I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend. This was an excellent decision. Cheers Stumpy...
This history of football in Germany is well written, funny and tragic. There were so many things that I learnt from this. From the way teams were named and originated to stories that just make you laugh out loud and others that reduce you to tears.
As an example there is the story of a player signed by a team who said "They wanted to give me a third of the gate receipts. I told them No Way. I won't accept less than a quarter."
To think that the Germans had no professionalism or national league until 1963. The way that the national federation controlled the game and looked on professionalism as a disease to be fought off is unbelievable to us.
This book proves that there is more to German football than Bayern Munich. It shows how team rose and fell and how the game developed from an "unpatriotic" and "foreign" one into a world beater. This teaches us about the German people and their view of us and other countries.
They are bemused at our image of them and do not understand our rivalry and obession with the War that pervades the meetings between our countries.
I highly recommend this to every who wants to gain an insight into the history and development of the game in Germany.
I couldn't believe how good this book was. It tells you everything you ever wanted to know about German football. It's origins, how it progressed, developed into the Bundesliga.
It's written in such an entertaining style and is so informative. There are loads of stories, from the stories behind team names such as Energie Cottbus and Carl Zeiss Jena, to detailed looks at significant figures in German football history from Franz Beckenbauer to Lothar Matthaus, from Gerd Muller to Rudi Voller. Then there are the tales of German football during the Nazi Era, from players who went missing and those whose fate was all to obvious.
There is a detailed account of football from the old East Germany. It is divided into a different section, as it should be, from the West German football league. Then came reunification and the players who found bigger fame once they moved to the West from the East, Jens Jeremies and Sebastian Deisler being two such players.
This is not just a straight, German football history book. It's too well written for that. It is one of the best football books I've read and I've read many. There are many lighter moments in here too, you will be laughing out loud to. Sehr gut und Einfach klasse!
I read this cover to cover in about a week, and enjoyed every word - this has got to be one of my favourite football books ever. So much so that I now see Rudi Voller in a completely different light, Lothar Matthaus in exactly the same light and now (this is the most bizarre bit) feel sorry for Oliver Kahn after his 'mare in the 2002 World Cup Final.
The shambles that was German national football, incredible as it seems, is explained in full as is football's position within the Nazi regime.
If you have any interest in football, or Germany, buy this book, it's fantastic. Perhaps if you're one of the 'no surrender' brigade, don't bother but get your kids to read it as they'll grow better for it!
on 25 August 2002
This is a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to German soccer. Obviously written with an English audience in mind, it nevertheless makes compelling reading. The writer is a German writing in English and occasionally it shows, but this only adds to the charm and remarkable even-handedness of the piece.
There is much here that I am sure is new to English audiences. I found the chapter about the 1954 world cup victory ('the miracle of berne') and Herbert Zimmermann's commentary of the final remarkably moving (especially when the received wisdom is the mighty magyars were cruelly robbed in that final). Also revealing is that Rudi Voeller is a thoroughly good bloke (when we all think of him as just a bloke with a typically naff German moustache and haircut) and that Franz Beckenbauer's personal behaviour hasn't always been as impressive as his achievements in the game. The author seems keen to dispel the myth of German efficiency and thoroughness, which is refreshing , but it doesn't quite come off because time and again we see Germans achieving heights (in spite of themselves) that the English just haven't got close to.
Just a couple of odd notes struck this reader and both relate to the war (sorry to say). The first is this line 'On April 30, 1945 Adolf Hitler shot himself. The day before Hamburg had beaten Altona 4-2 in the last official match played during wartime.' Now call me a pointy head, but the fall of Berlin (in which more Russians and Germans died over two months than the USA lost in the whole war) is a rather odd juxtaposition for such a meaningless match. Second, I know Sepp Herberger (coach to the remarkable 1954 team) was a great football man (sort of a cross between Bill Shankly and Alf Ramsey) but he was a member of the National Socialist Party and although the author goes to some lengths to clear his name I just wish he'd gone a bit further before I could feel entirely comfortable with him. To counterbalance this, I was more than impressed with the quiet dignity of men such as Helmut Schon (who witnessed the allied bombing of his home town Dresden) and Fritz Walter, the captain of the '54 team who was captured by the Russians (and what a close escape that was).
Overall though, a cracking read and one I recommend to all Europhile football fans. I read it at one sitting which is a testament to its engrossing and hugely enjoyable quality.
on 11 August 2005
First off, you need to be into football in a pretty big way to take in the content of this book. Also the author is German himself, so sometimes makes reference to things I did not totally understand - although his English is first-rate.
As you continue through this feast of information and stories about great German teams (international and club) and anecdotes concerning noted figures and important events in football's hundred-year history in Germany, a clear picture is built up about the neuroses, cheating, rivalries, politics, egos and the contrasting fortunes which has led the game to evolve into what we see today.
The author often tries to explain away some prejudices about Germans which foreigners perceive, and gives good arguments for his defence, but also deliberately and justifiably rubbishes other aspects of the German psyche and footballing habits which would often not be observed easily by outsiders.
I would particularly recommend this book to English readers. Scots are fairly indifferent to Germany in a footballing sense ("Yay, they beat England again!") so I think it might be an even more enjoyable read for and England fan who wants to know their enemy or, dare I say it, gain a fresh perspective on a superior footballing power?
