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Sports in Germany

You don’t want to become a couch potato? Don’t worry: expat life in Germany isn’t lacking in opportunities for hobby athletes. Our brief guide to sports in Germany talks about popular spectator sports, huge sports events, as well as fun activities both indoors and outdoors.
Football (soccer) is by far the most popular spectator sport in Germany. Here fans celebrate "their" team's success.

Most cities offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor and indoor sports in Germany. In addition to team sports like soccer, walking, cycling, and inline skating are widespread weekend activities. As soon as the weather turns sunny in spring, public parks are crowded with sports teams, cyclists, and families on excursions. However, one thing is typical of sports in Germany – the ubiquitous sports clubs (Sportvereine).

Sports clubs play an important role for socializing. There are clubs for all kinds of sports in Germany, both team sports and individual sports. Such clubs are a great opportunity for expats to meet local people and make new friends. Even if you are not in very good shape, you needn’t worry. Membership in a sports club doesn’t equal being a professional athlete.

The membership fees for sports clubs strongly depend on the type of activity you prefer. These clubs mostly finance themselves, relying on the help of unpaid volunteers. If you are interested in joining a German club, ask for a Probetraining, a try out, usually free of charge. If the sport of your choice requires special equipment, most clubs provide it initially.

For schoolchildren in Germany, joining a sports club is an excellent leisure activity: local schools in Germany don’t focus as strongly on sports as many schools in the UK or the US tend to do.

Sports in Germany: Soccer

Plenty of people in Germany are crazy about soccer. It is not only the most popular of team sports in Germany, but the country’s favorite spectator sport as well. During the main season for premier league games, large stadiums across Germany are packed every weekend. Moreover, millions follow the coverage of soccer matches on TV.

The German enthusiasm for football peaked during the FIFA World Cup in 2006, as the event took place in Germany. National media referred to it as one big party. Germany lost against Italy in the semi-finals and managed to finish third, although it had won the World Cup trophy three times before.

There are a variety of other international events focusing on sports in Germany. None can quite compete with the appeal of soccer, though. Not even the Olympic Games managed to attract the same attention. Furthermore, both times when the Summer Olympics were held in Germany they caused a controversial stir.

Sports in Germany: The Olympic Games

In 1931, two years before Hitler seized power, Germany was chosen to organize the Olympic Summer Games in 1936. The Nazis used the event as a huge propaganda opportunity to improve the international reputation of their regime. The games were supposed to falsely portray Nazi Germany as an allegedly friendly and open nation.

The true sensation, however, was the African-American athlete Jesse Owens from Alabama, who won four gold medals and became the star of the 1936 Olympics – an ironic turn of events considering the Nazis’ increasingly violent obsession with the white “Aryan” race.

The 1972 Olympics in Munich, another event intended as a milestone for sports in Germany, had a very bad start. They were overshadowed by the kidnapping of eleven athletes from Israel. After several failed attempts to free the hostages from their Palestinian captors, the kidnapping ended with the death of all hostages. In spite of this tragedy, the games were only paused for half a day, with the official consent of the Israeli government.

Sports in Germany: Other Spectator Sports

Apart from such truly out-of-the-ordinary incidents as described above, the attention that spectator sports in Germany usually receive depends on how well German participants perform. Formula One racing, tennis, handball, boxing, and cycling all used to have their German stars that temporarily boosted the sport’s general popularity. However, soccer continues to be the most popular of all sports in Germany.  

If you don’t want to be a couch potato and become an active soccer player, join a gym etc., read on for more info in the second part of our guide to sports in Germany.


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