July 25, 2017

German State Teams: Who Would Win the Hypothetical Inter-State Battle?

The Sans-Souci Palace.

The Federal Republic of Germany consists of 16 federal states (Bundesländer). While each state is governed by an elected Ministerpräsident and has it’s own parliament (Landtag), the German states don’t have as much control as states in the U.S. do. That being said, every Bundesland has its own traditions, foods, beverages, of course football clubs, and people who take great pride in that. It’s therefore a fun idea to speculate how each federal state would assemble a national team from homegrown players. All professional players born in each federal state were considered, whether they are German citizens or not. According to Spox, this is how an imaginary “State Bundesliga” would shake out.

Relegation Candidates

The smaller a state’s population, the smaller the selection of players. As expected Germany’s smallest states have the least impressive line ups. Avoiding the drop would be the only realistic for the following states.

Brandenburg

The Sans-Souci Palace.

State capital: Potsdam

Population: 2.5 million

Known for: Prussian heritage, cucumbers, Theodor Fontane (writer)

Brandenburg, like most former GDR states, is one of the less affluent regions in Germany That lack of money to go around cripples its football clubs. “BB” doesn’t even have a 2.Bundesliga side at the moment, which translates into “no top notch youth academies”. Outside of veteran journeyman Patrick Ebert (Hertha BSC, Valladolid, Spartak Moscow) none of Brandenburg’s current crop of players has experience at the highest level.

Thuringia (Thüringen)

Wartburg Castle.

State capital: Erfurt

Population: 2.2 million

Known for: Carl Zeiss optics, Rostbratwurst, Johann Sebastian Bach (composer)

Thuringia, the epicentre of German sausage culture, also had a hard time adjusting to capitalism. Thuringia hasn’t seen any top flight football played in that state since the Berlin Wall came down. Shooting star Tobias Werner (RB Leipzig) in attack and veteran Clemens Fritz (Werder Bremen) is better than anything Brandenburg has, but I don’t see this side winning too many matches against anybody else …

Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt)

Magdeburg Cathedral at night.

State capital: Magdeburg

Population: 2.2 million

Known for: wind energy, Harz Cheese, Martin Luther (founder of the protestant church)

You could copy and paste all of the issues mentioned in the two states above here, because Sachsen-Anhalt is another financially challenged former GDR state. It’s good to see that FC Magdeburg is on the verge of 2.Bundesliga promotion, because this state has been a football wasteland for too long.

Saxony-Anhalt’s full back positions seem to be taken care of with Dortmund skipper Marcel Schmelzer on the left and Wolfsburg youngster Paul Seguin on the right. Up front Nils Petersen (Freiburg) should help Saxony-Anhalt to win a few games.

Bremen (City State)

The Town Musicians of Bremen, famous fairy tale characters.

Population: 550.000

Known for: Werder Bremen, Beck’s, Angelique Kerber (tennis player)

Bremen and the harbor city (Bremerhaven) have held onto their sovereignty since the “Hansestadt Bremen” was part of the “Hanseatic League”. License plates issued in Bremen still say “HB” to this day. Werder Bremen is a massive club with an academy known for producing brilliant players. At the moment however, the Bremen team looks shorthanded. Outside of Julian Brandt (Leverkusen) and Terrence Boyd (Darmstadt), there isn’t much to see here.

Schleswig-Holstein

Kiel’s harbor.

State capital: Kiel

Population: 2.8 million

Known for: Hansesail Expo, storks, Thomas and Heinrich Mann (authors)

This state is located in the northern coastal region of Germany and isn’t known for being a football hotspot. The state’s biggest clubs are actually THW Kiel and Flensburg-Handewitt, two of Europe’s elite handball clubs. Since football club Holstein Kiel can’t manage to break into the big leagues, this might be Germany’s only state where football isn’t the main talking point on mondays. Compare THW Kiel’s Arena to Holstein Kiel’s Stadium and you get the picture. Aside from a handful of proven Bundesliga players (Sam, Kruse, Bartels), there is not a whole lot to get excited about. Still a solid side.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Schwerin Castle.

State capital: Schwerin

Population: 1.6 million

Known for: tourism, liquor, Max Schmeling (boxer)

“Meck-Pomm” is located on the eastern coast of Germany. The state is a popular summer vacation destination, yet unfortunately the non-tourism economy is in terrible shape. Hansa Rostock, the biggest club up there, hasn’t been in the Bundesliga for a while now, because the state simply lacks the companies (sponsors) to support a Bundesliga club. But this state is still the home of Toni Kroos, who has arguably been the best German outfield player alive for a while now. TK8 would carry this team to a few wins on his set piece assists alone. With his brother Felix (Union Berlin) next to him, midfield is taken care of. That being said, everything else doesn’t look too hot.

