Reinhard Grindel © 2016 Oliver Kremer at Pixolli Studios
Reinhard Grindel

The DFB Presidents

Reinhard Grindel is the twelfth president of the DFB (German Football Association). He was elected in Frankfurt during an extraordinary Bundestag in Frankfurt on April 15 2016 as the successor of Wolfgang Niersbach, who had earlier resigned on November 9 2015.

Niersbach had been elected in Frankfurt am Main on March 2nd 2012. He was then sworn in at a ceremony on October 25th 2013 in Nürnberg during the 41st Bundestag.

“Football is the future”- that was the motto of the 41st Bundestag in Nürnberg. And it’s the DFB’s umbrella brand too. It dictates the general path the association will take. There are three key points: United, innovative, efficient.

They are three areas that stand for the work and the appearance of the DFB. Wolfgang Niersbach explained: The word ‘united’ means the unity of football. The solidarity from top to bottom, from professionals and amateurs, central offices and honorary posts, men and women, in youth departments for boys and girls, as well as for footballers with and without a migration background.

In other words: The DFB are fully committed towards teamwork, as the example between the DFB and league association has shown and was further documented by the extension of the basic treaty. As a result, all areas that offer positive changes are to be exploited, especially in terms of grassroots. “It is our goal and task to display what happens beneath the professional level,” said Wolfgang Niersbach. Thus, the ceremony in Nürnberg announced the new introduction of the amateur campaign “Our amateurs. Real professionals” as part of the extensive master plan.

Being innovative primarily means to shape the future. That means, that during the age of internet and mobile phones, the technology should be used in a profitable fashion and service contents must be created and provided. Niersbach feels that the DFB are moving in the right direction in this regard. “Training & Wissen” (Training & Knowledge), for example, is an online website of the DFB and a product that was created in order to “give practical tips to every father that coaches a youth team, to every club employee and every player.” The aim of this product is to guide every user into making a practical approach. “We want to invoke excitement for an active participation,” explained Niersbach.

Professor Dr. Hueppe was the first DFB president

Obviously, the aim is to keep a constant flow of progression. German football should be powerful and efficient, just as it has been. “We consider ourselves amongst the elite,” said the DFB president. Germany’s successful tradition should be continued, on all levels: In the national team and in the clubs, in the men’s, women’s and youth departments. Working on these aspects is the common goal of everyone involved and always with an eye on what the future may hold.

Wolfgang Niersbach is continuing the work of Dr. Theo Zwanziger in the highest available DFB position. Zwanziger became DFB president in 2006, after he had served as executive president for two years alongside DFB president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder in a so called “dual leadership”. Born in Altendiez and with a PhD in law, Dr. Zwanziger felt it was his duty to follow the footsteps of his mentor Egidius Braun and act as a socio-political president, who would use the sport as a traction engine to extend the integrative opportunities of football at grassroots level, continue and intensify the social activities of the association and above all the fight against racism and discrimination and further develop the progress of women’s football.

Professor Dr. Ferdinand Hueppe, born in Neuwied and a lecturer for hygiene in Prague, was elected as the head of an eleven-strong committee on January 28th 1900 in Leipzig’s “Mariengarten”. Nine months later, during the third DFB Bundestag in Frankfurt, he was voted as the head of the association. Hueppe was chairman of DFC Prague at the time and resigned from his DFB office just three and half years after being appointed president, after the DFB joined FIFA in 1904, excluding the Prague club from the association.

The eighth Bundestag in Kassel saw Friedrich-Wilhelm Nohe elected as DFB’s First Chairman, which was the official title back then. He remained in office for the shortest span to date. Exactly one year after his appointment, on May 21st 1905 in Cologne, the brilliant rhetorician and educator, who simultaneously was in charge of Karlsruher FV and the southern German football association, resigned due to quarrels between the DFB and the southern German football association.

