interest, an emotional attachment to maintain my support. With this in mind I have decided to adopt a Bundesliga club for the 2011/12 season. Seeing as the current season is just reaching its climax this might seem an odd time to choose, but I want to allow plenty of time to swat up on my new team in preparation for the next term. The problem is, I have no instinctive allegiance to any German side. I’m going to spend the next week or so doing some research to help me choose, but to any Bundesliga fanatics out there, I need your help – who should I follow next season, and why? Tell me anything you think would be useful: what are my chances of a successful season in 2011/12? Does the club have a unique history? And, most importantly, how good is the local beer?

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22 Responses to Jumping on the Bundesliga Bandwagon

  1. bulijohn says:

    Great you‘ve discovered the Bundesliga. Beer is good abt everywhere except D‘dorf. Atmosphere awesome in Cologne, Dortmund and Schalke. But I’m partial to Western clubs. St Pauli fans also great but they’ll be 2nd tier next season.

  2. Niklas says:

    My favorite team for the last 20 years has been Werder Bremen. And here is why you should support them:

    - The team has a great history, and it has fostered many talents that made an impact in the German NT. Amongst them are Marco Bode, Dieter Eilts, just to name a few.
    - Werder are a club that never had a huge amount of financial resources like Hamburg or Bayern Munich, but they have made the most of their scare resources.
    - Werder didn’t sack their coach this season when the team played like crap and was getting closer and closer to those relegation places. The club remembered the 10 good years Schaaf did have before this season, and trusted him. Now they even want to renew his contract. I can’t think of anywhere else in Germany where loyalty is rewarded like that.
    - Becks is the local beer from Bremen, and it isn’t half bad in my humble opinion. And, in addition to the beer, Bremen is a very pretty city. It won’t be like Wolfsburg, where the highlight of your trip is the train station, which allows you to leave this godforsaken awful place. Side note: The train station stinks of urine, but still, the high light of a trip to Wolfsburg.
    - The atmosphere in the Weserstadion is brilliant, and the fans of the club are loyal to the likes of Schaaf, and Allofs, and the players even in hard times.
    - Werder aren’t like Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg or Hoffenheim, teams that are backed by massive corporate entities. (I guess if drugs are you sort of thing, Bayer should be your team of choice. If the awful styling of the Volkswagen Beetle is your kinda thing, Wolfsburg is the ideal team for you.)

    Well, I hope that I made a good case for my beloved favorite side, Werder Bremen. And even if you shouldn’t choose to support them, (but one of the boring and dreadful teams of the league,) have fun following the Bundesliga. You’ll have an absolute blast!

    • monz says:

      ruuuude on bayer leverkusen. its not our fault its located in tiny leverkusen where the bayer corporation is everything it depends on.

      –and it helped found the entire sports department too. thank you aspirin for everything.

  3. Conni says:

    Hertha BSC!

    The fans are the best: This year in the 2. Liga, they’ve still had 40,000 attendees at home matches, and the Olympic Stadium has sold out twice (for the derby vs Union, which they didn’t even have the decency to win, and the final match of the season vs Augsburg, for which they’ve added bleachers above the Marathon Gate to increase capacity) and come close twice (the home match vs Paderborn, and the match against 1860 Munich in 2 weeks, though that may yet sell out.)

    We don’t have a lot of big names at the moment, and we haven’t won the league since 1931, but we’ve got some very exciting up-and-comers, like Pierre-Michel Lasogga (German U-21).

    Berlin’s an awesome city, and the Old Lady is an awesome club.

  4. monz says:

    id try to woo you with bayer leverkusen, because ive had the biggest love affair with it ever since i was a kid. it has an endearing nickname: neverkusen or.. Vizekusen, because its always the bridesmaid never the bride.

    im sure youve seen the CL 2002 final, where zidan’s wonderful volley featured? and RM won the title over the shoulders of bayer leverkusen. it didnt stop there, leverkusen had to cope with the ‘treble horror’ losing the DFB pokal final and the title as well after being contenders.

    it isnt short on legends either: ulf kirsten,carsten ramelow, rudi voeller – he won the 1990 WC with germany and was their manager during the 2002 WC; and ruediger vollborn. other famous names: michael ballack, dimitar berbatov, lucio, ze roberto.

    in short, it is a great team with huge potential, hugeeee, and is more or less always in the title race, yet somehow they let the ball go somewhere along the line – mostly, by the closing matchdays. you might ask why am i turning you off bayer, im not, thats what endears her to all of her fans, and when the day comes when she finally brushes off that curse and lifts her first title ever.. it will be one of the happiest days for bayer and all her fans.

