Half-past three on Saturdays: This is their fixed time and a fixed part of the public life of a whole nation. Every Saturday at half-past three approx. Nearly 290,000 people are on their way to the stadiums to watch the Bundesliga, millions sit by their radios, and are impatiently awaiting the start of the TV coverage. No theatre or opera house nor any other leisure facility finds similar appreciation and popularity as soccer.
Actually there were already plans in the early fifties for a central German division. Remember: At that time, there were five Oberligen (fourth divisions). Their champions played in a cup final for the German title. The players were amateurs, thus training and playing were mere leisure time activities. It was the German head coach, Sepp Herberger, who insisted on professional soccer according to the British example and he was an advocate of the Bundesliga. His reasoning: "If we want to remain internationally competitive we have to improve our qualifications considerably on a nation-wide basis."
However, it was not before August 24, 1963, when the first Bundesliga kick-off happened. Had no German club before won a European Cup, it was the FC Bayern Munich who was successful three years running (1974, 1975, 1976) and added one more in 2001, the Hamburger SV (1983) and Borussia Dortmund (1997) at the national champions, Borussia Dortmund (1966), the FC Bayern Munich (1967), the Hamburger SV (1977), and SV Werder Bremen (1992) at the cup winners as well as Borussia Mönchengladbach (1975, 1979), Eintracht Frankfurt (1980), Bayer 04 Leverkusen (1988), FC Bayern Munich (1996) and FC Schalke 04 (1997) in the UEFA Cup. In this connection the success of the 1.FC Magdeburg - then member of the German Soccer Association of the GDR - must also be mentioned in the contest of the cup winners of 1974.
In a sensational match in 1998, the 1. FC Kaiserslautern won the German championship. The "Red Devils" from the Betzenberg were the first team who won promotion to the Bundesliga and made it right through to the first place in the German top-flight league. After the title was won, the Palatine crowds were overwhelmed and the whole region celebrated the victory of the new German champion. This shows once more how much popularity soccer enjoys.
In the season 1997/98, 9,520,385 paying crowds attended the 306 matches (this is an average of 31,112); eleven years later exactly 12.822.484 fans found the way to the stadiums; a new record in the history of the bundesliga and an average of 41.904. The response to soccer has never been greater ever since the Bundesliga was founded and is another proof of an unbroken interest in the soccer live event.