Sporting Challenges

At the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics, monoskier Anna Schaffelhuber won two Gold medals
At the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics, monoskier Anna Schaffelhuber won two Gold medals picture alliance/ALEXANDRA WEY/KEYSTONE
Germany is highly successful in top-class sports disciplines, but grassroots sport also plays an important role. The International Sports Promotion program relies on sport to foster understanding between peoples.

Germany is a country of sports enthusiasts and indeed a successful sporting nation. In the Olympic Games all-time medals table Germany, with 1,757 medals (as at 2018), places third behind the USA and the Russian Federation. Around 28 million people in Germany are members of one of the roughly 91,000 sports clubs. Alongside their sporting duties, the clubs also assume important social and inclusive roles. Particularly as regards youth work and integration they reinforce values such as fair play, team spirit, and tolerance. Given the rising internationalisation of the population, the work done by sports clubs is becoming ever more important with a view to the social integration of migrants. Around 60,700 clubs have members with a migratory background in their teams. Overall it is safe to assume that approximately 1.7 million people with a migratory background are members of a sports club. Nonetheless, the group of people with a migratory background is still under-represented in organised sport.

picture alliance/SvenSimon

The German Olympic Sports Confeder­ation’s “Integration through Sport” programme believes immigration enriches German sport. One of the programme’s focal areas is working with groups which have previously been under-represented in sport, for example girls and women. Together with the “Bundesliga-Stiftung” and the German Football Association, the Federal Government has also launched an inte­gration initiative. This finances projects for integrating refugees in sport. The project “1:0 für ein Willkommen” – 1:0 for a Welcome, which the German national team supports, and its continuation “2:0 für ein Willkommen” have since 2015 provided financial assistance to some 3,400 clubs that work with refugees on a voluntary basis.

The German Olympic Sports Confeder­ation is an umbrella organisation for German sport and sees itself as Germany’s largest civic group. It promotes top-class and grassroots sport. More than 20,000 of the 91,000 sports clubs it represents were founded after German Reunification in 1990. Founded in 1900, the German Football Association is also one of the 98 member organisations. The seven million members in 25,000 football clubs represent an all-time high in the Association’s history, and it is the world’s largest national sports association.

Alongside sport climbing, modern pent­athlon, and boxing, one of the sports with the most new members is triathlon. Club membership more than doubled between 2001 and 2015. In 2017, almost 85,000 men and women were active in this sport.

The Bundesliga, the top-flight league in German football, is the shining light in German sport. Internationally it is regarded as one of the strongest leagues. In the 2016-7 season, the 306 matches played between the 18 Bundesliga teams were watched live in the stadiums by around 12.7 million spectators, an average of 41,500 per game. Bayern Munich is the measure of all things in German club football. In April 2018 the club won the German championship for the 28th time, on top of which it has lifted the German Football Association Cup 18 times, and in 2001 and 2013 was victorious in the Champions League. With more than 290,000 members, it is the club with the most members in the world.

The German men’s team has won the World Cup four times and the European Championships on three occasions, and is the flagship of German football. Having won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Germany heads the FIFA World Rankings. Trained by Joachim Löw, the team is considered to be tactically flexible, and stands for a modern interpretation of the game. The national team squad includes several players with a migratory background, such as Jérôme Boateng and Sami Khedira.

Sporting recognition and success in various disciplines

Alongside football, popular sports are gymnastics, tennis, shooting, athletics, handball, and riding. But other sporting events are also highly successful, for ex­ample the J. P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt am Main. Raced by some 63,000 participants from 2,419 companies, the corporate charity run is regarded as the biggest event of its kind in the world.

German sport is a success story in many respects. This is also thanks to the promotion of sport by Stiftung Deutsche Sporthilfe. It supports around 4,000 athletes from almost all Olympic disciplines, traditional non-Olympic sports, as well as sports for disabled and deaf people. Supporting athletes who have dis­abilities is likewise an important aspect. And here too, having now won a total of 1,871 medals (2018), athletes from Ger­many have been highly successful at in­ternational competitions and the Paralympic Games.

The International Sports Promotion programme of the Federal Foreign Office is a firm part of its cultural relations and education activities abroad, and has already supported more than 1,400 short and long-term projects in various sports in over 100 countries. One example is a long-term project promoting women’s football in Uruguay, which trains female coaches and en­ables women and girls better access to sport, particularly football.

In this and many other ways, German sport is striving to reach levels of excellence as a means of crisis prevention and understanding between peoples, and as an ambassador for more fairness, tolerance, integration, peaceful competition, and performance.

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