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World Cup winning league

André LeslieAugust 22, 2014

The World Cup is a distant memory and the next Bundesliga season is set to begin. But what does Germany's success in Brazil mean for the domestic football scene? And is the Bundesliga ready to compete on the world stage?

Basian Schweinsteiger holds the German championship trophy aloft (Photo: Tobias Hase/dpa)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

It's hard to miss the enthusiasm in Niklas Wildhagen's voice when he talks about the Bundesliga. The Norway-based sports journalist has turned himself into a German football expert over the past few years and is now Editor-in-Chief of the popular football website, Bundesliga Fanatic.

Wildhagen has monitored the steady rise in popularity of the Bundesliga over recent years and now hosts a weekly podcast on the competition, with a network of football journalists from around the world. They've always had lots to talk about and plenty of listeners, the 28-year-old says. But things are getting particularly interesting now, after Germany's World Cup win.

"There's no doubt, the league is widening its appeal to a global audience," Wildhagen told DW. "Not just here in Europe, but it's making huge strides across Asia too."

"Some people still have stereotypes about German football, but those are slowly being broken down," he adds. "That's partly because those people now have seen how Germany played at the World Cup."

Too little competition?

But what may be a winning combination for Joachim Löw's national team, isn't necessarily good for German domestic football. Of the 23 players that represented Germany in Brazil, 11 of them came from Germany's two biggest clubs Bayern and Dortmund. Some experts are concerned that Germany's domestic competition is turning into a two-horse race.

Bayern Munich attacker tries to get around a Dortmund defender in the 2014 Supercup
Is the dominance of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund a problem for the Bundesliga?Image: picture-alliance/dpa

A look at recent trophy winners would back that up. Dortmund won the title comfortably in 2011 and 2012 and since then it's been all Bayern Munich again. The two teams also won the last three German Cup competitions too.

Up until about five years ago, the Bundesliga could boast one of Europe's most unpredictable leader boards. Wolfsburg, Bremen and Stuttgart won titles and even a little place called Hoffenheim threatened to go all the way too, back in 2009.

"If this continues and Bayern turn into another one of these super clubs, it won't be healthy for the Bundesliga," says Ahmed Yussuf, a football analyst based in Australia, with a keen interest in the Bundesliga.

"Still, in the past, German teams have shown they are able to come up and challenge Bayern," Yussuf told DW. "Maybe Bayern is just coming back stronger at the moment."

Niklas Wildhagen also isn't too concerned about Bayern and Dortmund's dominance: "The good news is, these things are cyclical. Take Bayern for instance: in a few years all the team's stars –Ribery, Robben, Lahm and Schweinsteiger – will have ended their careers and things could open up again."

A competitive market

As part of the German Football League's (DFL) overseas marketing push, the opening match of the coming season between Bayern and Wolfsburg will be beamed around the world to over 200 countries. One person who will certainly be watching that game is James Tirabassi, the Vice-President of the Bayern Munich fanclub in Baltimore, USA.

"I hear a lot of people here complaining about the high spending in other European leagues, like Spain, England and more recently France," Tirabassi told DW. "But you never hear that sort of thing about German clubs."

German team celebrates in Brazil after winning World Cup
Germany's World Cup success, and especially their 7-1 victory over Brazil, excited football fans around the worldImage: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Tirabassi says that instead, many American soccer fans, recognize and respect the Bundesliga's financial modesty.

Still, the English Premier League remains the number one focus for his countrymen, Tirabassi says, partly because it is easily accessible and because the battle for the premiership title has opened up again in recent years. But, he's hoping the Bundesliga will get a boost when a new TV deal comes into place next year in the US.

For Ahmed Yussuf, the Premier League remains the guiding light too. "Their games are available here live, then shown again four hours later. And, there are highlight packages as well."

Niklas Wildhagen says that more can certainly be done to promote it, but says there are certain things about the Bundesliga that money can't buy. "Having a pint of beer on the terraces, in a stadium with a fan-friendly atmosphere, is not possible in Spain or England anymore. That's why fans from around the world love the Bundesliga."