• Well Done Michael He's 13

Football – It’s Guten to be back?

For football fans (nearly) everywhere, it feels like forever since we had some elite level football to enjoy. Of course, even for the most ardent football enthusiast, the world has and continues to face huge challenges, and things really can be a matter of life or death. Putting all that to one side – we are launching our football blog to add a bit of entertainment, education and fun at a time when we need it most…and will be focussing on purely football!

So, after 2 months of no live top-level football, the Bundesliga in Germany will be returning to action on Saturday 16th May. There are some mixed feelings around the return, and of course, the matches will be played in front of empty stadiums, BUT for football fans everywhere, the prospect of high-quality live football to watch again is truly exciting. Bouncebackability is a word we often hear associated with football these days, and seems apt at this time for Germany as a country.

Whether a long-term admirer of German football or looking to embrace it for the first time, here is a short guide on what you need to know:

With 9 fixtures to go, the top 3, in order, are the biggest of the big hitters, Bayern Munich, German giants Borussia Dortmund and relative new boys, RB Leipzig. Funnily enough, this is exactly how the league table looked at the end of last season, but with only 5 points separating them, the season finale is poised to be a good one. It would be remiss not to mention the beautifully named Borussia Monchengladbach and regular also-rans, Bayer Leverkusen, both who have an outside chance of upsetting the order at the top. It would take a brave man to bet against Bayern Munich, but the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in, certainly adds an extra level of uncertainty. I guess it will come down to who is the quickest at adapting and removing the inevitable rust after an enforced mid-season break?

(Thomas Muller in action for league leaders Bayern Munich in the Champions League in February before the lockdown.)

At the other end of the table, newly promoted Paderborn seem doomed with one foot already back in Bundesliga 2. More surprisingly, is second bottom Werder Bremen, who are more used to challenging at the other end of the table. For them and other relegation contenders, you would imagine the return of matches is less appealing, and a decision to end the season now with no promotion or relegation would be most welcome. A favourite for football tourists, Fortuna Dusseldorf currently occupy the last relegation spot, but are within touching distance of a few other clubs, including both Berlin sides. Like the top-end, it is nicely poised.

Match of the week for the first weekend back is arguably the battle between Dortmund & David Wagner’s Schalke. Schalke sit in 5thand will be hoping to secure a European spot for next season. Before his stint in charge of Huddersfield Town, Wagner was a coach with Dortmund and remains best friends with Jurgen Klopp, so that connection adds a little extra spice. And if that’s not enough for you to tune in, Everton loanee Jonjoe Kenny will be lining up at full-back for Schalke!

(Hands up how many people knew England U21 and Everton full-back Jonjoe Kenny was on loan at Schalke 04?)

Time for German domestic football to take centre stage?

Not everyone is pleased to see football back, with much opposition to football returning too soon and others unhappy with football losing the community aspect, with football being played behind closed doors. Valid points, and there will be some division for sure. However, god-willing football returns in a safe manner and live sport provides a lift to the mental wellbeing of many. With that in mind, how significant is it that Germany are the first to return to action? Will this be the start of a new football era, when on and off the pitch, German football dominates, and becomes a favourite of fans worldwide. It could be argued their time is due.

A short trip down memory lane tells us that Italian football ruled in the 90’s, partly due to increased global appeal following the 1990 World Cup, as well as the plethora of superstars plying their trade in Serie A. One of the all-time great sides was the Milan team during that period, with arguably a defence which is yet to be matched. Much more on this in future blogs…

In recent times, England has had periods of dominance and has become a global commercial giant, with La Liga in Spain being the most successful on the European stage in recent times, largely due to the evergreen pair of Barcelona and Real Madrid, who in the last 18 seasons have 9 Champions Leagues trophies between them. In this same time period, English and Italian clubs have shared 7 victories, with Germany & Jose Mourinho’s Porto of Portugal taking the other two laps of honour. More of a sprint down the touchline for The Special One. Or is that The Happy One? I digress…

German football looked in great shape in 2013 when Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund met in the Champions League Final. Was this the start of a new era of dominance? Not a jot. The following 6 finals which take us up to the current day, failed to include a German team even once. Even the great Pep Guardiola couldn’t win Europe’s biggest prize in his 3 years at Bayern Munich.

Sit back and enjoy the ride

Maybe it is my age, maybe it is nostalgia talking, but for me my love affair with football started in the late 80’s and this deepened in the 90’s. The introduction of the Premier League in England and the glamour of Serie A in Italy made this a special era. Italian football blossomed overseas, and in the UK, we got to see Europe’s finest on a weekly basis thanks to Channel 4’s Gazzetta show. Italy brought the romance of football, England the big league attracting the big names and La Liga in Spain brought the era of beautiful football this side of the year 2000. The birth of Tika Taka and a brand of football which changed the game forever.

Three of the four big European domestic football nations have had the spotlight in recent history; is it time for German football to lead the way? Can they emulate the success the German national team has had over the last 20 years or so? In recent times, German football is famed for the special relationship between club and fans which is the envy of the world. Their footballing model and football fan experience is second to none and during this period of reflection many people have come to the realisation that wealth and materialism means very little in comparison to health and community.

Maybe now, most fittingly, we are about to usher in the football era of ‘community’ and no other league is better placed to lead the way than the Bundesliga. Life and football will never be the same again, and how the next football era pans out, only time will tell. Maybe that is a conversation for another day…but for now, let’s not overthink it, it is a time for all football fans worldwide to enjoy the beautiful game again. Das Runde muss ins Eckige.

Scott Newby

Football Writer

Well Done Michael, He’s 13

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