DFL SuperCup and FOX
I for one am quite glad that the DFL re-instated the SuperCup in 2010. Originating in 1987, the preseason competition was on hiatus following the 1996 competition before being brought back. The matchup between the League champion and the Pokal kings is a nice prelude to the first round of the Pokal next weekend and then the 2015/2016league kickoff on August 14.
Yes, it is a glorified friendly, and yes, the players aren’t yet in the top mental and physical fitness that regular season Bundesliga competition demands. But it is fun for the fans, and certainly meaningful to the players. Saturday’s match between VfL Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich displayed a strong level of intensity and effort by both clubs, even if some of the finery of passing and finishing wasn’t quite up to par. And Wolfsburg’s late comeback, and victory on penalty kicks, certainly is symbolic to a club that is trying to assert itself as a legitimate candidate to hoist the salad plate next Spring. And the DFL trophy placed in the case for a Wolfsburg side that hadn’t won hardware since its 2009 Bundesliga title — until they grabbed the 2015 Pokal in May — raises confidence.
How did Fox do, in its first live TV coverage of Bundesliga action under its new licensing agreement with the DFL? Pretty well. You know the production values associated with Bundesliga matches was already Sky high, and they continue to be so with great camera angles, closeups, crowd noise, replays, etc. Fox’ broadcast in the U.S. included color commentary by Thomas Hitzlsperger, who I’d never heard before — he did well by my account. And for all the worries we American Bundesliga fans expressed over the last few weeks concerning Fox’ handling of our favorite league, Saturday’s viewing experience, coupled with the dissemination of more information on how Fox will make the league matches available to fans looks like we are in for a treat.
If it all falls a bit short of what NBC has done with its EPL coverage in the States, it may be realistic to remember that the English league was much more established with American fans when NBC won licensing rights to the EPL than the Bundesliga is with Americans right now as Fox begins its coverage of Germany’s top division. The truth is the truth.
Getting back to the significance of the SuperCup itself, is it a crime that Pep’s side couldn’t quite come through? Of course not, and the loss is, in reality, little more than a temporary frustration for a club that has everything in line for another treble run. Let’s not forget the injury bug that bit the Bavarian squad particularly hard last season, derailing a treble bid only when it was down to the nitty-gritty in the Champions League and the Pokal. It’s really not time to be ragging on Pep, as some fans are wont to do. I think sometimes fans forget that the opponent is trying to win, too.
That said, this should be a very competitive season at the top of the table. Bayern are naturally and deservedly favorites, but Wolfsburg with Kevin De Bruyne in the driver’s seat have a flashy club that has experience, depth, and now, confidence. It’s never good to underestimate what Lucien Favre can do with his Borussia Mönchengladbach club. Bayer 04 Leverkusen have some real strengths, and it wouldn’t be prudent to count out those Ruhr Valley rivals, Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04, both also hard hit by injury last season — both have some very talented players, tons of European experience and new coaches. I am so looking forward to this upcoming season.
Bayern without Bastian
It was a bit strange to see Bayern Saturday without #31 on the field. Yes, I know Bastian Schweinsteiger has missed a number of matches in recent years with injury, but nonetheless he was still THERE.
And now he is at Manchester United. And it’s offputting in a way, but also reminds one that Schweinsteiger has accomplished everything a player can do with one club. Personally I have no problem with him deciding to go to United and try English football, and no doubt Louis van Gaal and supporters of the Red Devils will be ever so glad to have one of Bayern’s true elite players helping them become the top English club again.
My favorite memory of Herr Schweinsteiger has nothing to do with football per se. It involves a EuroLeague game between FCB’s basketball and one of the top teams in European basketball a few winters back. A close, competitive game it was, and when the cameras panned up into the stands there he was, the great Schweinsteiger, in a casual shirt and jeans,whooping it up like a regular guy for the basketball team of the club that he loves so much. Personally, that small glimpse was indicative of the kind of person Bastian Schweinsteiger is, and where his heart will always be.
Light in the Darkness
You may or may not know that Fox color commentator Thomas Hitzlsperger is openly gay. The longtime Aston Villa and VfB Stuttgart midfielder made this public in 2014. It is interesting, in a good way, that the former Bundesliga champion’s orientation isn’t a big deal, at least as far as I am aware.
While too much of our world seems consumed with conflict over cultural and religious differences, hope exists when the ray of light appears that suggests the doors are opening to those previously excluded. We also have seen recently the hiring of Nancy Lieberman and Becky Hammons as coaches of NBA teams while the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals made Jen Welter the first-ever female assistant coach in the NFL. Hitzlsperger, along with these women, are very qualified individuals breaking barriers, and it’s heartening to see. Another sign of progress is the women we now see officiating in the top leagues. The interest in the Women’s World Cup continues to grow. Occasionally, when there is so much darkness, one has to strain to see that progress is being made, but it is.
At the Bundesliga Fanatic, we begin our sixth season covering German football in English, and a few weeks ago we surpassed 3,000,000 pageviews. We began and still are primarily a work of fans who want to share their passion for the German game — the crowds, tradition, talent and the development of talent that makes soccer made in Germany so outstanding. And I’ll keep this simple — thanks to all our editors, contributors over the years, and especially our readers, old and new, whose interest is our motivation. Each month we reach fans in over 170 different nations according to Google Analytics. After five years, to reach readers in Bombay, Beirut, Birmingham, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Bochum and Boston, as just about everywhere else.
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Only two weeks into Germany’s 3. Liga season, only one of the twenty clubs, Energie Cottbus, have won both their fixtures, while only two clubs are without a point. And in two weeks of Bundesliga 2 competition, only SC Freiburg and VfL Bochum of eighteen clubs have won both matches — although RB Leipzig or SpVgg Greuther Fürth may join them in perfection when those two clubs face Monday to wrap up MatchDay 2.