    i cant tell you about how good the local beer is because i dont drink beer – bummer.
    but leverkusen is located in the nordrhein-westfalen region, which i believe is the best area in germany. leverkusen is 20 mins from cologne, and also close to duessedorf, dortmund, bonn etc, and the area hosts a multitude of teams as well.

    either way, i cant convince you to support a team, when you watch, you will be drawn to a team by yourself. just stay away from wolfsburg.. and bayern munich. there are too many fans of the bavarian giants, and most new fans are jumping on their bandwagon because of their WC stars and their years of success

    find a team that endears you to it, you shouldnt care all that much about titles – the best thing is the ride!

    good teams to support: leverkusen, dortmund, werder bremen, hamburg (only team to never have been relegated) and fc koln (theyre in a tight spot over the last number of years, but the clubs history and town has always endeared itself to me)

  5. Outside Mid says:

    Go with Wolfsburg–they need the support as no one else seems to want them to beat the relegation battle this season. Also, they’re going to have that nifty “Wolf Shadow” shirt to wear next season that you can sport.

    Honestly though, if you want to be able to see the club on a regular basis and are unable to jet over to Germany every weekend in the fall or don’t know the German language, you might want to research clubs that get a bit more coverage. And no, that’s not an endorsement for FC Hollywood–unless you’re really into Bavarian hops. I guess I should be recommending Leverkusen so the Werkself have another supporter, but take a peek at Hamburg. Decent supporter base, consistent league and European aspirations, and when they’re in the same divisions, interesting rivalries with St. Pauli and Werder Bremen. No grumbling Nik.

    • Niklas says:

      Well, if you like the sort of club that goes through its managers faster then Charlie Sheen goes through pornstars, Hamburg is your kinda club.

      But, to be honest, Hamburg is one of the greats in the Bundesliga. They haven’t been relegated since the start of the Bundesliga, and they are the only team that has been in the Bundesliga since the league started in 63.

      Their fundamental problem these days is that they are depend to much on buying players, rather then producing them themselves. Some of their transfers have turned out to be players with a rather poor character, even most Hamburg fans would agree with me on that one.

      And to add insult to injury: they have been such a boring side to watch all season long. I’d rather listen to Dutch rap music than watching one of their games. They have been that boring. Digesting a kebab is more fun than the HSV.

      (Bear in mind that I really dislike Hamburg)

      • Outside Mid says:

        @ Nik: Grumble, grumble. :) Points duly noted, and personally I admire Werder’s stability with Schaaf and glad the hand was stayed this season in a year of flammable hot seats.

  6. Michael says:

    I think I’ve got more than I bargained for here. I’m going to have to do a lot more research. Thanks for all the comments so far. It’s very clear that I should avoid Wolfsburg. I don’t think I could go with Bayern either, it’s just too obvious and like the comments said, they really don’t need another fan. Good arguments made for Hamburg, Bremen, Hertha Leverkusen and Koln… not many shouts for BVB yet, I guess that’s only one step down from Bayern though.

    • Nico says:

      The flipside is that the alternative model leave BL teams, Bayern aside, financially poor. This means they cannot pay outrageous wages and thus could not compete in Europe until recently with homegrown talent.

      I am not saying to support Dortmund, but it does represent the current positive reality of the BL best – more so than any other team.

    • Conni says:

      Well, you have the opportunity to watch many of these teams in action over the weekend :) Like Monz said, the best way to find a team is to watch them play and let the team convince you.

      Hertha’s going to Duisburg on Monday, where we hope to seal our promotion, as long as Inconsistent Aerts doesn’t screw it up. He looked really confident against Bochum last week, hopefully that sticks around.

  7. TheHoffside says:

    In defence of Hoffenheim we use our money wisely and focus on youth. Tons of clubs have used financial backing to come through the lower leagues.

    Good luck picking a team, there’s really an abundance of great ones out there. I’d go with Kaiserslautern probably, the history behind that club is really amazing. Haven’t been the most successful in recent times but things will look up for them soon. Or.. they could get relegated again

  8. Anne says:

    (I did screw up the HTML! Here’s the comment without HTML:)

    Dashing in here to save matters – no no no, BVB is not anything like Bayern! In fact, I will here make an argument for BVB. (Disclaimer: this has been my first season of Bundesliga action, so my knowledge and opinions are all skewed very heavily towards the present. I’m also American so my knowledge is all very secondhand.)

