The Bundesliga may be on hold for the international break, but that doesn't mean German domestic football has stopped altogether. For the second year in a row, Germany's amateur footballers take center stage.
As they are every week, from the fourth-tier regional leagues down to the ninth and tenth-division district leagues, thousands of amateur footballers will be in action across Germany this weekend.
Only this weekend's games are extra special because it's Germany's "Tag der Amateure" – amateur day.
Established by German football magazine 11Freunde last season, the Tag der Amateure is a chance for the smaller clubs and amateur players across the country to take center stage, without all the distractions of modern-day professional football. A similar initiative, "Lokalrunde", was also launched in 2014.
Both ideas take their inspiration from England's Non-League Day, the brainchild of Queen's Park Rangers fan James Doyle who established the event in 2010 to help boost the profile of grassroots football while the Premier League and Championship giants are taking a break.
Across England, supporters of the country's biggest teams are encouraged to pay a visit to their local clubs, who in turn can look forward to a much-needed financial boost from a bigger crowd. This year for example, sixth division club Altrincham FC, from a south-western suburb of Manchester, are offering reduced ticket prices to season ticket holders at Premier League clubs, including local giants Manchester United and Manchester City.
And now, on the second annual Tag der Amateure, German clubs are getting equally creative.
Attendance record attempt
In Harpen, a suburb of the western city of Bochum, local side TuS Harpen III are aiming for an attendance record for a third team when they face SV Teutonia Riemke in the Kreisliga C on Sunday – the eleventh tier of German football.
"We wanted to do something special so we came up with the idea of trying to set an attendance record," former player Oliver Drohn told local newspaper RevierSport. "On Sunday, there will be a pure Kreisliga atmosphere. Commercialization can stay at home!"
The team will receive support from none other than local legend Peter Neururer, the former Bundesliga coach who has had spells with Bochum, Duisburg, Cologne, Hannover and Schalke, among others. "We're expecting at least 1000 spectators," Drohn said.
'Volunteers form the basis of football'
Four hundred kilometers to the east in Thuringia, BSG Wismut Gera II are in action against FC Altenburg in the local Kreisoberliga – division eight.
"Club officials were determined that the Tag der Amateure should take place here, too," writes Danny Neidel from Wismut Gera fan portal Brennpunkt-Orange. "And, as a reference to the year of the club's foundation in 1951, tickets, drinks, snacks and the matchday program will all cost just 51 cents."
"Volunteers form the basis of football in our club," said Wismut Gera chairman Volker Fiedler, whose first team plays in the fifth tier of German football. "We want to say thankyou for the countless hours of personal dedication and passion."
'A slap in the face'
But not everyone thinks the Tag der Amateure is such a good idea and, in Mönchengladbach, local non-league news portal FuPa.net won't be taking part.
"It's a nice idea but we can't really identify with it," they wrote in a statement on Thursday. "The reason is simple: for us, we have amateurs' day 365 days a year."
Last season, the local Bundesliga Revierderby between Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund was rescheduled for a Sunday afternoon for the benefit of television, clashing with the traditional non-league kick-off time and leading dozens of fixtures to be postponed.
"The 15 April 2018 was a huge slap in the face for amateur football," continued the statement. "The German Football Association [DFB] has been advertising with the slogan 'Our amateurs: true professionals' for years, but it's more of a joke than a philosophy.
"The number of active clubs and teams is sinking rapidly and we can only combat that together," they wrote. "And we can only do that by living the 'Tag der Amateure' week in, week out, not just as a yearly highlight."