Wiesbaden Soldiers, civilians play on German semi-pro football team
June 6, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - Although the National Football League's season drew to a close more than three months ago, American football fans will be happy to hear the German Football League's season recently started and runs through October.
Better yet, the league's Wiesbaden Phantoms hold their home games at the Helmut Schön Sportpark, which is across the road from the Hainerberg Shopping Center and next to the Brita Arena - easy walking distance for many in the Wiesbaden military community.
Even better still, football fans can cheer on two U.S. Army Soldiers who play on the semi-professional team, as well as two other members of the local military community.
Sgt. Kenny Sharp, a starting fullback and tight end who works for U.S. Army Europe, is starting his second year with the team. "I wish every Soldier could have this experience," Sharp said. "I can't wait for it to start going full speed. We're right on the edge of being perfect."
Spc. Kareem Williams of V Corps is a wide receiver for the team that formerly played for Florida International University. "I enjoy it," Williams said. "It's not the same as the States, but as far as the pageantry and the excitement, it's still there."
The team's next home game is June 1 against the Saarland Hurricanes, and Sharp and Williams both encourage everyone to attend the game. A limited number of complimentary tickets are available at the USO offices. Tickets are ,10 and children under 10 are free. The team has played two games so far this season, and lost by one point to the Rhein-Neckar Bandits and by seven points to the Stuttgart Scorpions.
The team also includes running back Thomas Hogue, a Heidelberg American High School standout who played for Huntington College in Alabama for two years. "It's really enjoyable," he said. "I'm loving the team, and I wouldn't wish to play anywhere else."
Defensive back Kenneth Colbert is a former U.S. Army Soldier in Wiesbaden who works as a civilian in the military community. Colbert previously played for the team in 2011, and gained the nickname "Receiver Eater" for his prowess as a defensive back.
GFL teams are limited to six American players, and the Phantoms have the maximum number possible. Fans can distinguish the American players during games because they have an "A" on their helmets and uniforms.
Two other Americans playing for the team include Willie Millhouse, who formerly played for the University of West Virginia, and Brandon Collier, who played for the University of Massachusetts (and graduated). Collier previously played in the American football league in Austria and for the Winnipeg (Canada) Blue Bombers. Collier signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this year, but was waived with an injury settlement.
The Phantoms are not only about semi-professional football, however. The team also includes tackle football teams for youngsters 16-19 years old, youngsters 13-16 years old, and flag football teams for adults ages 19 and older, youngsters 11-15 years old, and for children ages 6-11 years old. In addition, there are cheerleading teams for youths 15 years and older and for children 9-15 years old.
The GFL includes 16 teams that are divided into north and south divisions that each have eight teams. The Phantoms belong to the southern division.
The league's season runs from March through October, when the league holds the German Bowl to determine the champion. The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns were the 2012 champions, and they compete in the southern league. The Phantoms take on the Unicorns at home June 22 at 5 p.m. at the Helmut Schoen Sportspark.
To learn more about the Phantoms and the variety of programs the team offers, visit www.wiesbaden-phantoms.de. Learn more about the GFL at www.gfl.info. The team also has a Facebook page