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By Tait Galbraith

Everyone knows that America’s favorite pastime is baseball. This was true especially in the 1930s and 40s. As for Germany, Fußball or soccer as we call it in the States, was the favorite pastime. Germans soccer teams, whether it was regional, national or at an international level, have always been fiercely competitive. With this in mind, even the German military incorporated soccer into the ranks. The average landser played soccer while training to keep physically fit and to learn to work as a team with other soldiers. Even at the front, the Wehrmacht continued to play matches. To use a quote from the book At Leningrad’s Gates, William Lubbeck, an obergefreiter in Nr. 13 Kompanie , Inf. Regt. 154/58th Inf. Division serving in Russia, said “…the army organized soccer matches or other sporting events in Krasnogvardeisk where teams from different units would compete…”. In this article, I would like to teach the basics of soccer and the history so that an average American that does WWII German reenacting can pick up a game while at a living history event or during the downtime at a tactical. Eventually, I would love to see different German units playing each other in 1940s style Fußball! 

Soccer has been around for centuries, but soccer as an organized sport started in England in 1863. As for Germany, the first national association, Deutscher Fussball Bund was formed in 1900. This league had a brief interruption during World War I and continued up until the last year of World War II. During the late 1930s and the first half of the 40s, most football associations were disbanded or replaced by Nazi-sponsored organizations.1 During this time the Deutscher Fussball Bund or DFB was changed to the Gauliga or regional league in English. As the Reich expanded through conquest in the early part of the war, teams from Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Alsace-Lorraine and Luxembourg were incorporated into the Gauliga. 

During the war, football was used as a morale booster for the population and was supported by the regime. Many teams were sponsored by the Luftwaffe, the SS or other branches of the military. As the tide turned against Germany, the Gauliga began to crumble as players were called away to military service or were killed in the conflict, stadiums were bombed and travel became difficult. The last match was played just three weeks before Germany surrendered to the Allies.2 

Rules and Equipment
The rules of soccer have changed very little since they were drawn up in 1863. These are the main rules or laws:

Field of Play
Dimensions of the field should be from 90-120m(100-130yds) in length and 45-90m(50-100yds) in width. Of course, since you won’t have a regulation sized playing field when out at an event or during the slow time of a battle…any flat playing surface will do. Also, since you won’t have the field lines marked properly, you can use your tent poles or stakes to mark the corners of the playing field. 

Regulation sized goals are 2.4m (8 ft) high and 7.3m (24 ft) across from goal post to goal post. The same philosophy goes with creating goals. You can use boots or pieces of equipment that will stay in place while playing. Basically, you can come up with a makeshift soccer field with the equipment your unit has available.

The Ball
The most important item needed for soccer is the ball. A regulation sized ball is 68-70cm in circumference. The soccer ball of today and back in the 1930s and 40s was made of leather. However, the design of the soccer ball back then looked more like a modern day volleyball.

The Players
A match is played by two teams, each consisting of not more than eleven players, one of whom is the goalkeeper.3 The goalkeeper must wear clothing that distinguishes him from the other players. This would include different colored clothing or even a 1930s style tweed hat. Of course, since you might be training or in the field, you can just have the goalkeeper wear his field cap to distinguish himself amongst his teammates. The other players should wear their sport shorts and shoes if they have them available. 

Game Play
A regulation game of soccer is played for two 45 minute periods. Of course, when played at and event, the time can be shortened or the game can be played to a certain set score. The team that has scored more goals at the end of the game is the winner; if both teams have scored an equal number of goals, then the game is a draw. The primary rule is that the players (other than the goalkeepers) may not intentionally touch the ball with their hands or arms during play (though they do use their hands during a throw-in restart). Although players usually use their feet to move the ball around, they may use any part of their bodies other than their hands or arms.
In typical game play, players attempt to propel the ball toward their opponents' goal through individual control of the ball, such as by dribbling, passing the ball to a team-mate, and by taking shots at the goal, which is guarded by the opposing goalkeeper. Opposing players may try to regain control of the ball by intercepting a pass or through tackling the opponent who controls the ball(this is slide tackling and should not be confused with American football’s version of tackling!); however, physical contact between opponents is limited. Reenactors can go by these sets of rules or they can adjust the rules to make the game easier to play for beginners. 

Ball In and Out of Play

Kick-off: following a goal by the opposing team, or to begin each period of play.
Throw-in: when the ball has crossed the sideline; awarded to opposing team to that which last touched the ball
Goal kick: when the ball has crossed the goal line without a goal having been scored and having last been touched by an attacker; awarded to defending team.
Corner kick: when the ball has crossed the goal line without a goal having been scored and having last been touched by a defender; awarded to attacking team.
Penalty kick: awarded to the fouled team following a foul usually punishable by a direct free kick but that has occurred within their opponent's penalty area.4

German to English Soccer Terms 

Here is a list of common terms used on the field of play.5 When you play soccer, it is good to talk with your fellow players. Speaking German while playing a match would make your impression even more authentic!

The Field:

Anstoss = kickoff
Ecke = corner 
Endlinie = goal-line 
Elfmeter = "eleven meters" (penalty) 
Feld = the field, the pitch 
Kasten = "box", penalty area or goal
Mittelfeld = the middle/half of the field 
Netz = net
Pfosten = post
Strafraum = the penalty box 
Seitenlinie = sideline (Usually just "Aus")
Strafpunkt = penalty spot
Tor = goal
links/rechts = left/right 
The Players:

Verteidiger = defender 
Angreifer = forward; attacker 
Angriff = attack 
Abwehr = defense 
Mittelfeldspieler = midfielder 
Aussen = wingers 
Reserven = reserve players 
Spiel = game
Spieler = player 
Stürmer = forward (“stormer”) 
Torwart; Torhüter = goalkeeper 
verletzt = injured 


Technical Terms:

Ball = ball
Stand = the score 
Anfang = the start of the match
Erste Hälfte = first half 
Zweite Hälfte = second half
Abseits = offsides
Ecke; Eckball = corner kick 
Einwurf = throw in 
Freistoss = free kick 
Foul, Infraktion = foul, infraction 
Auswechseln = substitution 
Schuss = shot at goal 
Torschuss = goalkick 
Ausgleich = to tie/draw 
Kopfball = header
Handball = handball
Pass = pass 
Rückgabe = return pass 
siegen = to win 
verlieren = to lose 



1 Wikipedia, Fussball-Bundesliga
2 Wikipedia, Fussball-Bundesliga: German Football Under the Third Reich

100 Years of Football: The FIFA Centennial Book, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004

100 Years of Football: The FIFA Centennial Book, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004

5, German-English Soccer Terms, John Dwyer




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