Soldiers share football skills with German semi-pro team
July 17, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - Anyone who misses watching live American-style football needs to be aware of the Wiesbaden Phantoms, a local German Football League team that includes two U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Soldiers.
"We would really love to have more people come out and support our team," said Sgt. Kenneth Sharp, a Phantoms running back and tight end who works as the U.S. Army Europe Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion building coordinator and relocation operations noncommissioned officer.
"It's American football and has the same rules as in the States," said Spc. Avery Mose, a wide receiver who works for the 24th Military Intelligence Battalion as a sigant analyst. "If you love football, you should come check us out."
The semi-professional GFL has 16 teams in its first division, and 16 teams in its second division. The Phantoms are in the first division. Each year the league holds a championship bowl called the German Bowl.
Out of the 48 players on the Phantoms, Sharp and Mose are the only Americans, Phantoms head coach Sven Gloss said.
It is good to have Americans on the team because they have a lot more experience with the game, Gloss said. Most German players start playing the game at the age of 16 or 17, while most Americans start at 5 or 6.
"They bring a lot of experience, and they know a lot about football from high school," Gloss said. "That's the biggest thing."
Sharp and Mose both fit that bill.
Sharp played football throughout high school at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala., Sharp said, and then went on to play at the University of North Alabama until he was injured. Shortly after, he joined the Army full time.
Mose, from Marksville, La., played football throughout high school and committed to playing at a college, but decided to join the Army instead, Mose said. The Phantoms have been a great way to get back to playing football, he said.
The Phantoms are the only team in the first division that does not pay American college players to play for them, Gloss said. The team does not bring over American players because the team wanted to feature local players, he said.
The team plays a 15-game season, and so far is one and six, Sharp said, but several of the games have been very close. "We have high hopes that we'll finish out the season strong," he said.
More fans at the games would certainly help, Sharp said.
During a July 7 game against the Rhein-Neckar Bandits in Manheim, fans blew horns and wore Phantoms football shirts with "Phanatics" printed across the back.
Peter Braeuer of Erbenheim, the father of wide reciever Robin Braeuer, said he would like to see not only more American fans, but also players. "I think a lot of people from Wiesbaden hope more Americans play for the team," he said.
American players have more experience with football, Braeuer said, and the best teams in the GFL have American players.
Uwe Weiss, a Phantoms fan from Wiesbaden, said he attends the games because he has loved American football since he first started watching it at the age of 7. "I've been interested in it for a long time," Weiss said.
Sharp said he does not speak German, but he learns more of the language during every practice. If he does not understand something, other players translate for him, he said.
Mose said he also learns more German at every practice. "It's a good way to get involved in the culture," he said. "The American culture and the German culture both have a love for football."
Gloss said the games are exciting, extremely fun to watch, and include cheerleaders and food and drink.
Between 400 and 700 people often attend the team's home games, Sharp said, and the GFL's website says the league's bowl games usually attract more than 10,000 people, and several times have attracted more than 20,000.
This year the GFL plans to hold German Bowl XXXIV at the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sports Park in Berlin, according to the GFL website.
Sharp said he enjoys playing on the team. "I love the amount of effort and amount of drive it takes to step out on the field and go to battle," he said. "It's an honor to be able to represent the team. It really is."
The Phantoms' next game is this Saturday, July 21, against the Stuttgart Scorpions at 6 p.m. at the Helmut-Schön-Sportpark in Wiesbaden. Tickets are available at the game and cost ,10 for adults, ,6 for students and free for children under the age of 10.
For more information about the Phantoms, visit www.wiesbaden-phantoms.de. For more information about the GFL, which also has a women's league, visit www.gfl.info.