The book is fair, honest, enjoyable, informative and well-written. If you like Germany or football you should buy it.
on 10 January 2003
If you are a fan of all things football - READ THIS BOOK!! If you already have an opinion on German football....I bet you it's wrong! I worked in Germany as a football commentator and thought I knew a lot about the Bundesliga. Wrong! If only this book had been around a couple of years ago.....
An absolutely fascinating read, starting at the very beginning of the German game. I was fascinated at how the household (in Germany) names that I recognised were so influential in the development of the beautiful game in the country where we (falsely) believe it became an automated one.
An outstanding book full of invaluable information for those of us who think we know it all. How many of you out there knew that 'adidas' has never officially been spelt with a capital letter? Or that 'adidas' and 'puma' were founded by two fueding brothers?
Buy this book and you won't be disappointed. You may even change your opinion on the Germans.........
on 25 July 2002
I've been a dedicated follower of football since that fateful day in Dortmund's Stadion Rote Erde some 40 years ago when Alemannia Aachen lost 3-5 to Borussia Dortmund after a 3-1 lead and Yugoslavian goalie Beara breaking his leg (again) - and I've always been inclined to read about the game as well as watching it, but I then had to come across a book on German football that I could sincerely recommend to others. I've now found it in Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger's "Tor!" which is not only detailed and precise on the factual side but also well-written and highly entertaining. The balance of facts and anecdotes is perfect, and Mr Hesse-Lichtenberger's detached perspective and often (suitably) ironic approach draw any kind of reader quickly into the book's numerous pages. Constantly changing between a frog's-eye and bird's-eye point of view, this books portraits German football from its diverse angles and examines its many facets. I don't see any competitor for this book on the history of German football, and as such its performance surpasses that of the current German national team. Anyone who has read Mr Hesse-Lichtenberger's contribution (definitely among the best three) to "Back Home" would have expected nothing less than a great book eloquently written.
on 20 April 2007
Fantastic introduction to, and comprehensive history of German football - from its beginnings up to the 2002 World Cup. Puts right a few myths and misunderstandings, explains the culture of the game to outsiders (e.g. why certain teams are hated so much and a few very "un-German" scandals) and shows that the English and German game share a lot in common. A really interesting and enjoyable read.
on 21 July 2002
As a German-American fan of German soccer, I've been waiting a long time to find an english language book on the subject that was not reduced to stereotypical notions of German soccer as another roaring success of quality German engineering and efficiency. For that reason I'd recommend the book to even those who don't like German soccer as the author goes after the efficiency myth with a vengeance, particularly in the bureaucratic development and management of the sport in Germany. The author goes beyond the mere reportage of the success of German soccer on an international scale, to place it in a cultural context within a fairly newly established state (ca. 1870s) that arose from centuries of regionalism. Many German officials defended the English amateur tradition - the English amateur game which was originally introduced in Germany - to absurd lengths ensuring that a nationwide professional league not being established until the 1960s. The politics of Nazi regime are exposed as a great farce in the realm of sport as the supposed blending of German and Austrian squads into a new national symbol of unified pride instead wallows in self defeating jealousy between the two nationalities which precludes any success in soccer. The attempts to develop a competitive East German league are sabotaged by lip service to communist communial ideals and the selfish desires of individual bureaucrats. One can only conclude that the success of German soccer is not the simple result of German efficiency and discipline, but an almost serendipitous fact considering all the inefficient squabbling. One also has to consider the cultural context to understand the significance of the 1954 victory. While more talented National teams emerged in the 1970s, the 1954 squad remains an dreamlike epic or untouchable standard within the historical context of the rebuilding of a disgraced nation. I'd always thought Schoen would be recognized as the greatest German coach, yet in surveys I'd read, some unfamiliar name to myself, Herberger, always beat Schoen out in polls. Although Bayern ends up being criticized heavily, the author carefully upends notions that in the 1970s Gladbach was a team of flair and creativity battling the stodgy and boring Bayern. I only wish the later chapters on the recent state of the game could be expanded as well as some writing on the emergence of German women playing the game. Finally, the author writes with a witty sarcastic tone that topples another cultural myth, in particular, that Germans have no sense of humor. I recommend the book to both fans and critics of German soccer, as both will be able to laugh at the many anecdotes of German exceptions to the efficiency stereotype.
on 25 December 2007
This is a truly wonderful book. 2nd only in my 40-odd years of sports book reading to John Arlott's Fred.
The author has a light and natural style, which is saying something for a German, as it isn't his native language. Not that you'd ever guess this from his prose, which is dry without being ascerbic, but also builds wonderfully well in the build-up to the 1954 World Cup win.
That's an even better achievement, as Herr Hesse-Lichtenberger wasn't born until 1966! This book is full of information without being in the remotest a statistical litany, and looks at all the underlying passions in German football from its' very beginnings in the 1890's.
It pulls no punches, either with German clubs who were busy expelling Jews months before ordered to do so by Hitler's men, nor with a National side that managed to combine cynical disregard for the spectator with winning at all costs between 1982-1998 on too many important occasions-his thoughts, by the way, not mine.
And, just as an afterthought on quite how good this is, how many ENGLISH sportwriters could fluently write about the Premiership in German?