Today’s birthday celebrations will be all the more joyous amongst Werder Bremen fans following their 1-0 win away at Mainz yesterday, which was their third on the trot and saw them move up to eighth in the Bundesliga table.
The Grün-Weißen may have fallen down the pecking order in German football since their days of winning Bundesliga titles, Pokals and European honours, but they remain a big club in the country with a huge following. On Sunday 4th February the club will celebrate their 125th birthday so what better opportunity to look back to how it all began for SV Werder Bremen.
The tale actually begins a little earlier on September 2nd 1898. Sedan Day was a celebrated day in the German Empire and a folk festival in the city saw a group of six school friends win a tug-of-war contest (although some reports claim it was a relay race). Their prize was a football- a ball that was to start our story.
One of the boys was Hermann Kassens, the son of a cowherd and also landlord of the ‘Kuhhirten’ excursion restaurant. Hermann and his friends began playing football on the meadows next to the River Weser and adjacent to his father’s restaurant. The 16-year-old had to persuade his father to allow this as playing this ‘ball sport’ was still considered unusual at the turn of the century with the more traditional gymnastics still the norm.
Football was part of a youth culture that went against the conventional sporting disciplines and many of the schoolboys who formed the nucleus of the emerging club were doing so against the express wishes of their middle-class parents. The fact that they were kicking their ball around on the far side of the river away from the disapproving eyes, gave them a little more freedom and their numbers soon grew.
It is generally agreed that Hermann and his friends formally founded FV Werder Bremen at a meeting on the veranda of his father’s Kuhhirte restaurant on February 4th 1899, although unlike other clubs there were no minutes taken or a founding document produced. The club was not the first however with Bremer SC having been founded in 1891.
The name Werder is actually a shortened version of the word Stadtwerder- river peninsula which refers to the grassy meadows that bordered the River Weser and upon which the now famous Weser Stadion stands. It is believed their first win (1-0) was achieved on September 10th 1899 against ASC 1898 Bremen with and in December 1899, FV Werder joined the Association of Bremen Football Clubs.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The ‘Kuhhirte’ restaurant is still going today and now possesses an information board outside explaining its key role in the foundation of the city’s predominant football club. The journey from Hermann Kassens to Marvin Ducksch has taken 125 years with much rich history in between. Happy birthday Werder Bremen!