    Firstly, I am actually a fan of FSV Mainz 05. You might have heard of them, but that’s only because they started this season by winning 7 games in a row (including beating Bayern! IN MUNICH!) and sitting pretty on top of the table for a while, when nearly everyone tipped them as relegation battlers before the season began. I started the season having fallen in love with Germany at the WC and chose to follow Bayern, because 1) I knew absolutely nothing about how club football even worked, much less anything about Bayern’s history, and 2) I wanted to follow players I knew. Mainz stole my eyes and heart with that winning run and I’ve really never given them back. However, the reason that I won’t be touting Mainz to you is that it is a teeny tiny club, with a history 90% in the 2. Liga, and success is likely to be fleeting as most/all of our best players are off to different pastures next year. It took a special set of circumstances to help me fall in love with the club.

    But BVB has a lot of the same philosophy as Mainz, and I have come to adopt them as a beloved second club. First you have to understand that BVB running away with the title was completely and utterly unexpected. No one saw it coming. And the reason is that the success was not built on flashy, high-profile transfers, it was borne of an intelligent, considered and long-term approach to team building that saw them buy one of the Bundesliga’s stars this season (Shinji Kagawa) for a mere 350,000 Euro from Japan. Over the past couple years they quietly put together a squad with formidable talent, added a dash of spice with the 18-year old wunderkind Mario Götze from their youth ranks, stole brilliant CB Mats Hummels out from under Bayern’s noses, and generally were smart and patient. All of that hard work paid off this year when, under Jürgen Klopp (incidentally, past Mainz legend as both player and coach – he’s the reason we’re in the top flight), the team gelled into a unit of astonishing cohesion. All for handful of Euro. I think I’ve seen statistics before that their whole squad cost less than Franck Ribéry alone – that might not be quite accurate but it’s certainly close! It’s a refreshing approach to football and has made for one of the most attractive teams to watch in all of Europe this year.

    Beyond the football itself, Dortmund has a fantastic atmosphere of support and community. Their stadium holds close to 80,000 (!!) and has sold out almost every week this year. It boasts what I believe is the largest standing terrace in the whole world, and it’s really quite breathtaking – they call it the Yellow Wall: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/7691531 . Dortmund has been through some really tough times, nearly going bankrupt after some poor management decisions in the early 2000s, but they’ve tottered back onto their feet and are now one of the best managed clubs in football, in my opinion. The fans are passionate and full of the deepest love for their club – I know several that actually live/lived in Dortmund and their wholehearted devotion is really something to see. They have a player named Dedé who has been with the club for 13 years – he’s leaving at the end of the season, and the fans keep showing him all of the love and support possible, and he keeps crying in interviews because he’s just so overwhelmed by it all. That speaks volumes to me.

    Above all, there’s a sense of family about Dortmund. The players all love playing, the fans love supporting, the coach loves coaching. Of course all of that is helped by the amazing success this year, but I think Dortmund, as a city and a club, has a beautiful spirit. It’s located in the Rühr region, working class, where devotion to football has historically been an intense and passionate endeavor. On top of that, they have a good chance to establish themselves as one of the greats of the Bundesliga. They’ve signed contract extensions on most of their key players (exception: the brilliant Nuri Sahin, whom rumors are swirling about – fingers crossed he stays!) and are guaranteed CL football next year, not to mention nearly guaranteed champions this year. The cynics say it will be a rough road and maybe this is a flash in the pan. But Dortmund has every ingredient, in my opinion, and I have all the hope in the world for their continued success.

    So that’s the argument for Dortmund. If Mainz hadn’t pipped them to my heart, I’d be wearing the yellow and black right now. :) Good luck to you with finding a club! And if you choose one but it doesn’t feel right, feel free to switch – that’s what I did and that’s what a first season is for. One thing about the Bundesliga is that it’s so volatile and unpredictable that you really can’t be guaranteed success with any team (except – sort of – Bayern, but even they are dramatically up and down, just with a smaller range). Just pick the one that will make you feel something and you’ll be grand. Welcome to the Bundesliga! You’ve made a great choice to start getting invested. You won’t regret it! :)

  9. Vampy Archer says:

    I think, the outsiders, i.e. the ones who are not residing in Germany have this crucial and pivotal advantage that they can choose the teams they want. Otherwise; the case is more like you support the (local) team, the team of your town; where you were born; where you grew up; the teams that your Elders have supported; and the team which they enriched in your blood—with enthralling tales of Older days, history,club heroes, legends—since childhood.

