Cape Town - With 11 of the 18 Bundesliga outfits preparing for the Rückrunde over in Spain or Turkey this winter, VfB Stuttgart’s decision to choose South African legislative capital Cape Town as their mid-season base came as quite the surprise.
'A common ground'
However, working in conjunction with the German Football League (DFL) with a view to opening African eyes to the delights of the Bundesliga, it is a move that is already paying huge dividends.
For many of the members of the Stuttgart camp, visiting Cape Town has been an unforgettable experience. “It's not very often that you come to Cape Town,” said VfB captain Christian Gentner. “The team can broaden their horizons here. The players will mature through these sorts of experiences,” he continued, in reference to Monday's upcoming training session with children in the Philippi Township.
“We're very happy and glad to have come here as VfB,” explained Stuttgart sporting director Fredi Bobic. “Ajax Cape Town has provided us with a very good training ground, so we can prepare ourselves perfectly. We also want to give our lads something to think about, in so far as the country and football have a real common ground. Just like within a football team, there are a lot of cultures here that work together very well.”
'Can prepare very well'
A model of intercultural co-operation, Stuttgart eased to a comfortable 5-0 victory in their first friendly outing against Vasco da Gama Cape Town last Thursday, before seeing off Dutch First Division side PEC Zwolle 4-1 thanks to goals from Bosnian FIFA World Cup participant Vedad Ibisevic, Norwegian striker of Moroccan descent Mohammed Abdellaoue (two) and Austria international Martin Harnik.
Stuttgart’s African contingent, meanwhile, have derived just as much benefit - on and off the pitch - from a welcome return to their home continent. “I am very happy that we have come to South Africa for our training camp,” beamed Ivory Coast international Arthur Boka. “It should show the people in Europe that you can also prepare very well here."
On Tuesday, die Schwaben’s multicultural ranks will look to ram home Boka’s argument in their third friendly match against Ajax Cape Town in the Philippi Stadium, before returning home to Stuttgart two days later.
Until then, VfBafana’s mission statement remains firmly centred on raising awareness of the Bundesliga in the hitherto, at least from a German football perspective, unexplored Rainbow Nation.
Adaptation: Christopher Mayer-Lodge
Watch more of Stuttgart's tour to South Africa here, courtesy of the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: