ELF in Hamburg shows how advanced the football hype is in Germany

ELF party in the HSV stadium: Hamburg shows how far the football hype has progressed in Germany.

Football party in Hamburg. The local Sea Devils will play against the Rhein Fire in the HSV Volksparkstadion on Sunday. The ELF game is a milestone for German football. The mass of fans proves how advanced the sport is, even outside of the NFL in Germany.

It was the long-awaited first appearance of the Hamburg Sea Devils in the Volksparkstadion since the founding of the European League of Football. In front of 32,500 official fans, the guests of Rhein Fire won 27 to 22. But the result is ultimately overshadowed by the special character of this top game. An enthusiasm is currently being triggered that is giving football a great deal of popularity in Germany.

Anyone who has closely followed the development of football in Germany over the past 15 years must have had goosebumps running down their arms when they entered Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion. The last time there was such an atmosphere here was in NFL Europe. To this day, a league made up of predominantly European football players has never been able to attract such a large number of viewers. And the fans in the stands were not disappointed.

Many different projects were already presented at the Power Party, the supposed fringe sport. All Hamburg football clubs had an information stand on the large square in front of the East Stand, which otherwise serves as a VIP parking lot. The national rugby team was also there and much was communicated about contactless and less physical flag football. This sport is intended to pave the way for American football to become a popular sport.

German veteran Patrick Poetsch provides the first touchdown

In the Volksparkstadion, the ranks only filled up shortly before the kickoff to the national anthem due to the informative “football fair”. But then it started quickly. At first, the game was fraught with mistakes in attack on both sides. Both the Rhein Fire offense and the Sea Devils’ attack showed a certain nervousness at the beginning of this exciting game. Both drives landed in the arms of the opposing defense.

But halfway through the first quarter, Rhein Fire managed the first touchdown. The American Jadrian Clark threw a short pass into the end zone to fullback Patrick Poetsch. The first score is symbolic of German football in recent years. After his college days, Clark played in the German Football League for the first few years before he joined the newly formed ELF after a trip to the Austrian Football League. Patrick Poetsch, now 34 years old, is a real Rhineland veteran. He played for Remscheid Amboss for a long time and occasionally for Bonn. In 2021 he followed the call of the Cologne Centurions and switched to the ELF. A year later, Poetsch should appear for Rhein Fire.

After successful and unsuccessful field goal attempts, the two teams went into the break with 14 to 9 for Rhein Fire. In addition, the two tight ends Florian Eichhorn (from Aachen) for Rhein Fire and Jean-Claude Madin Cerezo for the Sea Devils each managed a receiving touchdown.

The native of Hamburg should manage another touchdown in the second half in his stadium. Overall, however, it was not enough for the Sea Devils to win at home. Not least thanks to star receiver Nathaniel Robitaille, Rhein Fire celebrated an unchallenged away win. Even if the relatively close result at the end says something else.

“Worthy Frame”

The fans in the well-filled ranks didn’t let the 27 to 9 in the meantime spoil their mood. “Hanseatic exuberance in the stands” commented a Hamburg spectator on the grandstand with a smile. “The city of Hamburg has given the ELF a worthy framework”.

And that applies in many ways. Because the atmosphere was high by North German standards, but some of the people from the Rhineland who had traveled to the event had certainly expected a more lively football party. But the spark never really jumped out, because the acoustics in the stadium were sub-par. It was difficult for viewers to tell where the teams were down and how many yards were left. The break whistle came as a complete surprise to many.

Because the scoreboard was not able to provide any information about the time at which the game was currently. Another example of this is that Rhein Fire Head Coach Jim Tomsula picked up binoculars shortly before the end of the game to find out whether he was already able to switch to the Victory Formation after Hamburg’s botched onside kick or whether he still needed a new first down of his offense .

Does football benefit in Germany?

However, this did not detract from the pleasant atmosphere of a relaxed afternoon in Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion. Fans of both teams were just as united in celebration of a German football holiday as were rival NFL fans who were already debating the season prospects of their beloved teams from the American professional league in the stands in the last quarter.

This is how the assessment of a police officer, who is otherwise often deployed at football games in Hamburg and who was privately in the stadium this weekend as a spectator, reads in the same tone of harmonious celebration: “Last week I was still standing there and had to make sure that the Stuttgart “Don’t storm the pitch and now look at how relaxed my colleagues are sitting in the upper tier and just enjoying the game. It’s rare to experience something like that as a police officer in a stadium, but it’s also nice.”

With 32,500 fans in the Volksparkstadion, the European League of Football proved that a broad mass of people can be enthusiastic about American football in Germany and that it doesn’t matter whether the stars come from the NFL or learned the game in Europe.

For European football and especially in Germany, it is now a question of using this euphoria in the long term. If at the end of the day there is a happy football afternoon with the best weather in Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion, the football community is still talking about a new record in the ELF. But for the league and the German Football League next door, it can only be about taking this effect with you for other major events.

Incidentally, the Rostock Griffins played against promoted Oldenburg Knights in the second German league, the GFL2, at the Ostseestadion in front of 8,415 fans at the weekend. This also means a record attendance for the league. And last week, the Dresden Monarchs in the GFL invited the Berlin Rebels to the Rudolf-Harbig Stadium and occupied the main grandstand with over 10,000 spectators. The football hype in Germany is well received. The euphoria must not be curbed now.

Jean Harris

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