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Why do German teams have numbers in their name?

The motivations vary

Why do German teams have numbers in their name? The motivations vary

German football is undoubtedly the most traditional movement in Europe. This does not mean that it is old or uninteresting. Quite the opposite. In recent years, the Bundesliga has transformed into one of the best laboratories for young coaches who want to experiment with their tactical ambitions at a high level before making the leap to any big European club, as is happening in Leverkusen, for example. Bayer is one of the most exciting teams to watch this season, and coach Xabi Alonso is destined to leave Germany, likely to become the new manager of Real Madrid starting from the next summer. The same can be said for players. Erling Haaland moved from Dortmund to Manchester City, and it is reasonable to expect a similar progression for other exceptional talents like Xavi Simons, on loan from PSG to Leipzig, and Florian Wirtz, a midfielder born in 2003 who is in the sights of Bayern Munich. But no matter how much innovation you can see on the field, the atmosphere of every Bundesliga match is infused with the history of each club.

One element that is best expressed in the name of each individual club is the inclusion of a number. It's a common feature of several teams, much like in English football, where there are many teams with the "United" suffix after the city or neighborhood name. Here are some facts to better understand the context: among the 38 teams participating in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga in the 2023/24 season, 13 of them have at least one number in their official name. The reasons are mainly two. The first one is the most obvious: the number refers to the year of the club's foundation. The most well-known example is Schalke 04, the only team that managed to carry the number in its name into common pronunciation. That "04" is simply a reference to 1904, the year the team from Gelsenkirchen was founded. Then there are clubs that went further and included the entire year in their name, as is the case with Bochum and Heidenheim, which respectively added 1848 and 1846, phonetically more challenging to pronounce in full.

It's not immediate, but it's simpler than you might imagine to understand the reason why some clubs, such as Kaiserslautern and Cologne, decided to include the number one followed by a period and the acronym FC before the complete name of the club. Quite simply, through this choice, they want to mark their territory, indicating that they were the first football club in the city or district. Literally, "1.FC" means "Erster Fußball Club," which translates to "the first football club" in Italian. Today, the most famous team to use this designation is Union Berlin, even though it was not the very first football club in the German capital to opt for this choice, as Hertha, for example, was founded in 1899. The club adopted the full name "1. FC Union Berlin" in 1965 when football organizations were reorganized so that there was only one top-level club per district in East Germany, and the club became the first football expression of the Oberschöneweide district under the new rules.