The Bundesliga’s impact on Australian Football

Many Australian football fans can relate to waking up in the middle of the night (actually early morning) to watch their favourite football side.  The English Premier League and Italian Serie A are probably the most watched European football leagues in Australia, with the domestic A-League also having a big following.

Many Australians also wake up to watch Bundesliga telecasts.  Setanta Sports Australia air up to five Bundesliga games a weekend, with a weekly highlights package, and extended their contract with the Bundesliga last July through the 2014-2015 season.  The stumbling block for some fans is that Setanta is only available on Pay-TV service Foxtel. And that is escalated as Setanta is not part of the basic sports package, so fans are forced to pay up $AUD 16 a month, or $AUD 180 annually, on top of their Foxtel package, which obviously, some fans are not willing to fork out.

Since only five games a week are televised, Bundesliga fans in Australia are not guaranteed to watch their side each week, like in the English Premier League. In fact Setanta don’t actually control which games are broadcast.

Australians in Germany

Some of Australia’s footballing talents have been finding their way to German clubs for more than a decade, with the likes of Mitch Langerak of Borussia Dortmund, Nikita Rukavytsya, Robbie Kruse of Fortuna Düsseldorf and Gladbach’s Matthew Leckie earning paychecks there currently.

Born in the small country town of Emerald in Queensland, Langerak, who turns 24 in August, has played backup role both for Dortmund  and for the Australian NT, but is considered Australia’s next big goalkeeper.

Langerak came through the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), the top sports academy in Australia, based in Canberra. The baby-faced Langerak then moved to Melbourne Victory, getting his big break in the 2009-10 season and was quickly labelled the next  “Mark Schwarzer”, Australia’s #1 goalkeeper for years, who on 98 appearances, is the Socceroos most capped player.  (Fulham’s Schwarzer played briefly in Germany in the mid 1990s with Dynamo Dresden and Kaiserslautern).

Langerak is also currently an understudy in club football, backing up veteran Roman Weidenfeller at Dortmund.  Langerak has seen some Bundesliga action, though, playing three Bundesliga games over his two seasons with the Black and Yellows and two Cup games, including replacing the injured Weidenfeller in the successful 2012 DFB Cup Final against Bayern Munich.

Robbie Kruse, 23, born in Brisbane, didn’t rise to fame for the right seasons at first. Kruse came through at Brisbane Roar, but had some off field altercations which affected his relationship with Coach Frank Farina and led to his departure.

But Melbourne Victory gave the wide man a lifeline and he took the opportunity with both hands. Kruse’s attitude changed and turned his focus to the football, which some of the credit goes down to Victory Coach Ernie Merrick and co, and Kruse’s focus allowed him to score 16 in goals in 39 games.

The impressive form earned Kruse a move to Fortuna Düsseldorf in the 2. Bundesliga on a free transfer, while the young forward also made his Socceroos debut in the Asian Cup in January 2011.

However Kruse’ future remains uncertain as a lack of game time at Fortuna may for Kruse to move on, as the Socceroo made only three appearances last season, but is still in the Socceroos fold in the current World Cup Qualifiers.

Meanwhile Rukavytsya has been a regular for Hertha BSC over two seasons, first in the 2. Bundesliga, finishing with the second most assists, before being promoted in the first division in 2011-12. But the Ukrainian born forward’s future is uncertain after Hertha were relegated at the end of the current season.  Rukavytsya has played in 55 league matches for the Old Lady since 2010, scoring five goals.

Melbourne native Matthew Leckie, 21, began his professional career with Adelaide United in 2009.  He was signed by Borussia Monchengladbach last summer and played in nine senior club and ten reserve matches for the Foals.  The second striker/right winger was recently loaned to FSV Frankfurt in 2.Bundesliga for the upcoming season. Teenaged Australian youth international Mustafa Amini signed with Borussia Dortmund last summer on a four-year deal but played the 2011/2012 season on loan with Central Coast Mariners, appearing in 18 matches.  Amini , an attacking midfielder, has also made 23 appearances with Australian NT youth sides, including four with the U-23 squad.

