Germany is a country of sports enthusiasts and indeed a successful sporting nation. In the Olympic Games all-time medals table Germany, with 1,682 medals (as at 2014), places third behind the USA and the Russian Federation. Around 28 million people in Germany are members of one of the more than 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.
The German Olympic Sports Confederation’s “Integration through Sport” programme believes immigration enriches German sport. One of the areas the programme will be focussing on in its work in the future will be 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 sustainable projects for integrating refugees in sport. These include the project “1:0 für ein Willkommen” – 1:0 for a Welcome – which the German national team supports; the project provides financial assistance to around 600 football clubs that help refugees.
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.
Women’s football is one of the fastest growing sports disciplines. The German women’s national team has won the World Cup and the European Championships on several occasions. Motivated by the success of players like Steffi Jones, who in 2016 will become the national coach, some 337,300 girls up to the age of 16 are now active members of football clubs.
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 2014-5 season, the 306 matches played between the 18 Bundesliga teams were watched live in the stadiums by around 13.3 million spectators, an average of 43,530 per game. Bayern Munich is the measure of all things in German club football. In May 2015 the club won the German championship for the 25th time, on top of which it has lifted the German Football Association Cup 17 times, and in 2001 and 2013 was victorious in the Champions League. With more than 251,000 members, it is the club with the most members in the world after Benfica Lisbon.
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, Sami Khedira, and Mesut Özil.
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 over 70,000 participants from 2,780 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 thanks in no small measure to the promotion of sport. This way, around 3,800 athletes from almost all Olympic disciplines, traditional non-Olympic sports, as well as disabled and deaf sport are sponsored. Supporting athletes who have disabilities is likewise an important aspect. And here too, having now won a total of 1,492 medals (2014), athletes from Germany have been highly successful at international competitions and the Paralympic Games.
“On the Move – Overcoming Borders” is the motto of the International Sports Promotion programme of the Federal Foreign Office. It 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 the sport project “Kicken statt kämpfen – Bolzen für Toleranz”, which involved 16 female and male football coaches receiving training in kids’ and youth football. The idea is for youngsters suffering from the long-term effects of violent conflict to address the idea of fair play through games.
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.