The background to the project is an application submitted by the German Football Museum to enter recreation grounds in the statewide register of intangible cultural heritage – and it was successful. In 2018, the North Rhine Westphalia ministry of education and cultural affairs recognised the recreation grounds as such. Intangible cultural heritage is seen as cultural forms of expression, which are passed on and shaped from generation to generation. That includes traditions, performing arts but also special knowledge and rituals – and now also the culture of recreation grounds.
The recreation ground should above all be a freely accessible venue for fairness, tolerance and integration according to Manuel Neukirchner. "It's a place of social and group conduct, a place to learn without adults," said the director of the German Football Museum in Dortmund. "Regardless of religion, skin colour or gender, you can learn how to recognise rules, resolve conflict but also discover spontaneity and autonomy. Values and norms that are more present and more important than ever before in today's society. That's what football and especially the recreation ground can provide."
The sign to the Boberstraße recreation ground and twelve other signs to Leverkusen pitches should immediately highlight the award and provide an active contribution to the maintenance of recreation grounds in the city. These facilities are increasingly threatened by the changed user behaviour of children and teenagers, numerous alternative leisure activities as well as the expansion of all-day schools.
Stefan Kießling, who played for Bayer 04 for twelve years making a total of 404 Bundesliga appearances, can still vividly remember his own past on the recreation ground: "Since I was able to run I spent my time on the recreation ground and loved it. After school I got home as quickly as possible, did my homework and then got on my bike to the recreation ground," explained the now 37-year-old who grew up in Bamberg in Franconia. "You didn't need a mobile phone back then. I knew exactly that I'd always meet somebody there who I knew."
Kießling is convinced that his time on the recreation ground shaped him as a player and as a person. He is now working as coordinator for the first team at Bayer 04: "When you were younger you obviously had to show more deference. But the older you got, the more you could set the rules for yourself. And, above all, you learned to resolve friction yourselves. Not to forget: I’ve still got the scars on my legs."
The target of the initiative is to be part of a nationwide register in the future. The closing date is 30 November. Up to then, the German Football Museum is working with the Ruhrmuseum in Essen and the Sports University in Cologne to provide the required academic evidence for the cultural significance of the recreation grounds to then be recognised as a national cultural heritage. The decision is due to be made at the start of next year.
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