Five Sports That Are Surprisingly Popular in Germany

Five Sports That Are Surprisingly Popular in Germany

Okay, everybody knows that football (soccer) is a popular sport in Germany, but this is not the only sport which excites German people. What are the other top five most popular sports?

Sport by Eduard Bargheer 1962.jpg
Sport by Eduard Bargheer 1962“ von Michael Gäbler. Lizenziert unter CC BY 3.0 über Wikimedia Commons.

5. American Football

It’s new, but it has arrived. Not every German could tell you what American football is all about or could even name an NFL team, but the ones who can really know their stuff. As of the 2015/16 season, at least two NFL games are shown weekly on free TV. The presentation is organized around the US-American live feed, whose commercial breaks are often used to explain the long list of rules or engage with the viewers via social media.

The football broadcasts are not nearly as popular as other sports, but the viewers who do view are passionate about it. Like Twitter user Philip, for example, who writes:

(Football) was really off the hook! I hope it’ll be Sunday soon again! Didn’t think that #NFL/football would be that exciting for me!

Part of the success might be the way football is presented on TV by these two and others:

4. Boxing

Not constantly, but from time to time it’s what everybody is talking about. Especially heavy weight and middle weight boxing are popular. The Ukranian Klitschko brothers get attention and German boxer Arthur Abraham does as well.
Boxer Arthur Abraham

Vladimir Klitschko’s first defeat in eleven years by British boxer Tyson Fury was watched by almost nine million people even though the fight was broadcast late at night. Abraham’s boxing matches are not as popular, but they still attract around four million viewers.

3. Handball

Handball is not popular everywhere in Germany. Traditionally, northern teams like Kiel and Flensburg are strong and that’s where many of the handball fans live. Handball is probably best described as a mix between football (soccer) and basketball. A game lasts for sixty minutes, during which each team tries to score by throwing the ball into a goal defended by a goalkeeper. The games of the Bundesliga are broadcast on TV regularly.

CZE vs FRA (01) - 2010 European Men's Handball Championship.jpg
CZE vs FRA (01) – 2010 European Men’s Handball Championship“ von Steindy (talk) 00:03, 21 January 2010 (UTC) – Eigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 über Wikimedia Commons.

The national team, however, has been a focus for controversy lately. They won the world cup in 2007, but much has changed since then. Neither for the Olympic Games in London (2012) nor for the world cup Qatar (2015) did Germany qualify. The national team did participate in Qatar though, thanks to a sketchy new wild card rule that was introduced shortly before the tournament. In fact, things had gotten so bad that after two victories and a draw at the world cup, the media outlet Spiegel Online had to ask:


How come?

Woran liegt es?

But the happy surprise did not last long. Germany left Qatar on place 7.

2. Ski Jumping

Calgary“ von Morgan GoodwinEigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter Gemeinfrei über Wikimedia Commons.

Ski jumping is on TV from November to February almost every weekend, but the most popular ski jumping competition happens each year on January first and is called Neujahrsspringen (New Year’s Jumping). About six million viewers turn on their TV to watch the competition.

Maybe this sport is popular because everybody can doze off nicely and get over their new year’s hangover or maybe it is because Germans really like it when skinny men and women jump off a ski-jumping hill and try to “fly” as far as possible. The winner is determined by five judges who award points for style and for distance jumped.
Unfortunately, this sport is not just fun to watch, as it can be quite dangerous for the athletes. If the jumper is unfocused or the wind is strong, accidents such as those the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel describes happen quite frequently.


First the left ski is pulled down, then Andreas Wellinger yanks both arms up in order to keep his balance at a speed of 56 miles per hour. Yet it is too late. The German ski jumper has already lost control over his jump. Andreas Wellinger is twirled upside down, crashes down into the snow with his back first, and without skis he slides down the hill.

“Up until now Andreas Wellinger didn’t know any fear” said the German national coach Werner Schuster. “He needs to get that accident out of his head.” How important it is to ski jump without fear shows Thomas Morgenstern’s resignation, who won the Olympics three times. After two accidents in the previous winter the 28-year-old Austrian was no longer able to approach the starting track and resigned in late summer. “Fear is taboo in ski jumping” said Thomas Morgenstern. “One cannot just turn off fear. I have to face that fear permanently.” After his dramatic fall, Thomas Morgenstern was hospitalized with cranial trauma and a lung contusion. Four weeks later he won silver with the team at the Olympics in Sochi—but he never lost his fear.

Erst zieht der linke Ski nach unten. Dann reißt Andreas Wellinger beide Hände in die Höhe, um bei einer Geschwindigkeit von 90 Kilometern pro Stunde in der Luft das Gleichgewicht zu halten. Doch es ist zu spät, der deutsche Skispringer hat die Kontrolle über seinen Sprung bereits verloren. Andreas Wellinger wird um 180 Grad herumgewirbelt, knallt mit dem Rücken in den Schnee und rutscht ohne Ski den Aufsprunghang hinunter. (…)

„Er kannte bislang keine Angst…“, sagt Bundestrainer Werner Schuster, „so einen Sturz muss er erst mal aus dem Kopf bekommen.“ (…)Wie entscheidend es ist, beim Skispringen ohne Angst zu springen, zeigt der Rücktritt des dreimaligen Olympiasiegers Thomas Morgenstern. Der 28 Jahre alte Österreicher konnte nach zwei Stürzen im vergangenen Winter nicht mehr angstfrei in die Anlaufspur gehen und beendete im Spätsommer seine Karriere. (…) „Angst ist ein Tabuthema im Skispringen“, sagte Thomas Morgenstern…. „Angst kann man nicht einfach abschalten, ich muss mich ständig dieser Angst stellen.“ Nach seinem dramatischen Sturz …lag Thomas Morgenstern mit einem Schädeltrauma und einer Lungenquetschung…. Vier Wochen später holte er bei den Olympischen Spielen in Sotschi mit der Mannschaft die Silbermedaille – doch seine Angst ist er nicht mehr losgeworden.

1. Biathlon

Uschi disl 2006.jpg
Uschi disl 2006“ von Bjarte HetlandEigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter CC BY 2.5 über Wikimedia Commons.

Out of all the relatively popular winter sports, this is the number one: Biathlon. A biathlete is also often called “Skijäger” in German, meaning a skiing hunter, a pretty good description for what the sport is all about: cross-country skiing with a rifle on your back until you get to a firing range where you have to hit five small targets. Whoever skis the fastest and shoots the best will win the race. Although many Germans are against guns, they love this sport. Fabi, for example, tweeted:

Football in summer and biathlon in Winter. I love it 😍

Many must agree. Biathlon is on TV every weekend for several hours and during the week as well. It is by far the most popular winter sport. On average, about 3.3 Million Germans watched last season’s competitions. That means between 20 and 30 per cent of all actual TV viewers depending on the importance and time of the competition.

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