Nohe’s two successors became the longest serving DFB presidents. Gottfried Hinze, appointed president in Cologne in 1905, and Felix Linnemann, who took over from Hinze in 1925, each stood atop the association for 20 years. Hinze’s reign witnessed the introduction of international fixtures and the growth of the DFB’s member count to over a million. After his resignation, he became the DFB’s first honorary chairman. Criminal investigator Linnemann appointed Otto Nerz as the first “Reichstranier” (Germany’s national coach during the Third Reich) and also appointed Sepp Herberger his successor. After Hitler’s accession to power in Germany, Linnemann began to incorporate football into the sports commission of the Third Reich with the transition of the DFB to the “Football Sector”.

A contractor from Cologne, a lawyer from Osnabrück, a journalist from Saarbrücken, a export and import salesman from Aachen, as well as a born politician from Stuttgart and a lawyer from Altendiez – these were the six senior executives, who, after the war and until Niersbach’s appointment as the DFB president, helped Germany’s football association accumulate a bigger profile and make greater profits thanks to their foresight in terms of trade and salesmanship.

Neuberger, the specialist for the particularly difficult tasks

Dr. Peco Bauwens, co-owner of a construction business based in Cologne, was not only an independent person, he was also a man with a passion for football. In 1910, he participated in his first (and only) national game during a 3-0 defeat to Belgium in Duisburg. Between the two World Wars, he officiated 82 international matches. During his term as DFB president between 1950 and 1962, he helped Germany’s football – with the “Miracle of Bern” in 1954 as the highlight – regain international prestige and became the DFB’s second honorary chairman after his time as president came to an end.

During the election of his successor, Dr Hermann Gösmann, the ceremony in Dortmund on July 28th 1962 witnessed a historic event: With a two-thirds majority, the members agreed to the introduction of the Bundesliga.

Hermann Neuberger, a journalist from Saarbrücken, was in charge of the DFB between 1975 and 1992. He was known to be a specialist in solving particularly difficult tasks. In 1974, he was the DFB’s vice-president and president of the organising committee for the FIFA World Cup, helping it become huge success, not just on a sporting level. As DFB president, he displayed great skill in crisis management and in 1990, after Germany’s third World Cup triumph, he completed his biggest task by becoming a successful intermediary, merging Germany’s football after the country’s reunification. The DFB thanked him for his tremendous service, by naming their headquarters in Frankfurt the “Hermann-Neuberger-Haus” in 1992 after his death.

Egidius Braun, a trained salesman and management consultant, became Neuberger’s successor as DFB president. His own view on his position was to be the advocate of over six million members, to influence the “most important social movement in Germany” and, above all, derive the socio-political and social responsibilities for the association. Braun, who was head of the delegation for the 1986 German World Cup team, founded a relief organisation aimed to benefit Mexico and introduced a highly dedicated battle against drug abuse. He showed tremendous commitment to the support for children from third-world countries and eastern European nations, but also towards the integration of foreigners and the revaluation of the honorary office – all activities from which the DFB still benefit today.

During his reign, he witnessed Germany post their successful bid for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and triumph at the 1996 European Championship, but also experienced “the saddest day of my life”, according to Braun, when German hooligans nearly beat French policeman David Nivel to death during the 1998 World Cup, causing permanent damage to his health.

“Professionals and amateurs depend on each other”

After Braun was required to undergo bypass surgery, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder was appointed acting president in 2000, before becoming the DFB’s ninth president on April 28th 2001. That ceremony in Magdeburg also announced that Braun would become honorary president of the DFB. The DFB continues to pursue the ideals of their eighth president with The Egidius Braun Foundation.

Mayer-Vorfelder, the former Baden-Württemberg minister for education, cultural affairs and finance, was a long term president of VfB Stuttgart and, as a well-respected chairman of the league committee, a representative of football, but at the same time a man of equality. “Professionals and amateurs are dependent on each other. It’s important that there is a sense of willingness to compromise, rather than confront one another,” were words he firmly believed in. He held the highest German football office for three years on his own, before sharing the presidency with Dr. Theo Zwanziger between 2004 and 2006.