US football star hopes to inspire fellow Germans

Germany's Sebastian Vollmer does not see himself as another Dirk Nowitzki when it comes to sparking his countrymen’s interest in US sports by winning a championship at the highest level.

US football star hopes to inspire fellow Germans
Photo: DPA

The 27-year-old offensive tackle is simply hoping his exploits at Sunday’s Super Bowl showdown between his New England Patriots and the New York Giants might inspire some young Germans to join him in the NFL.

“I wouldn’t compare myself to Dirk. He’s a great athlete and he has done so many great things in his league,” Vollmer said. “But I hope coverage picks up in Germany and we get a few more guys over here.”

Nowitzki powered the Dallas Mavericks to last year’s NBA crown, lifting his team over favoured Miami in the NBA Finals and raising the profile of basketball in Germany to new heights.

Vollmer found his way to the gridiron aged 14 after deciding he wanted a team sport rather than swimming. Instead of Bundesliga football, Vollmer began following the NFL and the nearest NFL Europe’s team, Dusseldorf’s Rhein Fire.

“I was following the game, watching the Super Bowl in the middle of the night,” Vollmer said. “Once I stopped swimming, I wanted a team sport. American football seemed a perfect fit. I just picked up a book and learned it and then went out there and played. Don’t be ashamed about it. Just play.”

Vollmer joined the Dusseldorf Panthers prep club team, won two national titles and found his way onto a European junior all-star squad and played in a game in San Diego that brought him attention from US college scouts.

Vollmer signed at the University of Houston and taught himself English, making the most of his chance and becoming a second-round selection of the Patriots, 58th overall, in the 2009 NFL Draft.

“He has got it all – gifted athlete, very tough, unbelievable strength, smart guy,” Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said. “He has worked very hard and is still working hard.”

Vollmer has struggled with foot and back injuries this season that have kept him out of the lineup and make him a doubt for Sunday.

“It’s hard,” Vollmer said. “You want to be part of the team. You are doing very different things. You just want to get back and help the team out. I wish I could have done more but I will do my best on Sunday.”

A stomach virus kept him from Super Bowl Media Day, but Vollmer said on Wednesday that he feels fine.

“I was under the weather but I’m getting better. I’m doing all right,” said Vollmer. “I don’t think it has taken too much away. It’s an amazing experience. You try to take it all in and not let it take away from your preparation. If I get called upon, I’ll be ready.”

After filming video clips to be shown in Germany to promote TV coverage of the Super Bowl, Vollmer said he is ready to play for the first time in months and has done well in full-pad workouts.

“I’ve practiced for a little while now,” he said. “Once you are in the Super Bowl, adrenaline is going, you’re motivated, you just try to do your best. When you haven’t hit anybody in a while, the first game back is always tough going.”

Facing a Giants’ team known for rushing passers like Patriots star Tom Brady adds to the challenge.

“They are strong and extremely fast,” Vollmer said. “You have to slow them down and give Tom some time. They will all be coming hard.”


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Travel: Germany downgrades Covid-19 risk status of USA

The United States is no longer classed as a "high incidence area" by Germany - it has returned to being a "risk area".

Travel: Germany downgrades Covid-19 risk status of USA
People walking in New York in May 2020. Photo: DPA

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) changed the risk classification of the United States on March 7th.

The US was previously classed as a “high incidence area” by the RKI. These are regions where the incidence is over 200 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents with a period of seven days.

However, now it’s a “risk area” – which is used by German authorities to describe a region with an increased risk of infection, usually above 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in seven days.

Other factors are also taken into account, such as measures in place.

It means the travel requirements for people coming from the US to Germany have changed.

However, entry from the US is only permitted in a few narrow exceptions. Proof of urgent need to travel is required, German authorities say. You can find more information in the story below.

READ MORE: When are Americans allowed to travel to Germany?

What happens if I need to travel from the US to Germany?

If you are a German resident from the US, or fall into one of the exception categories, you still face strict testing and quarantine measures.

All travellers must have a negative Covid-19 test result at the latest 48 hours after they enter Germany. It must be presented to authorities if they request it.

Some individual airlines may however still say that travellers have to present a coronavirus negative test result before boarding is allowed. You should contact your airline before travel to check.

Both PCR tests as well as rapid anitgen tests are accepted if they meet the quality standards. Testing is still mandatory even if travellers are vaccinated or have recovered from a coronavirus infection. 

People returning from “risk zones” are required to self-isolate for 10 days after they arrive.

The quarantine can usually be ended with a negative coronavirus test result taken at the earliest five days after arriving in Germany.

However, states can differ on their travel regulations so check with your local authority before travelling.

Everyone entering Germany is also required to register online.

New “high incidence areas”

In the RKI’s latest travel classification list, Sweden, Hungary and Jordan are now classed as “high incidence areas” which means stricter testing and quarantine rules apply.

Areas of “variant concern” include Austria’s Tyrol region, the UK, Brazil, Portugal and Ireland. Even stricter rules apply for these regions.

You can find out more information about travel rules in our story below.

READ MORE: What you need to know about Germany’s latest rules on foreign travel