01. September 2022

Soccer Friends for Life Soccer Friends for Life: The “Uni Classics” have met up to play at the University for 50 years now

The “Uni Classics” have met up to play at the University for 50 years now

According to the thermometer it’s nearly 30 degrees (~ 85 F). The air hangs hot above the soccer box, yet inside the “cage” are twelve wiry guys playing six on six—all over age 70! Attack, duel, shoot ... The “Uni Classics” are a group of guys who have been playing soccer for the University of Bonn since 1972, meeting up in Bonn for an annual match—and to plan their road trips. It’s Germany’s oldest university soccer squad!

"Uni Classics" at Anniversary Game:
"Uni Classics" at Anniversary Game: - Edgar Hannig, Jürgen Behler, Dr. Reinhold Herrmann, Uli Voigt, Willi Esser, Friedhelm Strelau, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Buschmann, University Sports Head Dr. Peter Preuß (University Sport), Bernd Siegloch, Gustl Houwtrouw, Dr. Gerd Fobbe, Werner Tübben, Dieter Felten (es fehlen: Gerd Denter, Franz-Joseph Hanrath, Norbert Noll, Klaus Kleinöder) © Volker Lannert / Universität Bonn
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Formed out of the selected University team

The score is nine to four and Uli Vogt and Gerd Fobbe are in a duel that soon resolves with the ball banging into the goal of the soccer box where this year’s Uni Classic is held. University Sports Head Dr. Peter Preuß invited everyone to attend this special 50th anniversary match at the athletic facilities on the Venusberg campus.

Known as the “Classics”, these players know their way around the campus, as many of them studied and played up here. Back in 1972 they reached the quarter final in the German University Championship—as the team members selected to represent the University of Bonn—then made it to the semifinal in 1973. But ambitions for the cup were dashed the following year when the General Students’ Committee balked at paying the DM 25,000 tournament entry fee. The General Students’ Committee would however fund later trips of the Uni Classics to play on the road as guest against teams from all over the world.


Successful athletes

Many of the players played in the upper amateur leagues, like the second division of Bonner SC and FC Godesberg, or competed for the University in track and field tournaments. Prof. Jürgen Buschmann is sitting on the edge of the soccer box, who like about every other player has surgical scars on both knees from his sports injuries. “Overath’s gift to me,” he says, dryly. Buschmann played for FC Ringsdorff-Godesberg against FC Köln back in Pennefeld Stadium, newly opened in 1973, as he relates, and had secured a preliminary contract for the second division.

Overath left the field with fouls while Buschmann went to the operating room with torn cruciate ligaments, his pro career ended. And thus began his career as an academic. After completing a degree with majors in Sports, English and Education Professor Buschmann taught high school and then at German Sport University before becoming Director of the Center for Olympic Studies. He was a member of the coaching staff for the German national soccer team between 2005 and 2014, active in match analysis and scouting.


A team like a family

Many other team members, like Buschmann, have been successful professionals—teachers, doctors, lawyers ...  Fellow player Uli Vogt is still with the German Football Association (DFB) today, working as TV and media coordinator. Alongside work and family obligations, the men remained ever-loyal to the team.

Gustel Houtrow is standing at the edge of the field as a ball hits the back of the net in the soccer box. “Nine to six,” he calls out. Houtrow didn’t get to play since he came down with the virus, yesterday being the first day he tested negative. But he’s there, just like every year before. His son was born exactly 47 years ago today, he tells us. The very next day after the birth he was at the field ready to play with the Classics at the tradition-steeped Dies Academicus tournament hosted by the Institute of Physical Education. The Classics went on the win the tournament, garnering the prize of 50 liters of beer. So off they went to the “Apple”—a local pub.

The actual football playing remained a big part of it, though without quite the same fire they played with as in the first decades. Being active in the community has become an increasingly important part of it. More time was devoted to road matches, which yielded a trove of stories and anecdotes that are great fun to rehash every time they meet up.


Mexico comes to BONN

One special memory was a cloak and dagger operation in which the guys—students at that time—brought the Mexican Olympic team to Bonn. Back in early 1975, Uni Classic player and trainer Klaus Kleinöder had read a classified ad in the official bulletin of Middle Rhine Football Association. The Mexicans had been looking for match partners in Germany, Thus in March, the country’s national team of 19 players stood along with six officials at Cologne-Bonn Airport looking somewhat skeptical at the cheap compact cars of the 20 or so students who came to get them and drive them to the third-rate motels in Godesberg they could afford to put them up in.

The Uni Classics had organized four test matches for the Mexicans, who had played against Brazil before a crowd of 120,000, and now found themselves playing against FC Bad Neuenahr and Westfalia Herne in the town of Plaidt, and against SSV Siegburg before 400 spectators. The students organized a program of cultural and evening activities for their visit, promising to come visit in return as guest in the summer.

The students got to keep a portion of ticket sales for the four matches, and the rest was transferred for Joaquin Badillo Sandoval to administer. “We used the proceeds to cover part of the cost of our trip to Mexico,” relates Bernd Siegloch, who recalls how the project nearly fell apart right when they were ready to leave: “We got a call the day of departure that it was all off.” But the student Classics team flew over anyway, and once they hit the ground skillfully arranged a three-week soccer road tour through Mexico.


Reception and pub visit

Somebody calls out, “Fifteen to nine, last goal counts,” soon after which comes the final whistle. The thirteen Classics players who made it to the match today get changed, then drive out to the old observatory together. There they are met by Vice Rector Prof. Dr. Klaus Sandmann, who came to honor them for their “collective lifetime achievement” on this anniversary occasion: “You have been athletic ambassadors of the University of Bonn for over half a century, and a prime example of how the University brings people together, forging lasting connections well beyond their student days.”

Following the reception everybody heads over to the tavern Em Höttche for a slide show by Reinhold Herrmann on “50 Years of University Classics”, then it’s on to the “Apple”—their traditional meet-up pub on the south side of town (now named BarRoon). “Playing football is no longer the most important thing,” says Werner Tübben, “it’s about the togetherness.” And by the time the pub evening winds down they have already got their next world tour planned out.


Reception at the old observatory:
Reception at the old observatory: - After the anniversary game, Prorector Prof. Dr. Klaus Sandmann congratulated them on their "collective lifetime achievement". "You have been and continue to be ambassadors of sport and the University of Bonn. And you are a good example of how the university brings people together and connects them far beyond their student days." © Volker Lannert / University of Bonn
Even when it's around 30 degrees, they played.
Even when it's around 30 degrees, they played. - The annual meeting with a soccer match is something that only very few people allow themselves to be deprived of. © Volker Lannert / University of Bonn
Many of the athletes have knee injuries, having previously played in the upper amateur leagues
Many of the athletes have knee injuries, having previously played in the upper amateur leagues © Volker Lannert / University of Bonn
University Sports Head Dr. Peter Preuß invited everyone to attend this special 50th anniversary match at the athletic facilities on the Venusberg campus.
University Sports Head Dr. Peter Preuß invited everyone to attend this special 50th anniversary match at the athletic facilities on the Venusberg campus. © Volker Lannert / University of Bonn
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