The German football federation decided on July 28, 1962 to launch the German professional league, the Bundesliga. Uwe Seeler was the top scorer in the league’s first season of 1963/64 and looks back in a DW interview.
Deutsche Welle: Uwe Seeler, what was your first thought when you heard that the Bundesliga would be founded?
Uwe Seeler:We were all in favor of that. We felt it was high time professional football got introduced in Germany, because until then we were always at a disadvantage playing against clubs in England, Italy or Spain. They all had better conditions than we did – and we badly wanted to match them.
Before then you had been playing as amateurs in regional leagues. What difference did the Bundesliga make to you personally?
It brought a lot of change to many of us. We were the champions back then, but all our players had real jobs on the side. Some of us could then not combine the two. Jürgen Werner, for example, was a teacher and couldn't have kept that going, so he dropped out of professional football. Things like that were noticeable.
Back then you earned a monthly income of 1,250 German marks (650 euros, $840) before tax. It went a bit further back then, but when you hear that players now make eight to ten million euros a year – do you then wish you could play now rather than fifty years ago?
No. Things are just the way they are. I always managed to play football and earn an additional income. My family could not have survived on the 1,250 or 1,500 Marks I made on the pitch. I always had my sales job on the side and managed to keep up with the training while I was travelling.
You did have more lucrative offers from clubs outside Germany, but opted to stay with Hamburg throughout your career. Why was that?
I can't really answer that one. Basically I had a good deal with Adidas back then, and the sales activity for them was important to me. And then it was just a gut feeling that my life in Hamburg with that combination of football and the job was the right thing for me. It would, of course, have been easier to accept the offer and money from Italy, move down there and just focus on playing football. I think the real test is whether you still feel you made the right decision several decades later. And I am very content with the way things worked out.
You stayed with Hamburg, what are your thoughts when you hear how many players today play for six or more clubs throughout their careers?
Everyone has to decide for themselves. I can't imagine having wanted to move around so much, but then that's maybe just the way things are in professional football. Maybe there are a lot of guys out there who just go where the money is. I'm a different sort of guy, because back then times were different. My motto was always: It's not all about money!
What are your personal highlights in five decades of Bundesliga history?
The Bundesliga has developed dramatically. So much has changed. We have all those wonderful new stadiums that have been built, which are better than anywhere else in the world. The Bundesliga is so popular and the clubs know how to cash in on that. And that is important, as we can see with those Bundesliga clubs that have not managed so well and have run into financial difficulties.
And is there also a downside to the Bundesliga, things you'd rather forget?
I'd like to forget all the violence, the hooliganism. That has nothing to do with football fan culture. I hope that it will be possible to put an end to all that quickly, that really doesn't belong in the stadiums.
50 years of Bundesliga are behind us – let's look into our crystal ball: Will the Bundesliga still exist another 50 years down the line?
I sure hope so. I think we will always see new developments. Maybe there will no longer be national leagues then, just a unified European one. I'm not sure I'd like that, though. To be honest, I really don't think that far ahead. Things are always moving and will continue to do so. To me the Bundesliga is really interesting – and I hope it will stay that way for another twenty years.
Uwe Seeler, born in 1936, has a special place in German football. He scored 30 goals during his first Bundesliga season alone. He faithfully stayed with Hamburg throughout his career and he was captain of the German national team, where he scored 43 goals in the 72 games he played.
DW's Tobias Oelmaier conducted the interview.