American football in Munich: millions of fans rejoice. – Sports

The Tampa Bay Bucaneers vs. Seattle Seahawks game in the Allianz Arena (Sunday, 3:30 p.m.) is the NFL’s first competitive game in Central Europe. Critics say: A pure PR stunt to make money. Fans say: About time! A foray through Munich with the question: how much US sports culture do both teams have in their luggage – and how much has already been here?

Dance of the seabirds

woofz. Not one or two, no, six buses squeeze into the FC Bayern training ground on Thursday afternoon Munich. To a broad-shouldered American, it must all seem very narrow here. Then the Seattle Seahawks get out. Past an oversized, red football helmet with the FC Bayern crest. The football club has prepared a field for the Seahawks, yard lines are painted. The acclimatization training begins three hours after arrival in Germany. Will Dissly, the team’s tight end, chose the music. “Party till we die”, it probably booms all the way to the Perlacher Forst. The players jump. So that’s what it sounds like and that’s what it looks like when American athletes are on a business trip.

Historically, the Seahawks could not train in a more appropriate place. Right here, where they’re now throwing football balls, Americans did it a long time ago. After the war, there were training grounds for the GIs stationed in Munich on Säbener Strasse. Incidentally, FC Bayern was once the German baseball champion in the 1960s. The boys from the neighborhood had been given the equipment and their enthusiasm by the soldiers. So there have always been US sports freaks here.

FC Bayern has been cooperating with the NFL since 2014, when the club maintained a branch in New York. Both sides benefit from this and Bayern have influential friends in the USA, Clark Hunt for example. As the owner of FC Dallas he wants to make football more popular in the USA, as the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs he wants to make football more popular in Germany. The latter might have been successful.

The German twelves

“We’re really honored to be here,” said 71-year-old Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. He knows exactly how many want to see the game and that there will be a lot of “Twelves” in the stadium. Twelves they call their fans in the infamously loud stadium in Seattle. The twelfth men, so to speak. In 2013, Carroll won the Super Bowl with the Seahawks, and shortly thereafter the NFL conquered German free TV. Many younger NFL fans like his team – and there should be more. Germany, Carroll says, now has a chance to show the rest of the world how much it wants to be a part of that experience and incorporate football into its sporting culture. Perhaps the large demand for tickets has already been the answer.

American Football: The Seattle Seahawks had already completed their first training session on Säbener Straße on Friday.

The Seattle Seahawks had already completed their first training session on Säbener Straße on Friday.

(Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP)

“I guess we still have to play a game here,” says Aaron Donkor, when asked about the hype in Germany. He would be happy. It would be a home visit, Donkor grew up in Göttingen. He is part of the extended squad. Many Germans have already made it into the NFL like him. Now he’s a kind of ambassador, a mediator between the worlds: he won’t play on Sunday, but will carry the flag into the stadium. Which flag? Oh. Well, he guesses the German ones. But he would also love to wear both at once.

The Bucs board Munich

Thursday morning, airport. At Terminal 2, people in fan gear flock to the exit, they come from all over Europe and the USA. “From Wisconsin,” says a fan wearing a Buccaneers hoodie. “Where’s the bus to town from here?”

There are said to have been three million ticket requests. The number should be treated with caution: around 750,000 people actually tried to buy tickets online. It is of course no coincidence that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were selected for the premiere game in Germany, because their quarterback Tom Brady is the most important figurehead of the league. On Friday afternoon, the Buccaneers arrive at the FC Bayern campus for training, also six buses, training at the stadium. Looks a lot more serious than the party-loving Seahawks.

Brady, the 45-year-old, does not train in a jersey, but in a pale shirt and gray baggy pants. The media crowd is much bigger than the day before with the Seahawks, there are also more fans on the street – because of him. To see the six-time Super Bowl winner. The Seahawks have fans, the Bucs, the Pirates, have groupies. Together they form a huge market for which you can ship an entire league game to Germany.

Heroic stories like those of Brady or his former German protector, Sebastian Vollmer from Düsseldorf, bring those interested in sports to football. Young people see it on TV and think: cool, I want to do it too, join clubs. That’s how it works. Nadine Nurasyid also came to the campus. She is head coach of the Munich Cowboys. 25 newcomers came to the first division club’s open training session on Thursday, she says.

“I don’t know as much about Munich as I should,” admitted Brady at the press conference, but told the team it was one of the games of their career to remember. And he gets a present goat (“Greatest of all time”) then also – a pair of leather trousers.

raven fathers

Last Saturday in the Olympic Stadium, about 160 footballers came. Some just want to stand on this lawn. Most of them apply for this tryout as a player for the Munich Ravens, a football team that is scheduled to start in the still very young European League of Football (ELF) in 2023. “98 percent come from Bavaria,” says Ravens manager Sebastian Stolz. It was immensely important to the ELF to have a Bavarian team. american football is media sport, so the media city of Munich needs a team.

American Football: Conversion work in the Allianz Arena for the NFL game taking place on Sunday.

Conversion work in the Allianz Arena for the NFL game taking place on Sunday.

(Photo: Smith/Imago)

Five days later, the boss is visiting the Allianz Arena. Managing Director Jürgen Muth inspects the conversion. The NFL was so positively surprised by the three million ticket requests, he says, that he believes they will “be committed to Germany on a long-term basis.” It will soon be discussed whether the current contingent – two games in Munich, two in Frankfurt – should not be expanded.

The popularity of the NFL is both a blessing and a curse for those responsible for German football. Because the national offer can neither serve the interests of consumers in terms of sport nor media aesthetics. It is rumored that the Ravens would love to play in FC Bayern’s campus stadium. Again, a possible Bayern connection. But maybe it will also be the stadium of SpVgg Unterhaching.

Also thanks to efforts to improve marketing, things are moving again at national level. The German Football Association (AFVD) has been led by Robert Huber for 25 years. Six days after the NFL game in Munich, of all things, it could be the end for him, for the Federal Assembly on November 19, no fewer than nine state associations have applied for Huber’s deselection. One of the German professionals who was successful in the NFL once said that he himself had to approach the association: Don’t you want to do a bit of advertising with me? No reaction.

If the Germans don’t manage it themselves with nice pictures and a little more viewers, the Americans will just send their best over there.

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