Fritz Walter Stadium
High above the city towers the Fritz Walter Stadium. This was originally called the Betzenberg Stadium after the hill on which it stands. The stadium is the home of F.C. Kaiserslautern, and it was one of the most attractive football grounds in Germany, boasting one of the best atmospheres. The capacity of the ground is 49,780, almost half the population of the city – and the locals still come in droves when their team is playing at home uffem Betze, “on the Betzenberg” as they say. Until the late 1990s, the ground was one of the few purely football stadiums in the Bundesliga, the German first division. The closeness of the fans to the pitch and their vociferous support gave it a reputation as a virtually impregnable stronghold to visiting teams. And yet visitors are always welcome here – as at the 2006 World Cup, when the Fritz Walter Stadium was the venue for five thrilling games.
F.C. Kaiserslautern was founded back in 1900. Even today it is imbued with the aura of illustrious players, legendary characters who embodied traditional sporting values. Fritz Walter himself was a legend in his own lifetime. He was in the German national team that pulled off what came to be known as the “Miracle of Berne” and won the 1954 World Cup. Some 30 years later the club renamed the stadium in honour of the local boy who had won so much. Among other things, Fritz Walter was the first player to be made “honorary captain” of the German national team. Part of the fascination of F.C. Kaiserslautern has been the spectacular ups and devastating downs it has gone through. Still fresh in the memory is the club’s cup final victory shortly after relegation from the first division in 1996 – and of course two years later the league championship it won straight after being promoted back to the top division, F.C. Kaiserslautern’s fourth league title. Famously or perhaps infamously nicknamed die Roten Teufel or the Red Devils, this historic club thus showed once again that it more than lives up to its name. The team has worn red shirts since 1948, when they were introduced by – who else? – Fritz Walter.