Munich - Off the Ball, bundesliga.com's weekday feature, casts an eye over some of the offbeat and occasionally controversial tales to have emerged from Germany's top-flight.

Today we wish the championsAlles Gute! on the club's birthday celebrations, get a taste of former Bundesliga star Lukas Podolski's excitement ahead of Carnival in his former haunt of Cologne and discover how a group of Scotsmen have been converted into admirers of the German game.

FC Bayern München have been gearing up for Saturday's Matchday 23 top game against FC Schalke 04 this week, but on Thursday the club took a moment to reflect on over a century of success by celebrating the 114th anniversary of the club’s founding by the members of gymnastics club MTV München. "We have a fantastically rich history, and the last 30 or 40 years have been especially successful,” commented club president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. The club can be proud of the last 114 years.” Happy Birthday indeed!

He may have left the Bundesliga and his beloved 1. FC Köln, but 111-time Nationalelf international Lukas Podolski rarely misses an opportunity to return to Germany. The 28-year-old was a guest at Köln's 1-1 draw against Greuther Fürth on Monday and is gearing up for the famous Karneval, which will be in full swing in his former haunt of Cologne come Rosenmontag on 3 March. What costume will Poldi be donning this year, we wonder?

It's almost 15 years since Kilmarnock FC were drawn against 1. FC Kaiserslautern in the old UEFA Cup, but a keen friendship is still going strong between a group of fans from both clubs since those two games in 1999. "We’ve made some lifelong friends. We’ve been going back to Kaiserslautern once or twice a year since and they come over to Scotland for a few Kilmarnock games as well,” says Kilmarnock fan and Lautern admirer Jim McKenzie, whose story is yet more evidence of the infectious allure of German football. These fans' next reunion will be in Germany when Lautern host Dynamo Dresden on Matchday 33 later on this season.


Bernie Reeves