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The rising popularity of American Football in Germany

As school starts and the leaves gradually change in color, we turn our attention back to one of America’s favorite pastimes—football. Be it attending high school games in our home towns or driving into the city to see professionals take the field, football is both entertainment and a culture in and of itself. Even the least sporty of Americans is still known to be caught watching a full game once a year during the Super Bowl or throwing a ball around the backyard to pass time.

Though a poll by Gallop shows that football is America’s favorite sport, it hasn’t gained much traction in other places around the world and in fact, “football” refers to an entirely different sport in most other places. Germany is much more associated with the other football, Fußball, and has over 26,000 football clubs nationwide.

Despite their clear love of what we’d call soccer, young Germans—always on the search for a new way to stay active—have been dipping their toes into the world of American football.

First seen on TV

The prevalence of online media has allowed sports enthusiasts to easily transcend borders. More and more Germans are being exposed to football games via their social media feeds or by streaming games live. That access brings Germans as close to the big action as most Americans! The NFL averages 3000,000 viewers each Sunday from Germany. With the screaming crowds, big sponsors, and bright lights, the exposure to the sport has inspired some Germans to start local clubs at home.

Surge of Football clubs

Like with any sport, today’s stars started out on peewee teams and in rec leagues. It may surprise you, but there are already roughly 35,000 registered football players in Germany. The German Football League was founded in 1979 and consists of 16 teams with the same rules as the NCAA ranging from the Berlin Rebels to the Munich Cowboys. Its 2018 season is its 40th, with each team playing a total of 14 games. They play one another each year in the German Bowl but also compete against other European teams.

© dpa / picture-alliance

As far as the highest-level international football, Germany and Austria take the lead outside of the United States.

Famous German players in America

With the rise of clubs, the first wave of German-recruited players are starting to make their way onto German rosters. Given the new growth of interest in the sport, many players only started playing as teens. Möritz Böhringer started playing American football after watching a YouTube video when was 17. He ended up becoming the first player to be drafted into the NFL (Minnesota Vikings) directly from the European league. Sebastian Vollmer, who started playing when he was 14 years old, was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of 2009 NFL draft. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn also started at 14, playing eventually for the New York Giants and signing with the New England Patriots in 2016.

© dpa / picture-alliance

So if you are a diehard football fan in Germany missing the comradery, look around—there’s a growing fan base around you!

By Claire MacFarlane, German Embassy

2 Replies to “The rising popularity of American Football in Germany”

    • Nick

      The 3 million viewers are probably everybody that watched some football (via TV, intetnet, social media…) per game day. The typical sunday broadcast gets about 500,000 to 600,000 viewers, thats more than the german basketball and hockey leagues get. So its realy big, it might be bigger in Germany than in the UK.

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