Get to know: Germania Columbus
Back in the United States, there is a long and proud history of German expats organizing their own clubs and societies to help preserve their heritage – even thousands of miles away from home. One such club also prides itself as being one of Schalke 04’s largest supporter groups – Germania Singing and Sport society in Columbus, Ohio.
We caught up with the club’s Vice President, Eric Chivington, to dive into the club’s history and their passion for Die Knappen.
Who is the Germania Columbus Singing and Sport Society?
We were founded in 1866 by a consortium of blue-collar Germans that immigrated to the United States. A lot of our original members had fought for the Union in the Civil War and came together to preserve their German culture. A couple of different groups in the region originally were integrated into the club – one of them being Columbus Kickers, who were founded in 1900 as a soccer-oriented club and joined in 1926. That season, the Kickers won a regional tournament that would eventually become part of the wider U.S. Open Cup – playing against other ethnic clubs across the Midwest.
It’s a truly special place – and clubs like ours don’t exist much. But, we’re still hanging around and proud of it. Today, we have close to 450 members from a variety of age groups and backgrounds that all enjoy German culture, music, camaraderie, and the community that comes with it.
How did you first get involved as a Supporters group?
Some members went to a Schalke event in Pittsburgh and wanted to try something in Columbus. When someone asks me a question, I find the answer – and here we are! We had had various viewing parties for the World Cup and Euros over the years, but nothing consistent. Big tournaments come every few years, and it’s difficult to build upon. I got some contact information with Schalke, reached out and said “hey, we have some interested people that are very much Schalke fans, can we do something?”. We now proudly get 20-30 members at viewing parties every week.
What aspects of being Schalker resonate most with you and your group?
The Bundesliga is truly the best kept secret in American soccer. Most of the time, fans only see clubs when they come play exhibition games here. We really became fans, though, when we looked into the back story of the club. The miners of the region who would work in coal mines Monday to Friday and play soccer on the weekends – a very blue collar, hardworking ethos. They’re known for their toughness and their grit, too – physicality that sometimes is lost in the sport these days. That blue collar nature ethos is what Germania was founded on, and Schalke mirrors that. It’s a good fit.
Additionally, Schalke is one of those few remaining organizations like that, who have a fencing club, shooting club, volleyball team, etc. We almost see ourselves in them. A lot of our older members are past their playing days, but we have always had a shooting club, a soccer team, fencing group, music groups – and now we proudly have a Schalke fan group at the club.
What does a typical match day look like at the club?
The camaraderie and community that comes out of watching things together as a group really shines through on matchday. It’s a great environment. Germania always prides itself on the food it brings – for early matches, we do Veltins with locally made donuts together. We also offer a hearty German breakfast of meat, cheese, and eggs sometimes. On normal afternoon matches, we’ve got German potato salad. Good, hearty food that’s designed to be enjoyed with friends and comrades and fans alike. Watching the spirited and unique brand of soccer that the Bundesliga offers with authentic German food is a great pairing.
We have older members that come as well – some played against Schalke’s youth teams in their days as soccer players back in Germany. It’s always fun to hear from them about their days playing against the tough, gritty, cohesive Schalke teams of the club’s heyday. Additionally, it’s great for them to connect to their roots and watch some of the teams they played for – and against – on a weekly basis with their family.
Where do you watch games and gather as a club?
Our clubhouse is in the Schlee Brewery District – named after Nicholas Schlee, head Brewer of the Brewing Alliance in Columbus OH from the 1870s to the early 1900s. Our club is his mansion – the oldest house South of High Street. We purchased it from his estate in 1926, and this will be our 95th year at this location. We’re the last remaining German organization in Columbus that still in there in their building. It’s really special – we’ve been as good Germans, good stewards with our money, and found a way to make things work among a group of people. People say we’re a family more than a club. That doesn’t mean we get along all the time, but we’re always respectful. We share common roots in German culture, song, and spirit that ties us together. That’s the glue. Plus, it’s hard to argue over something with someone after you enjoyed a beer together.