Anyone who has been following the fallout from Germany’s humiliating World Cup exit could be forgiven for thinking that German football is absolutely on its knees.
In Russia, the reigning world champions, arrogantly branded as Die Mannschaft, were rightly punished for their sloppy preparation and tactical deficiencies — not to mention the shameful handling of the Mesut Özil affair and a hubristic marketing campaign.
Now, after a shortened summer break, German football is slowing turning its collective attention back to the game’s bread and butter: Club football.
Third-division football, top level support
This weekend, both the nationwide third division and regional fourth divisions got back underway for the 2018-19 season. The football on offer might not be of the highest quality, but that hasn’t affected the fans’ appetite, as attendance figures across the country show.
In southwestern Kaiserslautern, an incredible 41,324 supporters packed out the Fritz-Walter-Stadion on the famous Betzenberg hill to see two former Bundesliga giants, as four-time German champions Kaiserslautern beat 1966 Bundesliga winners 1860 Munich 1-0, despite both clubs struggling with significant off-the-field issues.
The local “Red Devils” have been relegated to the third tier for the first time in the club’s rich history, weighed down by a mountain of debt, while the Bavarians, back in professional football after a year in the regional fourth tier, were accompanied by over 7,000 traveling fans who had made the 400-kilometer (249-mile) journey across southern Germany from Munich.