Taking FC Buffalo to my home country

TICKETS: FCB v. FC St. Pauli in Buffalo!!

Who better to describe FC Buffalo’s stunning week abroad in Germany than one of our two native sons. Luca Ziegler is a rising junior left wingback at Presbyterian College in South Carolina, where he was named to the All-Big South Team. Prior to America, Luca played for the German youth national team at the U-16 level in a career spent primarily with Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga set-ups Nurnberg and Heidenheim.

When I first heard that my new team would be going to Germany to prepare for the 2019 NPSL season, I got really excited. It would allow me to visit my home country even though I decided to stay in Buffalo instead of flying home for the summer.

Though I am from Germany I had not actually spent time visiting the cities of Hamburg and Dortmund besides playing a few soccer games during my youth career.

Seeing on my boarding pass that we are flying with a well-known German airline Lufthansa, I knew that we were off to a good start. Arriving in Hamburg on Monday morning, Germany presented itself cold and rainy, which is typical for the Northern parts of Germany.

However, the focus on the first few days was to recover from jet lag as best as possible and prepare ourselves for three games in three days. The schedule started with the best game in the beginning as we were getting ready to compete against FC St. Pauli II.

Personally, St. Pauli is a club that I have always followed when I watched 1. or 2. Bundesliga as a little boy. Thankfully all my teammates could experience what I meant with St. Pauli being a special and different club compared to most other teams from Germany.

After practicing at the grounds of St. Pauli on Tuesday morning, I also got the chance to talk to one of my former teammates, who practiced next to us with St. Pauli´s professional team.

Luca and Kevin Lankford, ironically a German-American striker, were teammates on the U-19 team for 2.Bundesliga side Heidenheim, who we’d see on Sunday at MSV Duisburg. In a further twist, Luca’s childhood friend Niklas Dorsch was the unabashed Man of the Match on Sunday.

Being able to get a tour at St. Pauli as well as at Dortmund was an amazing experience, which helped us to imagine what the atmosphere will be like at one of the home games.

The imagination was topped by experiencing the atmosphere during a game in the Signal Iduna Park with the famous “Yellow Wall” singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Due to the fact that my whole family is living in the south of Germany, I rarely get the chance to attend any games in this area.

Another personal highlight for me was that my parents were finally able to watch me play soccer again after two years of playing overseas. Unfortunately, their support was not enough to get us a win in the first two games.

Nevertheless, I think we competed really well especially against FC St. Pauli II, a team of highly-skilled talents, who mostly played for German youth academies their whole life. We were able to compete really well for most parts and had the score level in the first half.

Next to competing with German teams, I got the chance to show the team some of the German cultures as well. With Schnitzel, Döner Kebab and Currywurst it was an easy task to convince them that there is delicious food in Germany as well.

Luca (center, top right photo) was invaluable in helping us adapt to the “newness” of Germany and understand the best ways to act as ambassadors of Buffalo and the United States.

I hope the team and all the people that travelled with us got a new and positive impression of Germany. Even though the German language might sound quite harsh and demanding to American ears, I was really pleased by how welcoming all cities have been to me and my team. It made me proud that my country represented itself from one of the best sides.

In comparison to the U.S., where I depend on others showing me around and explaining me certain rules and social expectations, I was able to do this once in a while during the week. While it was never a burden to be one of the two Germans on the team it also helped me to get a different view on Germany. Things that I took as being normal, were quite a surprise to my American teammates. For example, telling the waitress directly how much tip she will receive. Until this week there were many things that I simply accepted until one of my teammates questioned it.

Altogether it was a successful trip that created many positive memories and I already enjoy looking back. Not only the athletic and cultural goals were achieved but also team grew to know each other better.

Furthermore, it was incredible that even some supporters of FC Buffalo made it all the way to Germany to cheer us on for 90 minutes. I was personally excited to put on the jersey knowing there will be such committed and loyal fans waiting out there.

Next to leaving me speechless, this awesome support was also one of the first things that always came up whenever I talked to opposing players after the game. I think I can speak for the whole team when I say thank you to everyone who made this amazing experience possible.

Auf Wiedersehen,