German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?
Many football-loving expats find themselves baffled by the variety and number of German football teams to choose from. We’re confident though that you’ll be able to align yourself with at least one of the five teams listed here.
With the kick-off of the German Football Cup last weekend and the start of the new Bundesliga season this Friday, the pressure’s on to find a team to support.
No sweat - our guide will help you find out which one best corresponds to your character.
If you’re a brash millennial who doesn’t play by the rules, lives off of your parents’ money to survive and tells people to call you by a nickname you gave yourself rather than your real name, the RB Leipzig is the team for you.
Very new to the football scene, RB Leipzig was only founded in 2009. This is considered young as many German football teams have been around since the 19th century.
Energy drink maker Red Bull initiated the club, hence the name RB Leipzig. But because sponsors aren’t allowed in the names of football clubs, RB Leipzig is also called RasenBallsport Leipzig (grass ball sport Leipzig).
RB Leipzig started off playing in the fifth division, but they quickly raised in the ranks to the 3. Liga (third division) in 2013 and then to the 2. Liga (second division) the following season.
They were finally promoted to the first division in May 2016. In that time they've finished second twice and made it to the semi finals of the Champions League.
These guys are so hated that fans of one opposing club threw a decapitated bull's head from the stand at a game in their first year.
So if you, too, have sensed feelings of annoyance and jealousy from people at how young you are and how fast you’ve garnered success, you might feel right at home cheering on RB Leipzig.
If you’re the type of person who is down-to-earth, hardworking, loyal and fully committed to everything you do, you might identify with a football club that isn’t rich and doesn’t get a lot of money from sponsors yet is still relatively successful: Borussia Dortmund.
The same goes if you're someone who once had a really handsome, beautiful and charming partner who left you years ago but you still keep a few too many pictures of the two of you around the house (and in your wallet).
If either of these two categories appeal to you, then Borussia Dortmund - a first division club with 145,000 members and the highest average attendance at home games of any football club in the world - is your best bet.
Borussia Dortmund hit their modern peak at the start of the previous decade, when the aforementioned Jürgen Klopp took the Black and Yellows to two titles and a Champions League final.
Klopp has since departed for the bright lights of Merseyside where he won both the Premier League and Champions League, while Dortmund has been hitting the dating apps while bouncing from coach to coach for half a decade still trying to get the right fit.
While your opponents might have a legitimate criticism about your lack of ambition, you're just happy to be the only other team besides Bayern who keep getting invitations to the Champions League party.
What matters to you is that that they’ve been around for over 100 years, they’re respected and well-liked and most importantly, they have people like you who they’re proud to call true fans.
Are you a trust fund kid who posts on social media about the virtues of a meritocracy? Do you think Jeff Bezos works really hard? Do you think all Germans wear lederhosen?
Then FC Bayern München is the team for you.
Everyone knows they’re the most “successful” football club in Germany. Besides, not only have they won the most amount of Bundesliga championships - 30 titles, which is well ahead of equal second-placed Dortmund and Gladbach with five - they’ve claimed the title consecutively over the past nine years.
Their budgets are huge so they can afford to pay for well-known football stars. And even their slogan Mia san mia which is Bavarian for “We are who we are” has a slight air of arrogance to it. But hey, we won’t blow your cover if you’re also into the whole old money, aristocratic thing.
Since FC Bayern München will win the Bundesliga tournament again this upcoming season and you’d just rather play it safe, we promise we won’t tell if you decide to become a bandwagoner, err, fan.
The coulda, woulda, shoulda
Are you someone who procrastinates on all of your assignments at university, gets by on mediocre marks and somehow manages to pass all your exams?
Or are you someone who completes the tasks required of you at work with minimum effort and yet for some reason you haven’t been sacked?
If you can identify as either of these types of people, you might want to consider cheering on HSV, i.e. Hamburg.
A former Champions League winner from one of Germany's wealthiest regions with a passionate fanbase and a great stadium culture, Hamburg are Germany's underachievers.
After years of staying in the top division by the skin of their teeth on the final day of the season, Hamburg - the only team to have never played in the second division - were finally relegated in 2018.
Hamburg even had a clock in their stadium which counted the time they'd been in the top division.
Since then, their underwhelming underperformance has continued. Starting the 2021-22 season, they remain in the second division, while much smaller teams like Bochum, Bielefeld and Fürth have since been promoted.
Say you consider yourself alternative, independent or someone who likes to go against the grain. If this is the case, you sure as heck shouldn’t root for any of the teams listed above.
How about a team like FC Union Berlin that ditches the glitz and the glamour but seems to get the job done anyway?
FC Union Berlin's fan base is considered small in comparison to other football clubs in Germany, but is one of the most passionate. Photo: DPA.
No worries if one of the reasons you want to support them is so you can brag about being an original fan before the team went mainstream.
And since FC Union Berlin is based in the city with arguably the largest population of hipsters in Germany, you may already live in the capital city and likely won't have to travel very far for home games.
In reality, FC Union's hipster reputation is only comparatively recent - and definitely only exists inside the Berlin S-Bahn ring.
For anyone living in and around Köpenick, Union Berlin has been a way of life for some time.
Despite relatively modest income, the club arguably now rivals Hertha Berlin - the club from the city's west - in terms of support.
The following map put together by the Berliner Morgenpost shows where the support for the clubs exist in Germany's largest city.
The diversity and the size of the club’s current fan base may appeal to you: with just over 16,600 club members, it’s not as daunting as joining a club like Borussia Dortmund that’s nearly ten times as big.