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10 things you need to know about the Bundesliga
The German Bundesliga is one of the world’s premier soccer leagues, boasting some of the sport’s best teams and players, the highest average attendances in the game and so much more.
Fifty-six clubs have competed in the Bundesliga since its founding. Bayern Munich has won 31 of 59 titles, as well as the last ten seasons. The Bundesliga has seen other champions, with Borussia Dortmund, Hamburger SV, Werder Bremen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and VfB Stuttgart most prominent among them.
Here are the 10 things you need to know about the Bundesliga…
While England and Spain, for example, have had national top divisions going back almost a century or more, Germany was relatively late in this respect. The Bundesliga's first season began in August 1963 consisting of 16 teams, in 1965/66 the league was expanded to 18 teams.
It has since maintained that format for all but one year. In 1991/92 the league had a one-off season featuring 20 teams to accommodate Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden as the two East German representatives following German reunification in 1991. The division returned to 18 teams the following year.
The Bundesliga's maiden champions in 1963/64 were Cologne, who won in some style by finishing six points clear of Meiderich back when only two points were awarded for a win. The first seven seasons saw seven different champions in Cologne, Werder Bremen, 1860 Munich, Eintracht Braunschweig, Nuremberg, Bayern and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Gladbach became the first team to defend the title when they won the league again in 1970/71 to spark an era of thrilling competition with Bayern. Between 1968/69 and 1976/77, the title was shared between those sides with the Foals claiming five Meisterschale to Bayern's four.
Since then, however, the Munich club have never gone more than three seasons without emerging as German champions. They have done so a record 31 times in the Bundesliga era, enjoying their greatest period of domestic success between 2012/13 and the present day.
3) Top scorers
Quite frankly there is only one man at this party in over half a century of Bundesliga action. Gerd Müller's haul of 365 goals from just 427 games will likely never be beaten. Every single one of those came for Bayern, at a rate of one every 105 minutes, before the man known as "Der Bomber" left for the USA at the age of 33.
Second on the list, by quite some distance, is Lewandowski. The forward is of course, the top scorer among non-Germans since he overtook Peruvian Claudio Pizarro in March 2019. He plundered an astonishing 312 goals in 384 Bundesliga games at a clip of one every 100 minutes on average before departing Bayern in summer 2022.
Completing the podium is Klaus Fischer. He averaged a goal every other game over the course of a remarkable 535-game career, netting 268 times in the Bundesliga for 1860 Munich, Schalke, Cologne and Bochum between the 60s and 80s.
The remaining top 10 is completed by Jupp Heynckes (220), Manfred Burgsmüller (213 goals), Pizarro (197), Ulf Kirsten (182), Stefan Kuntz (179), Klaus Allofs and Dieter Müller (both 177).
4) Goals galore
Such scoring prowess perhaps makes it little surprise that the Bundesliga often boasts the best goals-per-game rate among Europe's top five leagues.
In the 2021/22 season, for example, the Bundesliga saw the most goals per game across Europe's top divisions. Germany's 306 top-flight fixtures produced a total of 954 goals at a rate of 3.12 per match. No other league broke the three-goal mark. Serie A ranked second (2.87) followed by the Premier League (2.82), Ligue 1 (2.81) and La Liga (2.50). That marked the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Bundesliga produced the most goals per game across Europe's top divisions.
5) Youth promotion
Bringing through young players is more than just about squad development in the Bundesliga, it is in fact an obligation.
Section 3 of the DFL's Licence Regulations states that all Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs must run their own academy under the goal of maintaining a world-class flow of young talent into the Bundesliga and national team, meaning a minimum of 12 players eligible for Germany must be in the squads between U16 and U19 level, as well as 60 per cent of those youth players under contract.
6) Packed house
Success, goals and, above all, affordable prices tend to lead to full stadiums. That is what the Bundesliga offers.
The average Bundesliga attendance in 2018/19 was more than 43,000. That was over 5,000 more than the Premier League and almost double that of France's top division. Of all the male sports leagues in the world, only the NFL packs on average more people into its stadiums.