    I am of firm belief in that old maxim that “You don’t choose the colors; colors choose you.” And I do hope that that’s what happens to you as well i.e. colors choose you.

    In my first Bundesliga viewing season, Borussia Dortmund tamed Juventus in that European final. There they were playing against European mammoth of that time having names like: Zidane, Vieri, Deschamps, Ferrara, Peruzzi, Tacchinardi, Del Piero while Sammer was leading Dortmund with Chapusiat, Kohler, Stef Klos, Riedle, and of the most sensational Champions League sub appearance by Lars Ricken. A well deserved win to Dortmund but Juventus had fair share of hitting-the-post several times.

    Still, I didn’t have any team in Bundesliga having being chosen by the colors from almost all the leagues that I had been watching since 1995 final—barring La Liga as the moment for supporting a La Liga team (it turned out to be Villarreal) arrived in 2003-04 season. I was, like you, watching the teams play weeks in weeks out and reading books on German football and would get my hands on anything which had anything to do with Bundesliga and German football.

    By that time, huge respect for Borussia Monchengladbach, HSV, Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen,Hertha Berlin, Kaiserslautern and Stuttgart had clouded and surrounded my heart. Still, no Bundesliga team…

    It was 2000 that I began to follow Michael Ballack at Leverkusen and instantly became my favorite player. Here, we had such a huge and massive player who I thought was born in wrong times and had to be considered for German national team in 70’s playing alongside the Kaiser. Interestingly, he got the nick “Little Kaiser” in his youth as well. He intrigued me the most. I only used to watch Leverkusen to watch his game. That was mind-blowing. Having soft spot for another Rhein side Gladbach, I began to love this Bayer Leverkusen. And strangely, it was the match they lost to bottle their Bundesliga title on final day that the colors of this club came to choose me. Ballack scored an own goal. They only needed to draw the match to clinch their first ever Bundesliga title. They lost, Bayern won against Werder and title went to perennial champions Bayern Munich. Those images of Christoph Daum, then Bayer Leverkusen manager, still haunt me.

    Sweet pain. Empty Heart. Numb mind. Beginning of “Neverkusen”. Start of a journey well-trodden.

    In well-covered “Neverkusen Year” i.e. 2002 where they will march on to potential treble and turning it in to treble-horror (playing DFB-Pokal final, Champions League final, 5 point lead at the top of the league; losing all three fronts), my affection and love for the club peaked and reached another level.

    There you might be thinking that what’s wrong with this guy? His team lost the titles and he wasn’t frustrated? I don’t know, but beauty of this club is… they make you believe that they can win the titles, give you that feeling of “nearly being there”, and in the final moment they will take it all away and throw it in the winds… and then the feelings come… which can never be expressed, never will be explained… and somehow, they “tame” your wild heart and make you serene. I might be a psycho, then. But I really can’t explain it to you in words.

    I think that it also depends on your nature, too.

    If you want to go for a club and enjoy success instantly or over and over again then Bayer Leverkusen is not your club. Would safely suggest that go for Bayern Munich, then. If you want to support a team and enjoy its city on weekends with good beer then Hertha Berlin (getting promoted to Bundesliga next season) will be my recommendation (good beer rule applies to every city so it’s out of question from here on), If you enjoy the stadium culture i.e. banters, clamor, stands, lively atmosphere with some ultra coming over from all across Europe then both Dortmund and Schalke will be my recommendation. Funny thing is, you can’t support both clubs simultaneously hehe! (Let no other tell you different about Schalke and HSV… both are great clubs)

    If you want to go with the academy that produces best young guns and want to go through idolizing them and also facing a day of bidding farewell to those young guns when they can shoot the bullets better then Werder is your club. This club is really huge. It has been a magnificent journey and transition of a team with two important figures at their helm namely Otto Rehhagel and Thomas Schaaf.

    If good accounts is your thing then Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim should be considered. This also applies to Leverkusen (due to Bayer) but it has more than that. If you want to go with a club with bright future then there is Mainz. If you believe in cults and regardless of where they are playing and want to support them through thick and thin with some good weekends then St. Pauli comes that way. If you believe in “rising from the ashes” and want to oversee a period of transformation and being with the club in difficult times then HSV might be your thing. If you have penchant for “we have won a league title so we can do it again” then start supporting Stuttgart because they will finally do it; there is some aura of being resolute about them and famous for the region where they are from.

