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It’s eight weeks since Leeds United have been in action and if I’m honest I’m desperate for a bit of competitive football to watch. The re-runs of Euro 96 on ITV this week have been entertaining but I already know what happened! The Bundesliga will be the first elite European league to restart this weekend and it gives everyone a chance to watch some decent live football. But football isn’t the same unless you have an invested interest, so who should you support? We take a look at some of the contenders for your affections this weekend.
There is a lot in common between Dortmund and Leeds, so much so they are twinned with each other. Both cities have strong industrial pasts but having seen their coal and steel industries decline have moved into services and hi-tech industry. Both have a proud history of brewing too. With no competition to speak of Dortmund is a one club city and Borussia fans, just like Leeds fans, have an unshakeable belief that their club just “means more” than any other. Borussia is a good club for English fans to follow because of Jadon Sancho, but for Leeds fans there is an even better connection, Erling Håland. The Leeds born, son of Alife Håland, has been banging in the goals for Dortmund since his transfer in January.
FC Union Berlin
I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for FC Union Berlin since we played them in a friendly at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei back in 2007. They beat us two nil that day, but it was my first experience of German football and I’ll always remember the bratwurst, pilsner and lively atmosphere fondly. The fans are organised and passionate and the club seems much more in touch with their supporters and culture than larger local rivals. Recent promotion to the topflight has lead to them being a bit of a trendy team to support, hipster if you like. They are not going to be fighting at the top but are more than capable of giving some of the bigger boys a bloody nose. Their first chance coming on Sunday when they take on one of Leeds United’s old rivals, Bayern Munich.
The small city of Mönchengladbach is located in North Rhine-Westphalia, halfway between Düsseldorf and the Dutch border. Like Leeds it grew during the industrial revolution, mainly influenced by the development of the textile industry. Just like Leeds they were big in the 70s with multiple league titles to their name and a couple of European trophies in the bag too. They fell on hard times after the millennium, dropping down a division (sound familiar) but have since bounced back to the top flight. One of the biggest teams in Germany, despite a lack of recent success over the past 25 years, they have a lot in common with Leeds in that regard.
Nicknamed “Neverkusen” due to their string of second place finishes in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s there are already some echoes with David O’Leary’s young Leeds United side of the same era. Losing out in the latter stages of the Champions League and German cup too they have a reputation for chocking on the big occasions. So if you want that feeling Leeds United often provide or nearly achieving something but usually missing out then Leverkusen could be your team. But things feel a bit different at Leeds now under Bielsa, 2019-2020 could be the season we finally put our Neverkusen” days behind us!
Berlins big boys, not as trendy as their East Berlin rivals but they have a large and noisy fanbase. A decent side in the 1970 they have found themselves in the second tier for much of the 21st century, I can think of another team like that. The similarities don’t end there either, shockingly chaotic is a term that has been used to describe Hertha and Leeds fans will have sympathy with that after the past twenty years. Scandal, financial issues, short lived managers and relegations litter the club’s history, a big club who haver never really cemented their place amongst the elite.
So, who will you pick to follow this weekend? German football has a lot of similarities with the English game. The passion of its supporters, the style of play. There are plenty of good clubs to pick, just make sure it’s not Bayern Munich!