Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

In 1963, the Bundesliga, the top-tier of the German football league system was established by German Football Association (the league is since 2001 organized by Deutsche Fußball Liga). The most merited teams from the different German regions were for the first time in the grouped in one division.


German football leagues had existed long before the establishment of the Bundesliga, in 1898 was the first regional league, Southern German football championship, formed.

The top national clubs were invited to become the sixteen founding members of the Bundesliga. These were FC Kaiserslautern, FC Köln, FC Saarbrücken, FC Nürnberg, Meidericher SV, Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Braunschweig, Karlsruher SC, Hertha BSC Berlin, Preußen Münster, VfB Stuttgart, Hamburger SV, TSV 1860 München, Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen. FC Köln would win by a six points margin and Uwe Seller would be the top scorer with 30 goals for Hamburger.

League system

Bundesliga is the top level of the German football league system. The second division is since 1974 known as 2. Bundesliga and the third is since 2008 3. Liga since (previously Regionalliga that was founded 1963).

9 Facts About Bundesliga

1. Champions

The Bundesliga's maiden champions in 1963/64 were Cologne, who won in some style by finishing six points clear of Meiderich back when only two points were awarded for a win. The Billy Goats lost just twice in their 30 games.

The first seven seasons saw seven different champions in Cologne, Werder Bremen, 1860 Munich, Eintracht Braunschweig, Nuremberg, Bayern and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Gladbach became the first team to defend the title when they won the league again in 1970/71 to spark an era of thrilling competition with Bayern. Between 1968/69 and 1976/77, the title was shared between those sides with the Foals claiming five Meisterschale to Bayern's four.

Since then, however, the Munich club have never gone more than three seasons without emerging as German champions. They have done so a record 28 times in the Bundesliga era, enjoying their greatest period of domestic success between 2012/13 and the present day. Previously no team had won the Bundesliga more than three years in succession. Bayern have done so seven times in a row.

That run alone is more trophies than any other club has managed in the league, with Gladbach and Borussia Dortmund second in the title count with five apiece.

2. Top scorers

Quite frankly there is only one man at this party in over half a century of Bundesliga action. Gerd Müller's haul of 365 goals from just 427 games will likely never be beaten. Every single one of those came for Bayern, at a rate of one every 105 minutes, before the man known as "Der Bomber" left for the USA at the age of 33.

Second on the list, by quite some distance, is Klaus Fischer. He averaged a goal every other game over the course of a remarkable 535-game career, netting 268 times in the Bundesliga for 1860 Munich, Schalke, Cologne and Bochum between the 60s and 80s.

The league's current goal machine par excellence, Lewandowski, has rapidly moved into a position to one day (soon) surpass Fischer into second. He overtook his former coach Heynckes into outright third place on 220 goals in December 2019 and currently averages a goal every 110 minutes of action in just over 300 Bundesliga appearances.

The remaining top 10 is completed by Manfred Burgsmüller (212 goals), Claudio Pizarro (197*), Ulf Kirsten (182), Stefan Kuntz (179), Klaus Allofs and Dieter Müller (both 177).

Poland international Lewandowski is, of course, the top scorer among non-Germans since he overtook Peruvian Pizarro in March 2019. At the age of 40 years, seven months and 15 days, Pizarro is also the league's oldest goalscorer ever, netting in Bremen's 2-1 win over RB Leipzig on 18 May 2019.

3. The Bundesliga's youngest-ever coach

Gio Reyna is one of the latest Americans in the Bundesliga, but do you know the first? - DFL
Gio Reyna is one of the latest Americans in the Bundesliga, but do you know the first? - DFL

Hands up if you instantly thought Julian Nagelsmann! Well you would be half-right – Nagelsmann certainly became the Bundesliga's youngest-ever permanent head coach when he replaced Huub Stevens at the helm of Hoffenheim in February 2016, guiding his new charges to a 1-1 draw at Bremen at the tender age of 28 years, six months and 21 days old. Five years later, he is on course to qualify for Europe for the fifth successive campaign, now with RB Leipzig.

But the Leipzig boss was not actually the youngest coach to oversee a Bundesliga game. That record is held by Bernd Stöber, who was put in charge of the Saarbrücken first team for a week during the 1976/77 season, after Slobodan Cendic was relieved of his duties. At 24 years, one month and 17 days old, he sat in the dugout as Saarbrücken were thrashed 5-1 by Cologne – a forgettable day which nevertheless earned him a place in the history books. Stöber went on to coach Germany's U16s for many years before joining the DFB's national coaching academy in the mid-2000s.

