Nationalities Represented in the Bundesliga

Starting with the 2007 season, the DFB removed the limits on Non-EU players that can be on the field at one time for their club. Six years on from that decision, the landscape has gone through quite a change. 48% of all Bundesliga players are listed as having at least partial nationality from some place other than Germany. That’s 257 players, which ranks as the 4th highest total of any league in Europe, behind only English Premier League, the nPower Championship of England, and Italy’s Serie A.

Matchday 34 saw no game with fewer than 11 foreigners feature for both teams (Hamburger SV v. Bayer Leverkusen) and Borussia Mönchengladbach v. Bayern Munich saw 16 players from other countries play. Individually Wolfsburg had 11 foreigners, including 10 starters in their last match, while Bayer Leverkusen only had 3 foreigners feature in their last match.

To determine the various nationalities I used the websites Soccerway.com and Transfermarkt.co.uk. However these websites are not perfect and have various concerns. All players with German nationality as well as another, are classified for the other country in the total number of players, which is problematic since many would identify themselves as German.

One example of this is Leverkusen midfielder Sidney Sam, who earned his first two caps for the German national team in their two recent friendlies against Ecuador and the United States. According to transfermarkt.co.uk Sam is listed as having both German and Nigerian nationalities. He is counted in the number for foreign players, but was born in Kiel.

There are 59 Countries that currently have players in the Bundesliga, but the top 5 represented nations are:

1: Brazil (18)
2: Austria (17)
3: Czech Republic (13)
4: Switzerland (12)
5: Tie- Croatia and Japan (11)

The breakdown of players by continent (I listed countries by which continental federation they belong to) looks like this:

Africa: 29 from 13 countries
Asia: 20 from 4 countries
Europe: 167 from 32 countries
North & Central America: 10 from 3 countries
South America: 31 from 7 countries

Three other countries, Turkey, Netherlands, Denmark, have 10 players each as well.  Brazil supplying the most foreign players was a surprise to me, especially since many Brazilians typically start out their European careers in Portugal due to the common language. But with over 1100 Brazilians playing in other countries, those 18 make up only 1.5% of all their players.

The other surprise for me is that there are 11 players of the Japanese delegation. According to Transfermarkt, the Bundesliga is the 2nd most common destination for players from the Land of the Rising Sun, only Singapore’s S League has more. The high numbers of Austrians and Swiss are certainly due to the common language and shared borders. The shared border can also be a factor for the Czechs, Danes and Dutch. The Turks have been coming to Germany for a while for the economic opportunities, so it’s no surprise that they a decent amount of players in Germany. In fact, of the various leagues where the most Turkish players ply their trade outside their home country, 19 of the top 20 are various lower leagues in Germany.

Some countries had fewer numbers than I expected as well. The common border theme does not seem to boost the numbers of French. With only 5 players in the Bundesliga, they have the same amount as Peru. I would attribute this to the fact that Ligue 1 is considered a top league and so there is no reason for players to cross the border. Another surprise was that Denmark aside, the remaining Scandinavian nations don’t have too many players- 10 total, 4 for both Sweden and Norway, and two for Finland.

The Finns don’t have a strong footballing history and their players seem to go to Norway and Sweden. Norway has fewer players in other countries than Finland, but the Bundesliga is tied for 2nd as a destination for those players with 5 other leagues, including the Danish Superligaen and the English Premier League. In terms of footballing history Sweden has arguably the best of those 3 nations but their players have tended to go to England rather than to Germany. Last season was no exception with 5 playing in the Premier League to the Bundesliga’s 4. Since 2006/07 season, 46 Swedes have gone west to England, while 32 have traveled south to Germany.

With all of these foreigners playing in the Bundesliga, the question becomes which national teams benefit from their players being in this league. Japan is an excellent example of this. In their two recent defeats at the Confederations Cup 3-0 against Brazil and a 4-3 thriller versus Italy 6 of the 8 players with Bundesliga ties have featured in at least one game.

The Austrian National team is also one that seems to be benefitting from its players moving to the Bundesliga. In their recent qualification match, a 2-1 win over Sweden that moved them into 2nd place in the group, 7 of the 11 starters played last year in Germany. Many of their players have moved to German clubs in the last World Cup cycle, and the results are paying off. The team is looking to qualify for its first tournament since the 1998 World Cup (they were a host for the 2008 UEFA Championship).

The Bundesliga is currently on an upward slope. Not only does this help the German National Team in their quest for winning another World Cup, but also neighboring nations as well as those located across the globe.

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Andrew Smith

Born in Indiana, Andrew is a 27-year-old Social Studies teacher who has traveled to Germany on multiple occasions. He enjoys learning more of the tactical side of the game and can be followed on Twitter at andsmith_46.

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