Soccer is King!
Although Germans, like most people in the world, definitely concentrate more on Fußball (soccer, football), there are many other sports they like to watch and play.
Over the years, some American games have become very popular in Germany. Basketball has a reasonably large number of fans. Ice hockey and volleyball are also quite popular.
Although the Germans know about baseball and American football, neither of these New World sports is very popular or widespread in Germany or Europe. Although an annual American football exhibition game in Berlin was a longtime tradition, German youngsters still grow up playing soccer, not American football. First established in 1991 (as the World League of American Football), the NFL Europe finally closed down its five German football teams (and one in the Netherlands) in June 2007. Since then, American NFL teams have played exhibition games in London, England.
NFL International Series
The NFL will be back in London for three matchups in the city in October 2016 – the 15th, 16th and 17th games to be played there since the NFL International Series launched. Two games will be played at Wembley Stadium, which has been home to NFL International Series games since 2007. Twickenham, home of the English rugby team, will play host to an NFL game for the first time in 2016. For details see this NFL.com page: 2016 NFL International Series schedule announced.
The undisputed champion of German amateur and professional sports is definitely soccer, “König Fußball” (“king football”). Thousands of amateur Fußballvereine (soccer clubs) provide the opportunity for Germans to play soccer. As a spectator sport, soccer draws an average of over 25,000 fans to each professional game. Germany has won the soccer world championship, the World Cup, four times (in 1954, 1974, 1990, 2014). Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup, but came in third that year, after France and the winner Italy.
The German Olympic Sports Federation, as the old DSB has been known since 2006 (Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund, DOSB), has 16 state federations and numerous associated sports groups. Based in Frankfurt, the DOSB represents 89,000 clubs and about 27 million members (one out of three Germans!). The DOSB is the biggest indicator of just how sports-minded the Germans are. Another is the profusion of sports facilities all over Germany – playing fields, gymnasiums, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and even olympic training facilities. The many sports clubs all across Germany offer opportunities to play soccer, handball, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and other sports.
With three World Cup titles, Germany craved a fourth World Cup victory, but that proved elusive after their third win in 1990. Disappointed in 2006 on their home turf, the Germans were pinning their hopes on the 2010 Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft (WM) in South Africa. Unfortunately, the German team had a few problems – concerning head coach Joachim Löw and some players – when they headed to South Africa. Germany had to settle for third place behind the Netherlands and the 2010 champion, Spain. But they made their big comeback in Brazil at the WM 2014 with a 1:0 win over Argentina.
German Tennis Champs
In the not-so-distant past, Germany was a breeding ground for world tennis champions. There was a time when the “sport of kings” was dominated by Boris Becker, Steffi Graf, Anke Huber and Michael Stich, all from Germany.
Since the glory days of German tennis in the 1980s and 1990s, with the record-breaking successes of those German tennis stars, the game has dropped in popularity. Germany once boasted several top tennis competitions a year, but after the Hamburg men’s tournament lost its Masters Series status in 2008 and the Berlin women’s event was dropped in 2007, Germany now has no major crowd draw for tennis.
Swiss tennis champ Roger Federer (1981- ) is currently the leading player from the German-speaking world. He held the top ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) position for a record 237 consecutive weeks. As of March 2011, he was ranked number three in the world by the ATP. But that did not keep him from being eliminated at Wimbledon in 2013.
Nowadays, former German women’s champ Steffi Graf is best known for being married to the former American tennis champ Andre Agassi and for her family life in Las Vegas. Martina Hingis (1980- ), although born in former Czechoslovakia, is now a retired Swiss professional tennis player who held the top spot in world tennis for a total of 209 weeks.
A New Graf?
But a new Steffi Graf may be on the rise. After defeating Venus Williams in the 2016 Wimbledon semifinals, Angelique Kerber (b. 18 Jan. 1988), Kerber was set to face Serena Williams – who was determined to win her 22nd major singles title, trying to equal Graf’s record achievement. Bremen-born Kerber has beat Serena (and Venus) before. The 34-year-old Serena lost her Australian Open bid to the 28-year-old Kerber. That means each of the two was highly motivated for their 2016 Wimbledon battle. But Serena Williams carried the day. Kerber, who knows Steffi Graf well, failed to prevent Williams from reaching Graf’s singles record.
Kerber, with a Polish father and a German mother, holds dual German-Polish citizenship, but she has always competed professionally for Germany. She trains at a special tennis complex in Puszczykowo, Poland that was built just for her by her maternal grandfather Janusz Rzeźnik.
An earlier heir apparent, the Berliner Sabine Lisicki (b. 1989) attracted attention at the 2013 Wimbledon tournament as the German tennis champ powered her way past the American Serena Williams and the Polish Agnieszka Radwanska. Even Graf herself texted her congratulations and encouragement to Lisicki as the then 23-year-old star was heading into the final round in London. On her Facebook page Graf also wrote praise for Lisicki, calling her “Super Sabine.” Born Sabine Katharina Lisicki in Troisdorf, West Germany, Lisicki turned pro in 2006. She lives and trains in Bradenton, Florida. In early 2016 Lisicki was ranked world no. 30 by the WTA.