4. The best-represented country after Germany

There are no prizes for guessing that Germany has provided the Bundesliga with the most players down the years, but the country in second place on the list is rather unexpected. Austria, you could well be tempted to think. Or perhaps another close neighbour – Switzerland or Denmark? The Netherlands? The answer is none of the above – and remarkably, not only does this Bundesliga football factory fail to share a border with Germany – it's not even on the same continent.

Indeed, with 159 Bundesliga exports, Brazil is the nation to have provided the German top flight with the most foreign-born talent, ahead of Denmark (129), Austria (119), Croatia (118) and Poland (109). By comparison, France has contributed just 86 players, Spain 49, Italy 26 and England just 22! Brazil's love affair with the Bundesliga began with Cologne striker Zeze – who famously left the country after being diagnosed with a 'snow allergy' – and continues today with the likes of Joao Victor, Wendell and Matheus Cunha. Among the most decorated jogadors to have graced the Bundesliga is former Stuttgart and Bayern striker Giovane Elber, who won four league titles, four DFB Cups and the UEFA Champions League, not to mention the top scorer's cannon in 2002/03.

5. Goals galore

Such scoring prowess perhaps makes it little surprise that the Bundesliga often boasts the best goals-per-game rate among Europe's top five leagues.

In the 2018/19 season, for example, the Bundesliga's 306 matches saw a total of 973 goals at an average of 3.18 per game. That rate was greater than that of the English Premier League (2.82), Italy's Serie A (2.68), Spain's La Liga (2.59) and France's (2.56). It topped the lot again in 2017/18.

In fact, no Bundesliga season has ever finished with an average below 2.58, which it did in 1989/90. The most goal-filled campaign in history saw 3.58 per match in 1983/84, while the rate at the halfway stage of 2019/20 was up at 3.25 per game.

With all this talk of scoring goals, what about the players stopping them? Despite such a high rate of netting, Bundesliga goalkeepers have consistently shone at the back. No league boasts more winners of the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper award than the Bundesliga (eight), while Bayern are the club with the most recipients (also eight) since Jean-Marie Pfaff claimed the inaugural award for them in 1987.

6. The Federal League

To someone who can't speak German, the name "Bundesliga" may throw up the odd difficulty. Despite what is sometimes heard, it is simply pronounced "Bun-des-liga", no "sh" in the middle.

Eagle-eyed observers will note the "-liga" element, obviously showing that the Bundesliga is a league. But "Bundes-" is giving little away to those less versed in the language of Goethe.

Those familiar with German culture, though, will have come across those six letters relatively frequently: Bundestag, Bundesland, Bundesrepublik Deutschland, just to name a few.

7. Bremen's golden oldies

Like fine wines and priceless artwork, Bremen strikers seem to get better with age. No fewer than three of their former frontmen top the list of the Bundesliga's oldest-ever goalscorers, which is headed up by Claudio Pizarro. The evergreen Peruvian broke the all-time record, netting in a 1-1 draw with Hertha at 40 years, four months and 13 days old. Six-time Bundesliga winner Pizarro netted a league goal in every calendar year stretching back to 1999 until he retired in 2020, and he was also the division's all-time leading foreign scorer until being overtaken by Robert Lewandowski in early March 2019.

The previous record holder, Mirko Votava, got his goal at 40 years, three months and 30 days old, in a 2-1 loss to Stuttgart in August 1996. Now the assistant coach of the Bremen reserves, the former midfielder said he "couldn't think of a more deserved successor" than Pizarro, whom he described as a "sporting phenomenon". Votava himself had taken over the mantle from the great Manfred Burgsmüller, fifth in the Bundesliga's all-time scorer's list, who was a sprightly 39 years, seven months and 14 days old when he got the last of his 213 league goals in Bremen's 2-2 draw with Fortuna Düsseldorf in August 1989.

8. At the forefront of technology

Charly Körbel made nearly 700 appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt - including a record 602 in the Bundesliga - winning four DFB Cups in the 1970s and 80s. - imago/Pressefoto Baumann
Charly Körbel made nearly 700 appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt - including a record 602 in the Bundesliga - winning four DFB Cups in the 1970s and 80s. - imago/Pressefoto Baumann

A stated aim of the Bundesliga's governing organisation, the DFL, is to make the league the most innovative football league in the world.

Although the Bundesliga did not introduce goal-line technology until 2015/16, some three years after its global approval, the DFL has stood by its use and confirmed there were 36 decisions based on the Hawk-Eye goal-line technology in its first three seasons.

The Bundesliga wasn't going to be slow to react to the game's next big technological advancement, though, when it became the first European league to introduce VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in 2017/18.

It was equally quick to react to initial teething problems, including the need for fans inside the stadiums, not just those watching on TV, to be clearly informed of the process. Decision messages have since been displayed on big screens at the grounds.

