There are a number of very good reasons to hate July. It’s oppressively hot, your quota of mosquito bites rises exponentially and worst of all, there is no football. OK, maybe that’s unfair, there was the Woman’s European Cup in Sweden, but I didn’t need another reason to despair about the state of English football so I left them alone to get on with it. Thankfully, we are quickly closing in on the start of the football season (insert groans or cheers as you see fit). This season, I have finally decided to actively engage in the German Bundesliga, instead of simply standing on the sidelines politely clapping and shouting “good show”. This requires me to also select a team that will have the honour of being my one and only. Sure, in the past I flirted with many teams. With so many options, it has been hard to select just one. There is so much to think about; are they actually any good, can I realistically go to any of the games, will I look stupid in their replica shirt and thus be open to ridicule from my German friends? Equally important is what your choice in team says about you, so I have compiled a short list to help ease myself into the world of German football.
FC Bayern Munich
What can I say about Bayern Munich that hasn’t already been said. They are Germany’s most successful team, the team is packed to the rafters of the Allianz Arena with star players and they now possess the holy grail that is their coach Pep Guardiola. Obviously, there is a very good reason why they are often referred to as FC Hollywood. Then again, of all the teams in Germany, they are quite possibly the most insufferable bunch of ass hats ever to grace the game. The team itself is generally fine, with the exception of Arjen Robben. Robben seems to be suffering a reverse Samson, in that the more hair he loses the better and more successful he appears to become. He is a great player, although perhaps could arguably be described as a one trick pony, but he does like everyone to now that fact. If I were to support Bayern, I would also be forced to support the views of Germany’s worst comedy double act, Beckenbauer and Hoeneß. Despite the fact that the latter has taken a back seat, due to upcoming court proceedings concerning tax avoidance, the two seem to delight in slapping their tummies for the media, while simultaneously allowing inane and frankly insulting burbling to issue from their clichéd maws. Highlights include Beckenbauer’s rant that the English national team is “Stupid”, to which I will admit has some saliency in that a team containing Rooney, Gerrard and Terry is hardly increasing the worlds average IQ. However, why would you need to point that out, seems like the proverbial barrel of fish to me. Uli Hoeneß, in an example of extreme tact and diplomacy, claimed that German taxes had contributed to the success of Spanish teams. For these reasons, I don’t think I’ll be raising a glass to Bayern any time soon.
Champions of Germany two years in a row, success in Europe and an uncanny knack for unearthing great talent all seem to make Dortmund seem the perfect choice for the would be German football fan. Furthermore, their coach, Jürgen Klopp, is considered a modern day Svengali of football and is the perfect antithesis of the David Brent managers that seem to popping up in the English Premiership. More a man of action, he motivates his players with a deft touch and passion that is sourly lacking within England, a football culture that seems rooted in the old school hard man or, even worse, the new school of middle management speak. Yet, to some extent, Borrussia are the victims of their own success. Constantly heralded as the everyone’s second team, Dortmund seem to attract the hipster fan, who liked them before all the hype. This stereotype reached a media crescendo in the run up to the 2012-2013 Champions League final that saw article after article describing how exciting/fashionable/shiny they all were. Sadly, this discounts them from the running.
With a credible history of success, gallant performances in Europe and admirable ability to self implode at any point, Schalke 04 can be considered the bad boys of German football. Although never quite as successful as the other big teams in Germany,Die Knappen (the miners) sporadically hold their own against all comers. Sadly for the fans of Schalke, the team is still somewhat tainted by the match fixing scandals of 1971 and are sometimes referred to as the FC Meineid (German for “FC Perjury”) by their detractors. Schalke do have a lot of potential though, and their team sheet consists of some excellent internationals such as team captain Benedikt Höwedes and rising star Julian Draxler. Despite all these clearly excellent reasons, I have to discount Schalke as I already support one schizophrenic, self destructing team in Newcastle United and I’m not entirely sure my mental state could handle another one. Plus, supporting two hardy northern teams might make people assume I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. I do, but I’m not gonna let them know about it.
Lets be honest, if I was to support a club full time, I could do much worse than supporting Die Freibeuter der Liga (The Buccaneers of the League). Although they may not have the most glittering trophy cabinet, they have more than made up for it by establishing a cult following around the world. This is mainly down to a steadfast support for alternative culture and left wing politics, with fans coming from all backgrounds. St Pauli banned right-wing activities during the eighties and have gone on to support gay rights, banned Maxim from advertising in the stadium due to a backlash from female supporters and generally adhered to all the best aspects of the punk era. Heading onto the pitch to AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’, St Pauli are easily in a league of their own, mostly because everyone is slightly terrified of them. I would proudly be a supporter of these noble nut-jobs, but sadly I cannot. If I’m to support a team, it must be local. Given that I live in Bavaria, the commute might make this relationship a little one-sided, and I couldn’t do that.
Despite being formed in opposition to my other favorite sport rugby, Der Club fits in with nearly all my requirements for a football club. It has a great stadium (48,548), is very much local and best of all they are certainly not hipsters or preening Madonnas. Equally important, they have had their glory days, most recently their triumph in the DFB Pokal in 2007. Although this basically makes them more successful than my beloved Toon, they have not let success go to their heads. With this in mind, they have happily danced around mid-table in recent years. However, I’m quietly confident they are simply biding their time before striking fear into their rivalry at every turn. If not? Well, I can drink beer in the standing area at home games, seems like a fair deal to me. Also, for some inexplicable reason Andy Capp appears to be one of their mascots. I’m not a superstitious man, but I think they were made for me!