28 July 1962: The birth of the Bundesliga ⋆ An Old International

28 July 1962: The birth of the Bundesliga

It is just 50 years ago that at a meeting of the DFB in Dortmund the Bundesliga was born. On July 28 1962, 129 men who had something to say in German football decided with their feet: 103 pro only 26 against this new and unified league. Exactly 100 years after the English FA was established and 14 years after East Germany has started its own league, the Oberliga, West Germany followed suite and initiated the Bundesliga.

The Aim: A Unified League

Late on that summer day in 1962 it was decided that a unified league was to be established from August 1963 under the patronage of the DFB. There were several points in German football that were seen as limiting the progress of the game and the success of the national team, the prestigious asset. First, the league system was split into five regional leagues which would play out their best teams before the winners and second placed teams would play out the German championship between them. It meant that for most of the year, the football was at best mediocre and only for the last four or five games, if the teams have qualified at all. Only then there was a chance to play quality opponents. Not just was it an outdated modell, it was also preventing German football from prospering.

Shamateurism and Historical Ties

A second problem that was tackled with the introduction of the Bundesliga was ‘shamateurism.’ It was no secret that many players received payments from their clubs but officially they had a day job at a local factory. Traditionally, the DFB has been a very conservative organization to say the least. The principle of amateurism was held high. Many officials held offices during the Nazi period 1933-1945, like Pecco Bauwens, the president. The step to allow professionals can thus be argued to be one to cut the ties with that dark chapter of German history. More importantly however, was the fact that foreign clubs took an interest in German players. Uwe Seeler could only be convinced to stay at Hamburg after he was offered a job as a representative for adidas. The selection policy for the national team prohibited to select players playing abroad. Helmut Haller, scorer of Germany’s first goal in the World Cup Final 1966 would thus not have been allowed to play for Germany. After a dismal performance at the 1962 World Cup with a 1-0 defeat against Yugoslavia, the decline seemed unstoppable and immediate action was required.

If anything, the success came almost immediately. In 1965 TSV 1860 Munich reached the Cup Winners Cup final against West Ham United at Wembley. Although they lost, it was the biggest game in their history. A year later, Germany would play England at Wembley, losing the final in controversial circumstances. It was Borussia Dortmund who managed to win the first international title for German clubs. In 1966 they beat Liverpool in the Cup Winners Cup Final at Hampden Park, Glasgow 2-1 after extra time. Siggi Held and Reinhard ‘Stan’ Libuda scored for the West German club.

The best that could have happened to German football

It can therefore be argued without a doubt that the Bundesliga has been a success story. On top of that it was the best that could have happened to German football. Not just the national team benefited from this new unified league but the clubs also as they became regular starters in the European Cup competitions which became ever more important in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The results for the ‘Nationalmannschaft’ have improved dramatically and have made Germany into one of the major teams at any international tournament. The first rewards were reaped in 1972 wit the first European title for Helmut Sch

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