There is a tendency in today’s football world to think of the top leagues in Europe as the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and everyone else (whoever that may be). There is no mention of Bundesliga when one thinks of top teams (Bayern Munich may be the exception) – simply a mention of it is met with an ignorant wave of the hand and ridiculed as rubbish.
When Marco Reus snubbed the likes of Arsenal to move to Borussia Dortmund (from Borussia Mönchengladbach, if anyone cares) there was shock and disarray among fans. That it was a perfectly logical move for a player brought up in the Dortmund youth system mattered not – “how could someone reject a move to one of the world’s most elite clubs?” was the general line of thought.
Borussia Dortmund have won the German Championship on 8 occasions and have lifted the European Cup once compared to Arsenal’s zero but that matters not because the fact remains that Arsenal play in the most popular (which, I am at pains to say, does not make it the best) league in the world while Dortmund plough on in one of the most criminally under-rated leagues around Europe.
Let me clear one thing up – I am not endorsing it as the best league in the world, nor the best league in Europe – but simply as a league which should be appreciated and watched more by fans who claim they love fast-paced, pulsating, edge of the seat football yet shun the Bundesliga on grounds that is ‘boring’ or too ‘one dimensional and predictable’ since Bayern keep dominating games and dismantle inferior opposition and that there’s ‘no variety’ on offer in this league.
Five different clubs have won the league in the last 10 years – how’s that for ‘variety’? In this period, the Premier League has had four different winners while La Liga and Serie A have seen three. The Premier League has seen 4895 goals scored in the last 5 seasons at an average of 2.73 goals per game while the Bundesliga has seen the ball nestle in the back of the net 4146 times in the same period at an average of 2.87 goals per game. That little statistic blasts away any myth about the Bundesliga being a ‘boring’ or ‘slow-paced’ league out of the window.
While there is a perennial dearth of talent in England, the Germans have been producing home-grown talent like well-oiled machines. Where there is a war between Premier League clubs and the English FA waged on a weekly basis, the German clubs have a strong and beneficial understanding with their governing body. According to Reuters, only € 80 million are spent on academies out of the € 2-billion turnover in Bundesliga whereas € 95 million are spent in England each year and we all know how that story goes.
Why is the concept of a “big four” or a “top two” so widely accepted and revered? Isn’t an open league, with every team going blood and thunder every week for three points, the dream scenario for football fans? Take the example of VfL Wolfsburg. They clinched the Bundesliga crown in 2009 (while playing some exhilarating football along the way) but finished a lowly 15th in the 2010-11 season.
The Bundesliga has one of the highest average attendances of any league in Europe – the average attendance during the 2010-11 season was 42, 673 (according to Bren Goetze). This is no small part down to the incredibly low ticket prices at Bundesliga games compared to the extravagant prices of the Premier League (remember the ridiculous € 70 per ticket Arsenal asked of Manchester City’s fans recently?). Clubs in Germany are majority-owned by the fans (I suggest googling the ’50+1′ rule if you are not aware of how the ownership of Bundesliga clubs in divved up – it is a fascinating concept).
There is a romantic element to the league – it was revealed earlier this year that Bayern Munich had loaned €2 million to Borussia Dortmund in 2002 when Die Borussen were on the verge of liquidation. Can you imagine that happening anywhere around the world? When Portsmouth were swept under with administration twice in the last 3 years, no club in the league pyramid offered a helping hand (though admittedly, most are busy paying off their own debts accumulated over the years with careless spending and reckless ownership changes).
Simply put, the Bundesliga doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves because of the lack of coverage and exposure around the world. Fans are ignorant to it’s beauty and excitement. I suggest you prop yourself down in front of the television this weekend, switch over to Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Werder Bremen (17:30 GMT) and let the sweet joy of German football take over your senses. If you give it a chance, you will fall in love with the Bundesliga.