Sweet 16: How Germany’s Bundesliga wants to lower minimum age limit

The German Football League (DFL) is proposing to lower the minimum age for players in the Bundesliga to 16 next season, with a decision expected at the end of March.

Sweet 16: How Germany's Bundesliga wants to lower minimum age limit
Young football player Youssoufa Moukoko, who turns 16 in November. Photo: DPA

In order to currently play in Germany's top flight, players must be 18 years old or play for the club's Under-19 team, but the DFL are considering changing that, according to reports.

Turkey international Nuri Sahin holds the record, set in August 2005, when he made his league debut for Dortmund, just shy of his  17th birthday, aged 16 years, 335 days, while playing in the Under-19 team.

However, from next season other 16-year-olds could feature in the Bundesliga if the 36 clubs in the first and second league vote to lower the minium age at the next general meeting in March.

According to daily papers Bild and Welt, Dortmund back the proposal to lower the limit in the top two leagues.

They could benefit as teen prodigy Youssoufa Moukoko, who turns 16 in November, would be able to make his Bundesliga debut in 2020/21.

He scored a record 50 goals last season in the Under-17 league and made his debut for Germany Under-16 in September 2017, just before his 13th birthday, scoring three goals in four games.

READ ALSO: Bundesliga – Your complete guide to becoming a football fan in Germany

Dortmund's youth coordinator Lars Ricken, who made his league debut in 1994 before his 18th birthday, argues that the current minimum age puts the German league clubs at “a major disadvantage”.

“There are concrete examples of players who decided against joining Bundesliga clubs because they are allowed to play in professional teams at a much younger age in other countries,” he said.

However, Julian Nagelsmann, head coach of current Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig, is against the proposal.

“If I put players in even earlier, they will be put under pressure even earlier and will also be eyed more by the media,” said Nagelsmann.

The 32-year-old became the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history when, aged 28, he took charge of Hoffenheim in 2015.

“I am not a scientist and have not looked into it deeply, but I can not imagine that it is great for development if you become a Bundesliga player aged 16,” he added.

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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.