Followers of the Bundesliga will often come across the concept of the "50+1 rule". This DFL regulation is another reason why fans feel so close to their club, as it stipulates that a club must own the majority of its own voting rights.
This means that club members – the fans – retain control of how their club is run. To do this, a club must own 50 per cent of its shares plus at least one more share.
The background behind this system is because football clubs had to be run as not-for-profit organisations until 1998. Following that, clubs were allowed to become public or private limited companies, but those companies still had to be majority owned by the club’s parent company (the member company).
8) The Federal League
To someone who can't speak German, the name "Bundesliga" may throw up the odd difficulty. Despite what is sometimes heard, it is simply pronounced "Bun-des-liga", no "sh" in the middle.
Eagle-eyed observers will note the "-liga" element, obviously showing that the Bundesliga is a league. But "Bundes-" is giving little away to those less versed in the language of Goethe.
Those familiar with German culture, though, will have come across those six letters relatively frequently: Bundestag, Bundesland, Bundesrepublik Deutschland, just to name a few.
It simply means "federal", or because of its implied reference to Germany, can just be translated as "German". Hence, Bundestag is the (federal) German parliament, a Bundesland is one of Germany's 16 (federal) states and the Bundesrepublik Deutschland is the country's official name, written in English as Federal Republic of Germany.
So, while there's no need to translate the name "Bundesliga", its meaning would technically be "federal league”.
9) At the forefront of technology
A stated aim of the Bundesliga's governing organisation, the DFL, is to make the league the most innovative football league in the world.
Although the Bundesliga did not introduce goal-line technology until 2015/16, some three years after its global approval, the DFL has stood by its use and confirmed there were 36 decisions based on the Hawk-Eye goal-line technology in its first three seasons.
The Bundesliga wasn't going to be slow to react to the game's next big technological advancement, though, when it became the first European league to introduce VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in 2017/18.
10) Other records
While champions and goalscorers were mentioned earlier, there are plenty more records of note in the Bundesliga.
Although Pizarro is the oldest player to score in the league, he's still a few years off being the oldest player to appear. That honour goes to Klaus Fichtel, who featured for Schalke at 43 years and six months in May 1988.
At the other end of the spectrum, Borussia Dortmund starlet Youssoufa Moukoko is the youngest player ever to make his debut, doing so at 16 years and one day in November 2020. When he netted his first goal a few weeks later he also became the youngest scorer in Bundesliga history at 16 years and 28 days.
No one, though, has tasted more Bundesliga football than Karl-Heinz 'Charly' Körbel. The centre-back played over 53,000 minutes across 602 matches, plus two games in the relegation play-off, in a career spanning over 18 years – all for Eintracht Frankfurt.
While seven players have scored a hat-trick on their Bundesliga debut, none have made the impact of Erling Haaland at Dortmund, who netted his three goals in the space of 23 second-half minutes after coming off the bench at Augsburg in 2019/20.
It's quick, but not by Lewandowski standards. In 2015/16 he netted the fastest hat-trick, four-goal and five-goal hauls in Bundesliga history, reaching the latter mark inside just nine minutes against Wolfsburg.
The record for most matches as a player and coach, however, goes to Jupp Heynckes, who clocked up 1,037 appearances on the pitch or touchline over 36 seasons.
He isn't the oldest man to coach a Bundesliga team, though. That honour went to Fred Schulz when he took charge of Bremen for the final time on the last day of 1977/78 at 74 years and 184 days.
While Julian Nagelsmann was the youngest full-time head coach in the league when he took over at Hoffenheim at 28 years and 205 days, the youngest all told was Bernd Stöber, who was just 24 when he oversaw one game for Saarbrücken against Cologne on Matchday 10 of 1976/77.
Some players may wish their coach could sub them off after putting the ball into their own net. No one has done so more often in the league than Nikolce Noveski of Mainz and Manfred Kaltz of Hamburg, who both did so six times in the Bundesliga. Noveski is even one of six people to have bagged a brace of own goals.