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How Germany tackled American football and made it their own | Olympic Outposts

September 18, 2019


Germany is known as one of
the most successful football countries in the world. That means soccer. But hidden in this
soccer-crazed country is another kind of football. The growing interest
in American football has led to the development
of a nationwide league – GFL. Starting with six clubs
in 1979, the league has now expanded to
16 teams as of 2012. I’m here to discover Germany’s
passion for the sport as they journey to become a
top American football country. My name is Callie Bundy,
and you may recognise me from my viral football throws. But today, I’ve
travelled to Germany to find out how another country
has adopted the sport I love. I’m in the small town of
Schwabisch Hall, where the local team, the
Unicorns, are based. I want to find out what’s
driving these German athletes to the sport, and
what the future holds for American football abroad. So, from what I’m told, The
Unicorns, they’re not paid. What’s your full-time job? I work in a newspaper. How do you balance
training with football? Wednesday and Fridays when we
have practice, I get off work earlier. I’ll be there right on
time, right after work. How do you see football
growing here in Germany? Couple of years, maybe
we’ll have a good league, maybe some paid players. I will be too old, but
the young generation, they will maybe be professional
football players. So, Jordan, where are you
from? I come from Fort Worth,
Texas. Tell me what it’s like to coach
guys that didn’t grow up with the sport of football. We’ll get a guy who’s come from
soccer, or come from handball, or something else who’s
extremely athletic, but he has no
basis for football. And how do the
players end up here? We have basically
our own high school team, mixed with a foreign team that
we develop. And then because we play
on such a competitive level we have recruit outside
of Schwabisch Hall. You can only have two
Americans on the field, so they got to be big-time
impact players. How would you say the German
people treat the American style of football here? We have something here
in Schwabisch Hall that’s really unique,
that we’re the number one sport in our city. Here in Germany, you
find that nowhere. So talk us through what
the training is like. We try and be as professional
as we can with our practices. Every minute we’re doing
something, we’re moving, we’re trying to get as
good a work in as we can. Today, for example, we have a
game tomorrow and a long road trip, so we’ll
just be in helmets and it’ll be closer to what
is a traditional walk through. Well, thanks, coach. All right. Well, let’s get
after it. All right. I’m here with Nick Alfieri
who’s actually from where? I’m from Portland, Oregon. So now, I hear that there’s
only two spots for Americans on these football teams. So you must be pretty good. I’m OK. I like to think so.
I’m all right. So, what’s the
biggest difference between playing football
in America versus playing football in Germany? There’s kind of a
wide range of talent. Me, as a linebacker,
sometimes I’ll drop to one side
of the field and be going against a receiver
that is, you know, an extremely good,
division one college level. Maybe I drop to the
other side of the field and I’m playing against
guys who would maybe be comparable to an
American high-school level. So I think to get more and
more kids playing football at a younger age will
help grow the sport. First down. Let’s go now. What was your
introduction to football? Was it The Unicorns? My cousin played here. And I was like too
big for soccer. And I didn’t like it. So I started to play football. This is like, an honour to
play here in Schwäbisch Hall. We play like the biggest cities
in all of Germany or Europe, and we are kind of one
of the best programmes. And so tomorrow you
are playing who? Kirchdorf Wildcats. And what should we
expect for that? My expectation is a good
game and a W, for sure. You’ve got to lock
into this game. When it’s go time,
it’s go time. You’ve got to be able
to flip the switch. So it was awesome checking
out The Unicorns’ practice, and tomorrow, we’re going to go
see what an American football game day looks like in
Germany. It’s game day, and we
are here in Kirchdorf to watch the Wildcats play. So in America, we
would call what you are doing right now a tailgate. Have you guys heard
of a tailgate? Yes. – Is this a tailgate, too?
– Yeah. But you’re putting your
German twist on it, because I noticed some of
you have some pretty awesome
shorts on. – It’s a “Wix”.
– A “Wix”? – Yes.
– A Leder-Wix. The typical Bavarian style. And yours even has
like a cool belt. When did you become a GFL
fan? And what do you like about it? It feels like family
and it feels like fun. And the whole football hype
is coming to Germany now, and we’re proud. Do any of you play soccer? Soccer is not a sport. So I’m here with the president
of The Wildcats, Hans-Peter. Tell me, how long have you been
the president of the Wildcats? Since 1990. Yeah, we are existing
now for 30 years. I was one of the first players. We were some friends and we
founded the Wildcats in 1986. Talk to me about those early
days of American football in Germany.
What was it like? The early days was
pretty funny because of, we make the decision, let us
try to play American football. We have no idea what
we do on the field. But now we are with GFL. What do you think the
biggest difference is from when it started
to now? Everything is more
professional. The coaches are at a very
high professional level. And we as the
organisation, too, because we have the
experience. Well thank you, Hans,
and good luck today. Thank you very much. So the game is about to start. The fans are hyped. The environment is so,
so stoked. This is going to be my
first American football game in Germany. I can’t wait for this.
Let’s do it. So we were told that The
Unicorns are a lot better than the Wildcats,
but right now, this is a really evenly
played game. The Wildcats today
capitalized on that turnover, but we’ll see how they do. A lot of game left,
a lot of game left. So one thing I’ve noticed
is their clock management is a little bit slower. So they definitely let
some time come off the clock before they get moving with their plays. Because there’s no
stadium here, wind is definitely a factor
when they throw the ball. You can see how
inaccurate it makes them. So you would think
that there would be some more running plays
because of that there. But there actually aren’t. The offensive and
the defensive lines, they don’t go right at each
other and hit each other. They kind of almost
go around each other. It’s definitely less
aggressive. One thing you’ve probably
heard throughout the game are the vuvuzelas, the
noise makers, the drums. It sounds like we’re at
a soccer game, right? So that’s something that
the fans have definitely taken from soccer and brought to these American
football games here. It’s a lot of fun, it definitely creates a
really energetic environment, and it’s something
that we could probably bring back to the States. Football is not 40-point
blowouts and everybody sits down in the third quarter. That’s not football. Football is four quarters,
hard. This feels better. So that’s a great job. Get yourselves healthy.
Get ready to go. See everybody on
Wednesday. Congratulations. So I had an amazing
time here in Germany. You can definitely
see the passion that these athletes have. Though this sport is
American football, they’re definitely putting
their German spin on it. The majority of these
guys are not paid. This is something extra
that they have to do. It’s taken them a couple
decades to get to this point, but I have no doubt
that the GFL is going to continue to grow.

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