Several more Australians play in the lower divisions of German football, including Ryan Gazet du Chattelier (Stuttgart Kickers II), James Georgeff (FC Neubrandenburg), Mike Erwin (TUS Koblenz II) and youth players Nedim Basic (Wuppertaler SV) and James Stojcevski (Karlsruher SC).  Sydney FC defender Michael Beauchamp played in 30 matches for Nurnberg between 2006-2008, and fellow Sydney native Dean Heffenan spent a season on loan with Der Club also.  Two more Nurnberg alumni are Adelaide United attacker Dario Vidošić, who was with Der Club between 2007 and 2011, appearing in 30 league contests, and current Australian NT Matthew Špiranović, who saw action in 24 matches and is currently with Urawa Red Diamonds.   Vidošić also spent time on loan with MSV Duisburg and Arminia Bielefeld.  Lanky striker Joshua Kennedy played over 125 matches in Germany for six different clubs betweeen 2000 and 2009, scoring 28 goals.  He is also a member of the Australian NT and now plies his trade in the J League with Nagoya Grampus.

Germany’s Gift to Australian Football:  Thomas Broich

tom meets zizouFormer FC Kӧln and Borussia Mӧnchengladbach midfielder Thomas Broich has set the A-League on fire since signing a three-year deal with the Brisbane Roar in May, 2010.  With the likes of Marco Flores (Adelaide United), Carlos Hernandez (Melbourne Victory) and former Manchester United forward Dwight Yorke (Sydney FC), Broich is arguably the best foreigner to play in Australia.  The A-League, which began onfield operations for the 2005-2006 season, limits club rosters to a maximum of five foreign players.

Born, January 29th, 1981, in München, Broich is an intelligent man who believes football is not everything, and enjoys music and reading, something he couldn’t have done with football in Europe.

Broich in fact was supposed to be the big next thing in German football with the likes of Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but failed to live up to the expectation and lost interest in football whilst in Europe. But Ange Postecoglou of Brisbane Roar gave Broich the opportunity to join the Queenslanders while also living a more laid back lifestyle.

The man they call ‘Mozart’ was instrumental in achieving back to back A-League titles with Brisbane, the only side to do so in the history of the competition, and won the Johnny Warren Medal for Player of the Year in the past season.

Aljoscha Pause, a German film director, even offered Broich the chance to film a documentary on his career. “Tom Meets Zizou” was eventually released after eight years of filming in March 2011 and has been a major success in Germany.

The German’s touch, control and his ability to find a teammate has amazed the Australian football fans and media, whilst raising the standard, thus providing better footballers.

Australian National Team

The Socceroos in fact have a German manager, in Holger Osieck. The 63-year-old has worked with some of the best players and coaches in the world, as Osieck was Franz Beckenbauer’s assistant with Germany at the successful 1990 World Cup in Italy.

After Germany, Osieck took up the head coach’s position with VFL Bochum, before moving onto Turkish giants Fenerbahce, Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds, and on to coach Canada to just their second CONCACAF Gold Cup crown in 2000.

After joining the Socceroos in 2010 and taking over from Dutchman Pim Verbeek, the German lead the Socceroos to the 2011 Asian Cup Final in Qatar, but fell to Japan late in extra-time, before easing to top spot in the third round of the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.

With Guus Hiddink, Osieck is seen as one of Australia’s best coaches, as the German has coached 20 games with a 70% win record, compared to Hiddink’s 58% after 12 games.

Osieck has influenced the Socceroos immensely, by introducing some quality youngsters, like Kruse and Langerak, whilst retaining veterans with vast European club experience. such as Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill, the aforementioned Mark Schwarzer, and recently bringing in the rejuvenated Mark Bresciano.

Conclusion

German football has influenced Australia to the point now that one sees Australian football fans in Bundesliga shirts, especially those of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, probably the two largest German supported clubs in Australia. Furthermore, there is at least eight Bundesliga fan clubs including Red Kangaroos Australia for Bayern Munich, as well as an Australian Bundesliga fan page on Facebook.  With Australia always amongst the top ten nations, according to Google Analytics, of Bundesliga Fanatic readers, the expectation is that the German influence on the continent will continue to grow.

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Daniel is a football writer living in Melbourne, Australia, covering the domestic A-League and various European leagues. Daniel works hard and is determined to fulfil his dream of a professional sports journalist. Follow Daniel on twitter @Quinby07

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