From Monday to Thursday this week, 250 youngsters and a 60-strong team of supervisors are in Wolfsburg for the 2013 DFL summer camp. The event is now in its third year and growing ever more popular with age. In 2011, 63 children took part in it, with that number rising to 220 last time around.
Opening address by Andreas Rettig
At Monday evening's opening ceremony in VfL Wolfsburg's Volkswagen Arena, DFL COO Andreas Rettig was clearly relishing the friendly atmosphere being generated by the assembled nine-to-eleven-year-old representatives of 19 of the Kids' Clubs now up and running at 32 of Germany's 36 current Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 sides.
One of four speakers at the opening alongside Bundesliga Foundation acting chief executive Kurt Gaugler, Wolfsburg's mayor Klaus Mohrs and VfL Wolfsburg joint managing director Thomas Röttgermann, Rettig underscored the importance of dismantling prejudices about fans of other teams at an early age. Kurt Gaugler struck a similar chord, stressing that "Children have a pivotal place in our work."
Indeed, the summer camp is financed in large part by the Bundesliga Foundation, with the 19 clubs involved this year only having to cover their travel and personnel costs. One innovation at the 2013 event meanwhile is the presentation of a core theme for the coming season. Under the banner slogan "Kids' Clubs - Boundlessly active: fit for football, ready to read", the various clubs will join with the Reading Foundation and the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH in dedicating the campaign ahead to the written word.
Growing influence nationwide
As far as the summer camp itself goes, there are various interactive elements on offer, combining football and reading in imaginative and fun ways, while more earnest themes such as criminality, internet addiction and racism are being addressed in guest talks as well.
In all, some 100,000 children nationwide now benefit from the educational programmes being run by the German professional game. For their part, the Kids' Clubs are an important building block in the campaign to promote early awareness on the prevention of violence, racism and prejudice, as well as being a source of information on potential health risks and an integrated part of the DFL's ten-point strategy for greater safety in football.