German and Soccer? Schalke 04 teams up with the Goethe Institut

Just like becoming a member of a professional soccer team takes a lot of energy, it also requires a lot of energy to meet the players from Schalke 04 – which is what the winners of the “Bundesliga Total” contest by the Goethe Institut and S04 recently did.

All American students enrolled in German classes were allowed to participate in the “Bundesliga Total” competition, which was organised by the Goethe Institut and FC Schalke 04. Of course, knowledge about soccer and about the Bundesliga – one of the best leagues in the world – was a great advantage for when the competition started in October 2018. After five exciting months with a lot of action, the finalists were found and the top ten teams were invited to the final at the Goethe Institut in Washington DC in March.

After a welcome party, the competition started in Washington D.C. Many different challenging tasks were mastered, for example matching the logos of the Bundesliga clubs with the club names and the city they play in, answering questions about clubs, providing information about Schalke 04, matching players with their number and their position and of course, everything in German. But only knowing German and the Bundesliga was not enough in the final. Soccer skills were also necessary to win the “Bundesliga Total” final.

The lead changed often during the day and it was clear that it would be a tight result. With an impressive final spurt in the last game, the team ‘Tore R Us’ from Marietta, GA won the final. And the prize was well worth all the effort – a trip to Germany to see the home of Schalke 04 and their home game against FC Augsburg. The cherry on the cake was a meet and greet with Schalke 04’s players after the game.

Emily and Guillem made their way to Germany in early May. Once they arrived in Germany, the first stop was in Dortmund at the International Soccer Museum. The next day started with a VIP tour of the Schalke 04 stadium. Already impressive from the outside, the inside is overwhelming. Everything was open for the winning team – locker rooms, rehab, and even a touch and a feel of the field – Schalke 04 plays on 100% grass – were included.

The tour ended and the last practice of the pro team before the game started. Visitors stood just behind the boards and looked over Huub Stevens’ – the head coach’s – shoulder.

After watching the game the next day at the VELTINS-Arena, the “Bundesliga Total” winners went straight downstairs to meet the players. For them, it was a real adventure to talk with soccer pros right after a game and get their personal impressions. Every player was happy to provide autographs, information and was ready for a selfie. Probably the most exciting conversation took place with Weston McKennie, mainly because he is a US citizen! Weston discussed and compared soccer in the US with the Bundesliga. Many questions were asked, and even more answers provided before Weston left the ‘Tore R Us’ team.

The end of the meet and greet marked the end of the trip. For Emily and Guillem, it became obvious why Schalke 04 is so special: “It is all about the people. Every single person is friendly, funny, helpful and passionate about Schalke 04”, they said.

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