Unfortunately, France’s Marion Bartoli was the one who claimed the women’s singles title at Wimbledon in 2013. Lisicki suffered a crushing 6-1, 6-4 defeat in her bid to be the first German woman since Steffi Graf to win at Wimbledon. She reached another quarterfinal at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships and won her first title in three years when she won the 2014 Hong Kong Tennis Open. (Graf won seven women’s singles championships at Wimbledon between 1988 and 1996.) (More…)
Former world tennis champion Boris Becker now makes headlines with his turbulent life of marriage and divorce. He continues to earn good money as a tennis commentator on TV and as a spokesman for various products.
GOLF AND OTHER SPORTS
Formula One Racing
When he supposedly retired in 2006, he was the world’s highest paid sports figure. German Formula One (F1) race driver Michael Schumacher (b. 1969), or “Schumi” (SHOO-me), as he is affectionately known, was earning the top money in the world — about $80 million in 2004! Forget soccer, baseball, or basketball! Formula One racing is where the money is, and Schumacher was the most successful F1 driver of all time, with more victories and more championships than any other F1 racer. Germans (and Europeans in general) are big Formula One fans, especially when Schumi was leading the F1 pack.
With his return in 2010, Formula 1 fans hoped to see him hold or exceed his previous records in the sport. But instead, it became the first season since his debut in 1991 that ended with Schumacher failing to get a win, pole position, podium or fastest lap. From 2010 to 2012 Schumi never placed higher than eighth. In October 2012 he announced his second retirement. His younger brother Ralf retired from F1 racing in 2007.
While skiing in the French Alps in December 2013, Michael Schumacher suffered a critical head injury and spent about six months in a coma before returning home with an uncertain prognosis. Schumacher still holds many F1 records, including the most world championship titles and the most consecutive titles.
A new generation of German Formula One racers has now joined the 51 Germans who have been F1 drivers. The very first, Wolfgang von Trips (1928-1961), was killed when his Ferrari crashed during the 1961 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Fifteen spectators also died in that crash. In 2008 Sebastian Vettel (b. 1987) became the youngest ever F1 driver to win a race. He won the F1 World Championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. There are currently four Germans in Formula One: Vettel and his big rival Nico Rosberg (b. 1985), as well as Nico Hülkenberg (b. 1987), and Pascal Wehrlein (b. 1997).
German golf pro Martin Kaymer – briefly ranked number one in the Official World Golf Rankings (April 2011) – was born in Düsseldorf. Germany’s leading golf player turned professional in 2005. Already a member of the European Tour, in 2013 Kaymer also joined the PGA Tour in the US. In 2010 he won four tournaments, including the PGA Championship. In January 2011 Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with an amazing eight-stroke lead. It was his third win in a row at Abu Dhabi. Kaymer maintains homes in Germany and Scottsdale, Arizona. More…
Another German golf pro is Bernhard Langer (b. 1957), ranked number one in 1986. The two-time Masters champion had the peak of his golfing career in the 1980s and 1990s. Langer and his brother Erwin now host the Mercedes-Benz Championship. Langer’s latest wins were the 2014 and 2015 Constellation Senior Players Championship.
The two German European Tour golf tournaments are the BMW International Open (Munich) and the Mercedes-Benz Championship (formerly the German Masters) in Pulheim near Cologne. The Deutsche Bank SAP Open was held until 2007, when it was dropped from the European Tour.
Ice hockey is one of Germany’s most popular professional sports. It began in Berlin in 1888 and gradually spread across the country. In 1910, Germany had a national ice hockey team in the European championships. During and after the two World Wars, Germany was banned from international hockey. The first postwar German pro ice hockey league (die Eishockey-Oberliga) was formed in 1948. During German division, there were ice hockey leagues in East and West Germany, but ice hockey was not considered an important sport in East Germany.
Since 1994, the top pro ice hockey league in Germany has been the Deutsche Eishockey-Liga (DEL, German Ice Hockey League). Currently there are 14 DEL teams:
Eisbären Berlin (“Polar Bears”)
Krefeld Pinguine (“Penguins”)
Kölner Haie (“Sharks”)
Adler Mannheim (“Eagles”)
EHC Red Bull München
Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers
Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg
Since the 2004/05 season, the Eisbären Berlin have won the German championship every year except 2006/07 (Adler Mannheim) and 2009/10 (Hannover Scorpions), with a total of seven wins as of 2012/13.
Next | Germany
AT THE GERMAN WAY
- Steffi Graf, former German tennis champ, now lives in Las Vegas with her husband Andre Agassi and their children.
- Martin Kaymer briefly held the number one position in the world of pro golf in February 2011.
- Jesse Owens – Was he snubbed by Hitler, or was it someone else who did that?
ON THE WEB
- Bundesliga – Germany’s national soccer league (in German)
- Formula 1 – The official Formula 1 racing site (in English)
- Sport 1.de – German sports site (in German)
- Sport1.at – Austria (in German)
- Sport.de – Sport von RTL (in German)
- NBA – Germany – Basketball in Germany (in German). Also see NBA – Global
- FIFA is the international football (soccer) association. Get the latest info about world soccer.
- Boris Becker & Co. – Official site
- Roger Federer – The Swiss tennis pro’s homepage
- Stefanie Graf.net
- Steffi Graf – Wikipedia
- Martina Hingis – Wikipedia (English)
- Martina Hingis – Wikipedia (Deutsch)
- Michael Schumacher.de (official site – in German and English)
- Michael Schumacher – Wikipedia (English)
- Michael Schumacher – Wikipedia (auf Deutsch/in German)
- MSchumacher.com – A Schumi fan site (in English)
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