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The German Bundesliga is Germany’s top flight association football league. It and Bundesliga 2 make up a two tier system that has all of the best football players in Germany. The German Bundesliga 1 is one the top football leagues in the world with many of the best teams and players coming from there. Originally founded in 1963 the league has grown steadily since then and has undergone many changes to keep up with the growth. The second tier came into play in 1974 and both it and Bundesliga 1 are professional football leagues. In order to be a team in the German Bundesliga a club must meet certain requirements that are set down by the league. While there are many things that are the same about the German Bundesliga 1 and other top fight European leagues, there are other things that are substantially different.
History of the German Bundesliga
In order to fully understand why the German Bundesliga is the way it is one needs to examine the full history of association football in Germany. There has been a long history with amateur level teams playing in a variety of different sub regional leagues until around 1945. In 1900 the Deutscher Fussball Bund was founded with eighty six member clubs. The DFB continues to exist today as a federation of regional associations. This federation also allowed teams from outside Germany to participate as long as the players on the team were German. This practice was stopped as of 1904 however and only German based teams were allowed in the league. This did however set some kind of precedence for participation by teams from Austria.
The top trophy in German football from 1903 to 1944 was the Victoria Championship Trophy. This trophy was originally to be offered to both rugby and football teams; however football became the much more popular sport and eventually was the only one to receive the award. The trophy was awarding was interrupted by World War I and World War II. After World War II it was lost and did not resurface until decades later in a safe where it was placed by a fan for safekeeping. In its place the Championship Plate was created and awarded since 1949.
By 1919 there were over 150,000 registered football players in Germany. This number surged to over a million by 1939. These players were primarily amateur and formed the basis for regional and local sports associations around Germany. Around this time the totalitarian Nazi regime began its rise to power. Like everything in Germany, the Nazi party sought to control the entirety of German football. The formerly independent sports associations were forced into a Nazi party run league. In addition most of the teams also participated in the purge of the Jews from their organisations. There were some notable exceptions to this as both Alemannia Aachen and Bayern Munich tried to support their Jewish members against these actions. All of the regional teams were reorganised into sixteen regions and played in the Gauliga. This actually was a good thing for German football as prior to this was really no top league and most teams were allowed to compete against each other. By the forming of a more organised national league the level of competition was seriously increased. This would mark the beginning of the formation of what would eventually become the German Bundesliga.
Initially after World War II all sports clubs and associations were banned. This however was lifted quickly in the American, British, and French zones. As the old trophies and leagues were reformed there became a larger desire to form a more centralised professional league. This became even more intense as other leagues in competing European countries began to draw off Germany’s best players. In East Germany the DS Oberliga was formed in 1949 and continued until the unification of Germany in the 1990s.
This however was still not enough to compete with the rest of the world. A humiliating defeat to Yugoslavia in the 1962 World Cup was seen as the spark that finally drove Germany to create a professional top flight league. This new league would be partnered after the successful top league in England and would begin play in the 1963-64 season. Originally 46 clubs applied to be a part of the new league and eventually 16 were selected. The sixteen teams completed the first season with FC Koln being crowned the first champions of the new German Bundesliga.
The champion of the German Bundesliga is decided by play in the league. The set up for play is the same as in the English Premier League with each team playing each other twice, once at home and once away. Originally a win was worth two points and tie worth one point, but the league has adopted a method where a win is now worth three points. The club with the most points at the end of the season becomes the champion. The top two placing teams in the German Bundesliga will qualify for the UEFA Champions League into the group phase. The third place team will enter in the third qualifying round.
Since the addition of the second league there has been in place a system place for relegation and promotion between the leagues. The current system calls for the two teams in the first league to be relegated and the top two teams to be promoted. In addition as of the 2008-09 season the sixteenth placed team in the German Bundesliga will play the 3rd place team in the second league for the final spot in the First German Bundesliga.
As you can see the German top flight league took a bit longer to evolve then many of the other Premier Leagues in Europe. This was caused by many different factors starting with Germany’s dedication to amateur football followed by the difficult period of World War II and the resulting aftermath. However, to date the German league has been very successful and is poised to continue this success for years to come.