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 2020), places second behind the USA. More than 27 million people in Germany are members of one of the almost 90,000 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.
The “Integration through Sport” programme, which is sponsored by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community together with the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 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.
Volunteer work with refugees
Together with the “Bundesliga-Stiftung” and the German Football Association, the Federal Government has launched another 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 provided financial assistance to more than 3,700 clubs that work with refugees on a voluntary basis since 2015.
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 almost 90,000 sports clubs it represents were founded after German Reunification in 1990. The German Football Association, which was founded in 1900, is one of the DOSB’s approximately 100 member organisations. Its approximately 7.2 million members in almost 24,500 football clubs represent an all-time high in the Association’s history, and it is the world’s largest national sports association. Nevertheless, it is likely that the Corona pandemic will leave some clubs fighting for survival and the number is therefore likely to fall as a result of the crisis.
One of the sports with the most new members is triathlon. Club membership more than doubled between 2001 and 2015, and around 60,600 men and women were active in this sport in 2020. In 2015 Jan Frodeno became the first triathlete to be named sportsperson of the year. Frodeno had previously won Ironman Hawaii – the first German to do so.
Focus on football
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, although the 2020/2021 season was overshadowed by the Corona pandemic and matches had to take place largely without spectators. Bayern Munich is the measure of all things in German club football. In 2020 the club won the German championship for the 30th time, on top of which it has lifted the German Football Association Cup 20 times, and in 2001, 2013 and 2020 was victorious in the Champions League. With 291,000 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. 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 Antonio Rüdiger and Leroy Sané.
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 2,282 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, which 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.
Sport as a way of uniting nations
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 gives women and girls better access to sport, particularly football. For some years now, one focal area of international sports promotion by the Federal Foreign Office has been the African continent. Around 70 percent of funding is channelled there. In Namibia, for example, children and young people are given a playful introduction to athletics in the “Kids’ Athletics” project.
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.