There's also a belief that the Bundesliga has come to terms with VAR better than other leagues. On-field referees are more willing to make use of the pitch-side monitors and confer with colleagues over the headsets, while officials have also quickly come to terms with the concept of "clear and obvious" when deciding whether to overturn an on-field decision.

Yet it isn't just on the pitch where the Bundesliga leads the way in football.

In 2018, the league announced that virtual advertising would regularly be available for international broadcasts, meaning that viewers outside of German-speaking countries would see adverts relevant to them and not those seen inside the ground. This is done through a digital overlay of the transmission signal.

Later that year, the DFL teamed up with the BILD newspaper group to employ augmented reality in its publications. It would allow readers to access videos via printed media by scanning certain photos with their phones. "This innovation combines traditional reading habits with the opportunities presented by digital media," said DFL CEO Christian Seifert.

In 2019, the DFL revealed its cooperation with Vodafone to bring 5G to the Bundesliga. Originally rolled out at the Volkswagen Arena for Wolfsburg's match with Hoffenheim, the technology is paired with a new real-time app that allows spectators to see match stats and the players' individual values on their phone as the action is happening in front of them. The services will be expanded in the future to include visual tracking. "5G is the beginning of a new era, and the Bundesliga is taking the first step," Seifert declared.

The end of the decade also brought about a global first as the DFL produced a social media-friendly broadcast of Wolfsburg's match with Werder in a 9:16 format, as well as the traditional 16:9 used on most TVs, computers and tablets. The test is in reaction to an increased preference to watch videos, including football matches, on mobile devices. It even maintained the standard of producing in Ultra HD. The five cameras used for production add to the usual 25 used in Bundesliga productions, including one in the corner flag which was specially developed within the DFL Group.

And the DFL has continued its march into the future as we begin 2020 by announcing a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS). The Bundesliga is the world's first football league to do so. AWS is now the league's official technology provider and will deliver more in-depth insight into every broadcast of Bundesliga games.

9. Beginnings

Nine-time German champions Nuremberg celebrated their only Bundesliga title in 1967/68 after a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund. - imago/Horstmüller
Nine-time German champions Nuremberg celebrated their only Bundesliga title in 1967/68 after a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund. - imago/Horstmüller

While England and Spain, for example, have had national top divisions going back almost a century or more, Germany was relatively late in this respect, although this in many ways came down to the country's political history.

It wasn't until the 1960s that a long-discussed national league was finally implemented. It came about on 28 July 1962 when the DFB (Deutscher Fußball-Bund – or German FA) voted at their annual convention in Dortmund by 103 to 26 to introduce a new top division from its regional leagues known as Oberliga, which represented the north, west, south, southwest and the capital Berlin. There were, of course, no eastern leagues since Germany had been partitioned into East and West Germany following World War 2. The Bundesliga was the league of West Germany.

The Bundesliga's first season began in August 1963 consisting of 16 teams. The right to feature was a complex system, requiring clubs to apply by December 1962. Their performances over the previous 10 years were taken into account and converted into points, while the five Oberliga champions from 1962/63 received an automatic slot.


Teams with most titles

Statistics of all German clubs that have won the top league more than once, concerning the period 1898-2020, thus including the pre-Bundesliga era.

Table 2. Clubs and German champions titles
Club Titles
Bayern Munich 30
1. FC Nürnberg 9
Borussia Dortmund 8
Schalke 04 7
Hamburger SV 6
VfB Stuttgart 5
Borussia Mönchengladbach 5
Werder Bremen 4
1. FC Kaiserslautern 4
1. FC Köln 3
Lokomotive Leipzig 3
Greuther Fürth 3
BFC Viktoria 1889 2
Dresdner SC 2
Hannover 96 2

1. FC Nürnberg won its last title in 1968, which is their only Bundesliga trophy. Schalke 04, Lokomotive Leipzig and Greuther Fürth are the three clubs in the list that never have won the Bundesliga. Among the clubs that haven't won a championship title, Bayer Leverkusen has been runners-up the most times (5).

The rest of the German champions are Karlsruher FV, Holstein Kiel, 1860 Munich, SpVgg Blau-Weiß 1890 Berlin, Karlsruher SC, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Eintracht Frankfurt, VfL Wolfsburg, Freiburger FC, Rapid Wien, VfR Mannheim, Rot-Weiss Essen and Eintracht Braunschweig.

BFC Viktoria 1889 was dissolved in 2013. Blau-Weiß 1890 Berlin was dissolved in 1992.



Gerd Müller did 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga matches, a record that will be hard to beat

Charly Körbel has the record in league appearances with 602 matches for Eintracht Frankfurt.

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