Last weekend marked the start of the 2015-16 Bundesliga season, with Bayern beginning their inevitable march to the title (which they should mathematically seal sometime in March), Dortmund starting the post-Klopp era with a 4-0 romp over Mönchengladbach, and the other Top 4 contenders (Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Schalke) kicking off their campaigns with wins.
It also marked the start of Fox Sports’ coverage of the Bundesliga, bringing the German top flight to its largest American audience ever. German soccer has traditionally lagged behind the English game when it comes to US television ratings, unfortunate given the quality of talent, the clubs’ focus on youth development, and the vibrant supporter culture. Considering its humble beginnings, it’s worth noting how far American coverage of the Bundesliga has come.
This week, we take a look back at the program that gave America its first taste of the German game— Soccer Made In Germany.
Soccer Made In Germany ran on PBS from 1976 to 1988 and was produced/sponsored primarily by KQED in San Francisco. The show featured several-weeks-old highlights from West German league matches, plus the occasional match from the European Cup (now the Champions League), all set to the dulcet tones of Toby Charles. The high point of the show’s run came in 1982 when they presented highlights and coverage of the World Cup in Spain which culminated in a co-broadcast of the final with the ABC-network, the first time in history a live World Cup match aired in the United States.
Yes, the production values were very quaint, even for the time (this was public broadcasting, after all). And yes, the highlights were often several weeks late. But for many Americans, Soccer Made In Germany was their first taste of the beautiful game on television— or at all. Were it not for this program, there may well have not been such a push for the US to host the 1994 World Cup, no MLS, no Premier League on NBC, and, of course, no Bundesliga on Fox.
We’ll close with this segment featuring highlights from Köln vs Stuttgart in 1977. Soccer, of all stripes, has come a long way in 40 years in this country.