It is accomplished. After a short-lived stay in Germany’s second division, RB Leipzig’s win against Karlsruhe secured the team a place in the Bundesliga – one of the three most prestigious football leagues in the world. The 43,000 seats of the Red Bull Arena had been sold out for weeks. Euphoria is the only way to describe how fans feel in the wake of RB Leipzig’s promotion.
And it is about time for world-class football to return to Leipzig. VfB Leipzig became the first winners of the German football championship in 1903. In 1957, 110,000 fans watched the GDR lose against Czechoslovakia – the highest attendance at any football match ever held in Germany. The Red Bull Arena was once the world’s largest stadium. Leipzig has football written in its DNA, and RB Leipzig’s rise is really just a return to historical normality.
Of course, RB Leipzig’s very existence is not without controversy. The team is the product of a multi-million euro investment of Austrian energy drink producer Red Bull. In 2009 the company bought the license of sub-urban team SSV Markranstädt, allowing RB to begin their campaign to advance into the Bundesliga from the 5th division of German football. And advance they did. Five years later the team entered the second division. Thanks to Red Bull’s gracious support, the team’s spending budget on new players was higher than all the league’s other teams’ budgets combined. It was pretty clear that eventually no one would be able to stand in the way of RB Leipzig’s financial resources.
You can reduce RB Leipzig to money, but I want to emphasise something else. When I was a kid I went to nearly every home match of VfB Leipzig, and every single time I felt slightly uncomfortable. You just didn’t know whether you were going to get hit by a fire cracker or whether you were going to get beaten up in the tram on your way home. With RB Leipzig you get an amazing, family-friendly atmosphere with no chance of being assaulted. And more than that. Next to their stadium Red Bull built one of the most advanced football training centres in Europe. Have you ever wondered why there was only one East German player on the German team when they won the World Cup two years ago? RB Leipzig’s youth programme promises to massively improve the status of East German football.
But what pleases me the most is this: having a team in the Bundesliga will help Leipzig shed the last remaining shreds of provinciality. The league’s matches are broadcast in over 200 countries, and RB Leipzig’s participation will carry the name of our city to all the corners of the planet. RB Leipzig, live long and prosper!