Mid-Table teams

Now we’re getting to the bigger states, that obviously have a bigger player pool to choose from. Those states wouldn’t have any relegation troubles but also don’t blow you away.

Free State of Saxony (Freistaat Sachsen)

Domes of the old city along the Elbe River in Dresden.

State capital: Dresden

Population: 4 million

Known for: Meissen porcelain, Leipziger Allerlei, Friedrich Nietzsche (philosopher)

Saxony is literally located in the center of Europe and the former GDR state is well on it’s way to become one of Europe’s most important logistic hubs. As we all know, Red Bull invested in Saxony and because of this investment, Saxony is the only ex-GDR state that is home to a Bundesliga club. Moreover, Dynamo Dresden and Erzgebirge Aue represent the Free State in the 2. Bundesliga. Rene Adler (HSV) and Maxi Arnold (Wolfsburg) are the players to watch here and veteran coach Christoph Daum’s experience should also help.

Saarland

 

Ludwigskirche.

State capital: Saarbrücken

Population: 1 million

Known for: Lyoner Sausage, Erich Honecker (leader of the socialist GDR)

This state could be the “darkhorse” surprise team. The state on the French border is tiny and doesn’t get talked about a lot, but the “total population to Bundesliga player ratio” is insane. While FC Saarbrücken hasn’t been relevant in years, in Kevin Trapp (PSG), Jonas Hector (Cologne) and Patrick Herrmann (Gladbach) you have a very solid foundation. Fun Fact: After WWII, the Saarland was a sovereign nation for a short period. They actually had to face West Germany in the 1954 World Cup qualifiers and lost. But the game was closer than expected, and the end the Saarland lost by a very respectable margin (1:3). Saarland would be my sleeper pick, these people are tough.

Hamburg (City State)

Hamburg’s harbor.

Population: 1.7 million

Known for: Die Reeperbahn, fish sandwiches, Karl Lagerfeld (fashion)

Hamburg is known as Germany’s “Tor zur Welt” (door to the world) because of the huge harbor that handles much of Germany’s exports. Thanks to the city’s  thriving economy, the Hamburg market is big enough to support two big clubs (Hamburger SV and St.Pauli).

On paper, team Hamburg looks like a pretty “top heavy” side. Scoring goals should come easy to Team Hamburg with Martin Harnick and Maxim Choupo-Moting around. A defense led by Jonathan Tah (Leverkusen) and Jeffrey Schlupp (Leicester City) means that Team Hamburg should do alright against most states.

Hesse (Hessen)

 

Frankfurt’s skyline during an evening.

State capital: Wiesbaden

Population: 6 million

Known for: expensive rent, apple wine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (poet)

The Frankfurt region is the financial center of Europe and home to some massive global corporations. Eintracht Frankfurt  and Darmstadt 98 represent Hesse in the Bundesliga. Defense and midfield don’t leave a lot to be desired. In Emre Can and Shkodran Mustafi, you have two Premier League starters who get to link up with Marc Stendera (Eintracht) and soon to be Bayern player Niklas Süle (Hoffenheim). The only glaring issue would be the reliance on Wolfsburg’s Yunus Malli to carry Hesse’s offense on his shoulders.

Berlin (City State)

Berlin’s famous Brendenburg gate.

Population: 3.5 million

Known for: nightlife, currywurst, Wilhelm II (Emperor of Prussia)

Germany’s capital is also an independent state. The city is less affluent than Hamburg with tourism being the biggest local industry. Many great footballers emerged from Berlin’s low income areas. The defense led by Bayern’s Jerome Boateng, Leicester’s Robert Huuuuuuuuth and AS Roma’s Antonio Rüdiger would be named “The Berlin Wall 2.0.” This potentially elite defense should keep Berlin in many games. A ton of weight would lie on the shoulders of Kevin Prince Boateng (Las Palmas) and Karim Bellarabi (Leverkusen), who would be required to create goals by themselves.

Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz)

Riesling vines by the Mosel River.

State capital: Mainz

Population: 4 million

Known for: Nürburgring, Sauerbraten, Karl Marx

The “Wine State” lies in the deep west of Germany. Mainz 05 is the state’s only top tier club at the moment, but historically the 1.FC Kaiserslautern is the biggest club of the state. Outside of Mario Pasalic, there are only proven Bundesliga players in the Rhineland-Palatia starting line up. Lars Stindl (Gladbach) up front and Willi Orban (Leipzig) in the back give this team a good base. A midfield that contains three “track & field” athletes in Schürrle (BVB), Esswein (Hertha) and Amiri (Hoffenheim) should make them lethal in counter attack situations. If Schürrle would play up to his potential, this team would actually be in the contenders bracket. But sadly, Andre Schürrle doesn’t do this often enough.

Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen)

The old VW works in Wolfsburg.

State capital: Hannover

Population: 8 million

Known for: Volkswagen, Pinkel mit Grünkohl, Werner von Siemens (scientist)

Lower Saxony is a massive state, spanning from north of the Ruhr Valley to the northern coast. Volkswagen is the most important company and the citizens of Niedersachsen actually own a 20% stake in Volkswagen. Wolfsburg plays in the Bundesliga, unlike the state’s two most beloved clubs, Hannover 96 and Eintracht Braunschweig. This Lower Saxony team is solid, yet not impressive enough to call them a contender. At least they have Alex Meier (Eintracht) and Per Mertesacker, so goals from set pieces should come easy for them. 

Contenders

Three states would be the clear cut favorites, if the made up “German Interstate League” would kick off next week. Interestingly, “Bayern” isn’t the odds-on favorite for once.

 Free State of Bavaria (Freistaat Bayern)

Neuschwanstein Castle.

State capital: Munich

Population: 12 million

Known for: Oktoberfest, Pretzels, Bayern Munich, Franz Beckenbauer

Bayern is Germany’s richest and most powerful state and the FC Bayern Munich is Germany’s premier football club. Even small Bavarian markets like Ingolstadt (Audi) and Augsburg (Kuka robotics) can carry a top tier club. Munich 1860, FC Nürnberg, Greuther Fürth and Würzburg all play in the second tier. Out of 36 total Bundesliga clubs, ten are Bavarian. The proven formula “Lahm plus Schweinsteiger plus Müller equals winning football games” makes it hard not to pick Bayern as the odds-on favorites. The three Die Mannschaft legends are joined by Mario Götze (Get well soon!), “Schweinsteiger’s heir” Julian Weigl, the Bender twins, and Sandro Wagner up front. Now you’re looking at a first eleven that could arguably make the quarterfinals at any Euro or World Cup. In Thomas Tuchel, Bavaria also has pretty good manager. The lack of elite goalkeeping can’t be overlooked though, which is why the Bavarians are only ranked third.

Baden-Württemberg

The Hohenzollern Castle.

State capital: Stuttgart

Population: 10 million

Known for: Mercedes and Porsche, Schwarzwald ham, Albert Einstein

B-W is another German state that is home to countless economic global entities who support local football clubs. World leading youth academies in Hoffenheim, Stuttgart, Freiburg and Karlsruhe have produced some of the Bundesliga’s finest players. B-W features a Champions League calibre line up with no glaring holes. Gnabry, Calhanoglu, Didavi  and Gomez build a nice front four shielded by the excellent Sami Khedira and soon to be Bayern player, Sebastian Rudy. Kimmich and Kolasinac are arguably the best young full backs in the Bundesliga right now, while Ömer Toprak earned himself a move to Dortmund with his play at Leverkusen. Younger legs and Bernd Leno in goal give this team the edge over Bayern. Oh, and if you are trying to be a world class football coach, being born in B-W helps. The pool of coaches to pick is so good that Jürgen Klopp and Joachim Löw are forced to share coaching duties here. Ottmar Hitzfeld, Ralf Rangnick, and Jürgen Klinsmann wouldn’t even make the cut.

North-Rhine Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)

Koeln’s skyline at night.

State capital: Düsseldorf

Population: 18 million

Known for: Karneval, pumpernickel, Ludwig van Beethoven

In the northern part of NRW lies the blue collar Ruhr Valley, home of Schalke, Dortmund and Bochum. Just an one hour drive south is another cluster of massive cities located close to the Rhein river: Köln, Leverkusen, Mönchengladbach, and Düsseldorf. The East NRW club Arminia Bielefeld completes the field of eight NRW-based Bundesliga clubs. Dortmund might be the biggest club in the state, but Schalke’s youth academy blows away the BVB academy when it comes to popping out high quality players. Six of the eleven NRW starters are graduates of Schalke’s world class Knappenschmiede. Team NRW looks like it was assembled on FIFA Ultimate Team. Reus, Draxler, Sane and Özil up front. Are you kidding me? Since it’s kinda hard to score on Neuer, especially when he’s got Hummels and Matip in front of him, this line up is simply ridiculously good. A clear cut favorite to win a hypothetical interstate title.

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