Bundesliga – Role Model For Europe

This is an article I wrote for my group’s magazine in college around April/May.  I’ve edited a few tiny pieces so it’s up-to-date. Thought I’d share it for the football fans here but also anyone that enjoys reading in general.

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Germany is a country with 81.7 million inhabitants and a wide selection of huge, bustling modern cities. Many see this mighty nation as the biggest power in Europe, having a very healthy economy and the like.

Germany’s top football division, the Bundesliga, is a highly thought of league and includes top clubs such as Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Hamburg SV and Bayer Leverkusen. After Germany hosted the 2006 FIFA World Cup, a lot of the country’s stadiums were updated or rebuilt to a high, top-of-the-range standard.

One of those was the Veltins Arena, occupied by Schalke 04. It is situated in the city of Gelsenkirchen and opened in 2001. It hosted the 2004 UEFA Champions League final and five matches in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, including a quarter-final. It has a league capacity of 61,482 (standing and seated) and an international capacity of 53,951 (seated only).

die Südtribüne

Newly-crowned champions Borussia Dortmund (BVB) play in front of 80,000 passionate supporters every other week at their Signal Iduna Park ground. This is another that hosted World Cup games in 2006, with six matches held here.

The die Südtribüne, as Dortmund and Arsenal emerged in the Champions League earlier this month (September 2011)

The southern stand (“die Südtribüne”, where the home team’s supporters gather) is the largest free-standing grandstand of its kind in the whole of Europe, with a staggering capacity of 25,000.  In Dortmund’s recent Champions League match against Arsenal, the BVB fans produced a spectacular display as the teams emerged.  You can watch how it was set-up here.

A stand like this brings back magical memories for older supporters from any country when the old terracing dominated grounds in years gone by.

The very fact that Borussia Dortmund can have this stand without any safety fears or regulations tell you that Germany is a step ahead from the rest. In Britain there have been calls to make safe standing area in some stadiums but all ideas have been rejected or ignored thus far. Knowing our little nation, they will have to conduct several health and safety checks to even consider the possibility.

You would expect a season ticket in this fabulous stand to set your German wallet back a bit. Oh no. An adult season ticket costs the equivalent of £150. All over Germany, the prices are made to attract supporters and make it an affordable matchday experience.

Huge

As the new champions of the league, BVB attracted 300,000 to 400,000 fans on the streets, celebrating winning their seventh title on their way to the Westfalenhalle where another 100,000 fans gathered.

It is truly remarkable what BVB and German football have achieved in recent years.

Bayern Munich last celebrated winning the Bungesliga title in 2010, pictured here.

But the stadia of the league are only a number of impressive attributes the Bundesliga holds. The league has historically been dominated by its most successful club, Bayern Munich, who have won no less than 21 league titles.  They have also won four European Cups (named the Champions League now) and are a massive institution in Germany, Europe and the world.

The Bundesliga has some magic to it, in the form of an extremely competitive league where a large number of clubs can compete for “the bowl”.

Competitive

You only have to go back to season 2008/2009 to find another winner of the title, VfL Wolfsburg. And then 2006/2007, VfB Stuttgart finished top of the pack. Teams like Stuttgart, Werder Bremen and Schalke have flirted with the top of the league and also the dreaded relegation places.

With the financial backing of Dietmar Hopp, 1899 Hoffenheim were transformed from a lowly amateur club to Bundesliga in little time. In season 08/09, Hoffenheim were leading the Bundesliga for big patches of the season before eventually falling away and finishing in seventh position.

The rest of Europe looks up to the Bundesliga in so many ways.

With huge, fancy stadiums accompanying affordable tickets for thousands of ‘uber-fans’, the Bundesliga offers an exciting and unpredictable product year after year.

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