Kissinger visit fails to boost Fürth’s fortunes

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said on Saturday he hoped Gruether Fürth win this season's Bundesliga title after returning to his Franconian hometown to watch his football team play.

Kissinger visit fails to boost Fürth's fortunes
Photo: DPA

The 89-year-old, who served under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, was born in Fürth and as a boy he watched Gruether Fürth play before his Jewish family fled Nazi Germany in 1938.

Having won Germany’s second division in May, Fürth are playing their first season in the Bundesliga in the club’s 109-year history and Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State from 1973 until 1977, is a life-long fan.

“I wish Fürth win the title,” he said with a wink having travelled from the US to visit Fürth’s Trolli Arena ground, formerly known as the Ronhof, for the German league match against Schalke 04.

“The Ronhof I know has changed a lot. I used to watch the game from the terraces, but I will be treated a lot better today.”

Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his role in the Paris Peace Accords, which eventually helped lead to the end of the Vietnam War.

While in office, he insisted on being informed of Fürth’s results.

“My father always advised me, opera visits were better than going to the Ronhof,” he said.

“Whenever I went there, I always got into trouble when I got home. I had always hoped they would be promoted.”

Fürth’s president Helmut Hack was delighted Kissinger had paid the north Bavarian team a visit.

“It’s wonderful that he kept his promise to come and see us,” he said. “He’s our most famous ambassador to the world.”

But Kissinger’s visit was not enough to lift his team who lost 2-0 after goals by Julian Draxler, who turns 19 on Thursday, and midfielder Lewis Holtby.

The defeat left Fürth 12th in the league.


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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 

If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann.