Building self-esteem through football
German Football Championship for Workshops for People with Disabilities held since 2000
Team Berlin won the women’s competition last year
"The atmosphere was sensational, the women felt respected"
For most football fans, the words ‘German Football Championship’ immediately bring to mind teams such as Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg – but the top men’s and women’s teams are not the only ones to compete for this title.
What began as the National Football Competition for Workshops for People with Disabilities became the German Football Championship for Workshops for People with Disabilities in 2007. Last year Team Berlin, a partnership between the women’s teams from the Berlin Workshops for People with Disabilities (BWB) and Frau am Ball Berlin e.V. won the women’s competition.
"It really was an incredible experience, I have to say. I genuinely didn’t expect it," said Anne Fischer, founder of Frau am Ball e.V., in an interview with FIFA.com. "All of the women were extremely proud to have won the title and felt as if they were taken seriously in this setting, which is something that hadn’t occurred to me.
"We were given a big trophy and it was just a good experience. Silvia Neid was there too, which was a great token of respect and gave the place a real buzz. It also meant that there were plenty of spectators for the final. We weren’t really used to that; it was like being in a parallel universe. The atmosphere was sensational, and the women felt respected – and for them to actually go on and win the final was incredible."
The team will return to defend their title this year, having bypassed qualification via the regional championships as they have no competition. "Essentially, we don’t have to qualify because we’re the only team in Berlin," laughed Fischer.
"It’s a very different story in North Rhine-Westphalia, where they have a whole array of teams. That means that only the very best side become state champions and reach the national finals, so it’s a whole different situation. We’re lucky really."
I think that leading a club like this has less to do with teaching technique and is more about the fact that people want to be seen for what they can contribute.
Fischer founded Frau am Ball with a fellow student in 2006. Run by volunteers, the club is designed to be inclusive and offers women with a wide range of different abilities the opportunity to play football together in a secure environment. Fischer leads training once a week, even though she is traditionally more at home in the water. "I’m originally a swimmer and then moved into canoe racing," said the social worker.
"Having said that, we always played plenty of football and I really enjoyed it," she continued. "In my mid-20s I played for a team in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district for a while, and picked up a few things about how football training sessions work and what drills you can do. I then completed training courses with the Berlin Football Association and the Berlin Disabled Sports Association.
"However, I think that leading a club like this has less to do with teaching technique and is more about the fact that people want to be seen for what they can contribute. Football provides a great opportunity to do that."
It was football that ultimately brought about the club’s partnership with BWB, which has had a women’s team for many years.
"As the name suggests, the German Football Championship for Workshops is for workshop employees," Fischer explained. "As a club, we took part in the competition a few years ago, but were then told that we could no longer participate as we aren’t a workshop, and several of the women who play for us don’t work in one. That was when the idea of teaming up with BWB came about, as they had not been so successful in previous years," she added with a smile.
"That meant we were both hoping to get something out of it. We wanted to compete again, and BWB wanted to be back up there with the best teams. Before the competition, we held an open training session to see whether any other women in Berlin were keen to get involved, and we found two really good footballers as a result."
Workshop football in Germany
Many people with mental or psychological impairments play football in their free time at one of almost 700 workshops for people with disabilities
These workshops are held in more than 2,600 locations
Football helps to promote values such as fair play, tolerance and team spirit and thus teaches valuable social skills that help people take a major step towards inclusion
Many workshop teams train regularly and compete in tournaments. Each of Germany’s 16 federal states holds a regional championship, with the winners qualifying for the German Championship
The 20th edition of the German Championship for Workshops for People with Disabilities takes place from 16 to 19 September 2019