In sporting parlance, the city of Wolfsburg’s football achievements are greater than the sum of its parts. Successful teams in both the Bundesliga and the Frauen Bundesliga are more than enough substantiation, given the city’s humble size of around just 100,000 inhabitants.
The city successfully staged four matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ over the past fortnight in front of large and energised crowds. Fans flocked in impressive numbers to the Arena Im Allerpark creating a buoyant and colourful atmosphere both inside and outside the stadium; a perfectly-sized venue seemingly in pristine condition, although now approaching its tenth birthday.
Each match was an attraction in its own right with memorable moments aplenty. Highlights included Mexico’s Monica Ocampo scoring one of the goals of the tournament against England, Marta’s star-turn in Brazil’s 3-0 win over Norway and Sweden’s stunning victory against USA in a high-quality advert for women’s football.
The adventure concluded with Japan’s epic extra-time quarter-final victory over Germany in what will go down as an unforgettable encounter, although not necessarily one that will be remembered with absolute fondness by the host nation. Wolfsburg, situated in the Lower Saxony region of north-west Germany, continues to outshine the football achievements of much larger metropolitan areas. Local football fans have enjoyed success in recent years with VfL Wolfsburg completing an eye-catching rise to prominence with a maiden Bundesliga title in 2009.
New city vibe
Football is now undoubtedly a second genuine industry for the city, which was originally laid out for the purposes of servicing the Volkswagen factory in the late 1930s; a business which still dominates the city today. Just a few minutes walk from the stadium, with its contemporary look, sits the sprawling and heritage-listed factory whose traditional industrial facade is juxtaposed with that of the sporting venue, in what is a visual metaphor for traditional and modern Wolfsburg
Meanwhile, the city also boasts a successful Frauen Bundesliga club, and is one of only five cities – the others being Munich, Hamburg, Freiburg and Leverkusen – to have a presence in the top flight of both the men’s and women’s national leagues. The Wolfsburg squad includes Norway’s Leni Larsen-Kaurin, New Zealand skipper Rebecca Smith and Germany striker Martina Mueller, all of which accentuated the city’s connection to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Little wonder then that support was both passionate and wholehearted, be it from volunteers, staff, supporters or the local population. Many too were lapping up the turn of women’s football to be in the spotlight. “The atmosphere at Bundesliga matches here is fantastic, but this is a little bit more special,” said Katarina Hoffman, a fan enjoying the atmosphere and brilliant sunshine prior to the Germany match. “We are proud of Wolfsburg and it's so special having a World Cup here. It is just amazing to have so many people supporting women’s football and the players have repaid that on the field.”
The enthusiasm and sheer volume of volunteers is one of the many reasons why Germany 2011 has been such a success. “It has been a unique and enjoyable experience and allowed me the opportunity to meet so many interesting people,” said volunteer and media design student Lena Strutz, one of nearly two-dozen helping out with media operations. “This is not normal for our little town so it’s been great to make a contribution to this event. For me, women’s football is now on the same level as men’s. It feels a little like the world has come to Wolfsburg and we can be very proud.”