    I would, again, suggest that just go through these final matches, keep researching, and the time will come by the summer that you will have a team of your own.

    Having fascination towards the region and teams of Rhein; I “want” you to support FC Köln; a lovely club; good squad; and massive potential to play in Europa leagues in upcoming seasons and doing quite well for foreseeable future.

    Wish you all the best, Michael. Let me know when you are finally done with your “hunt”.

  10. Kyriacos says:

    I’m from Cyprus, and mostly follow Cypriot, Greek, English and (occasionally) Italian football. Had similar thoughts. I need to follow the German league. When I was young I had a liking for Dortmund, because it did so well in Europe in the mid-90′s. And apparently its on a second renaissance right now. Perhaps one or two of the team’s most talented players might leave (Sahin, Goetze, or Subotic), but I like that they look towards the future. Also, the fact that the fan attendance is always so high (70,000 fans are not a sporadic event) is also impressive.

    • Anne says:

      Dortmund would be an excellent choice – see my above comment for the many reasons why! As for holding on to their stars, Götze has already extended his contract and I don’t think Subotic is going to go anywhere this year. Sahin’s the only remaining flight risk, and rumors are now that he’ll just get a higher salary – really hoping that’s true. Regardless, they’ll stay 95% intact which is really exciting. I think they have a bright future!

  11. man20c says:

    I might be one of the fewest non-german Wolfsburg fans out there.

    I’m only 21, but in 2003 was when I was a huge fan of Andres D’Alessandro – who had the potential (hadn’t quite reach) to be what Lionel Messi is now.

    He signed for Wolfsburg that summer which for me was quite surprising because he was linked with teams such as Barcelona, Madrid, Man.Utd, etc.

    This is what introduced me to the Bundesliga. I use to keep an eye on all his games, therefore continuously watching Wolfsburg and was curious to find out more on the club. I read of forums that their fanbase wasn’t that huge and the city isn’t that nice – yet that didn’t matter to me.

    He is/was talented, but because his potential was touted to be the very best – put a high amount of pressure on him. He didn’t quite reach what was predicted. I watched the 2004 Summer Olympics when he was outshined by Carlos Tevez.

    Few years later he left, which was a shame. Though I was curious to continue watching Wolfsburg as I really enjoyed watching them and found the Bundesliga was one of my new favourite leagues.

    Martin Petrov was at their at the time too. Though what has appealed to me from now-to-then was the number 10 playmakers they have utilized so well (after all that’s the football I love to watch). Zvjezdan Misimović and Marcelinho were my favourites but the 2008–09 was pretty crazy when they won the league. I never expected them to be that consistent and Edin Dzeko & Grafite were scoring goals for fun.

    This season, they signed Diego who was brilliant at Werder but I use to watch him at Santos when he was actually better than Robinho. It seemed that ever since I watched Wolfsburg, they have been based around classic number 10 playmakers. I wouldn’t of had no intention of supporting Wolfsburg out of choice, but they have just appealed to me for a long time. If they relegated, there’s no doubt I will still be watching them.

    I think in order to support a Bundesliga team is what really appeals to you – whether it’s the city, history, fan-base, style of football, etc. Bundesliga is my favourite league and wolfsburg is a team I support. Something I never would of thought back in 2003.

  12. Rob Marrs says:

    It is the one major league I don’t follow – I really need to get involved. Keep up the great work.

    RCM

  13. Terry says:

    I followed the Bundesliga for five years before finally arriving at a club to support. I suggest that you just enjoy the league and in time, a team will find you.

    But f you can’t be arsed with that then just support BVB.

  14. Michael says:

    I think Terry is right, this is going to take a while.

    I liked the sound of FC Koln, nice city, heard good things about the fans, then I watched them get utterly destroyed by the much maligned Wolfsburg (who I have to admit were quite impressive). Koln have since sacked their manager, so not the best omen for me.

    I am also drawn to Kaiserslauten, because Watford’s first and only UEFA cup voyage included a memorable triumph over the Red Devils. And I have also learned that the town of Watford is twinned with Anne’s favourites, Mainz! I’m not sure what being a twin town means apart from local politicians sending delegations to gorge on each other’s hospitality, so maybe not the best reason to support a team, but an interesting discovery nonetheless.

    The search continues.

  15. Pingback: Decision Time – my Bundesliga team for 2011/12 – Regista

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