Books about German football
German football is becoming more and more popular abroad and more and more people are travelling to Germany to experience it in person. There is a growing number of Bundesliga books providing background and explanation to German football’s phenomenal success. Here are some of my favourites.
1. If you read no other book about football in Germany you should read Tor!: The Story of German Football, by Uli Hesse. This extremely well researched book takes the reader through the history of German football, from its origins in the late 19th century to the present day. There’s a whole chapter on how German clubs get their names and the story of football unfolds within the context of German history. Hesse describes how in the early days clubs had to fight for respectability in the face of opposition from the gymnastics movement, but how football gathered momentum and became a mass sport in the 20s and 30s. He outlines the horrors of the Nazi regime and war years and their impact on football, and then goes on to the ‘Miracle of Bern’ when Germany won the World Cup. He covers the building of dominant sides in the 60’s and 70’s, the TV explosion of the late 80’s, then the nadir of Euro 2000. The book ends with a description of the inexorable rise of German football from 2000 to become the world force it is today.
It is written in a very accessible style, and Hesse makes brilliant use of stories to bring facts to life. Definitely one of the best Bundesliga books on the market.
2. Raphael Honigstein speaks and writes knowledgeably, fluently and interestingly about football in German and English.
His latest book Das Reboot: How German Football Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World, charts German football’s return from the wilderness of the late 1990’s, culminating in the glorious victories over Brazil and Argentina in the 2014 World Cup finals.
3. Matchdays: The Hidden Story of the Bundesliga by Ronald Reng tells the story of the Bundesliga through the life and times of Heinz Höher. His career as a player spanned the years before and after the formation of the Bundesliga. He played for Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Meidericher SV (later renamed MSV Duisburg), FC Twente and VfL Bochum.
As a coach he worked for VfL Bochum, Schwarz Weiß Essen, MSV Duiburg, Fortuna Düsseldorf and FC Nürnberg as well as teams in Greece and Saudi Arabia.
The reader experiences the history of the Bundesliga from the perspective of someone who lived it. This approach also enables Reng to give great insights into everyday life in modern Germany.
Höher himself is a fascinating and at times tragic figure. The many bitter disappointments in his life story leave the reader in no doubt about the cruelty of modern football and of the narrow line between success and failure.
4. Robert Reng was a close friend of Robert Encke, the German goalkeeper who tragically took his own life in 2009. In A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke, Reng describes his friend’s life, casting light on the crushing pressures of professional sport.
5. OK, The Miracle Of Bern [DVD] is a film not a book – but it’s the best film I have ever come across about German football. Set in the gloomy post-war years when Germany was still coming to terms with its terrible past and only just recovering from the disasters inflicted on the country National Socialism, it leads up to Germany’s surprising victory in the 1954 World Cup. Th
e film is much more than an intensely emotional and touching story. It shows us what Germany was like in the immediate post-war years and what football was like before the Bundesliga.