4.10.2019Bayer 04

Special shirt for 20 years of commentary for the blind

Bayer 04 are celebrating a special anniversary at the Bundesliga home game against RB Leipzig: 20 years ago, the Werkself were the first club in German professional football to offer visually-impaired and blind fans match commentary. The players will wear a kit with the logo of the main sponsor Barmenia written in braille on the shirts.

“There are a lot of people at our club who show great commitment to our fans with disabilities. We will use it to say thank you to our assistants from the past 20 years and pay tribute to their work. We were not only pioneers in the Bundesliga; it’s much more important that commentary for the blind gives people the chance to fully enjoy the match experience,” said Fernando Carro, chairman of the board, who went on to thank the main sponsor of Bayer 04. “When we came up with the idea, along with Barmenia, of changing the shirt for the one time this season in support of this cause, the management were enthusiastic in giving their agreement.”

The special service, now standard at all Bundesliga stadiums and at the grounds in the second division plus for a lot of games in the third division and Regional Leagues, started with the 4-1 win for the Werkself against SSV Ulm 1846 on 15 October 1999. Since then, blind and visually-impaired fans have had the opportunity to follow Werkself games in a dedicated section of the South Stand at the BayArena. There are 20 permanent seats available. The fans are joined by two reporters for the blind who provide live match commentary. Visually-impaired supporters follow the commentary via headphones and are also able to take in the match atmosphere at the stadium.

The two reporters for the blind Moritz Oberem (left) and Philip Wegmann (right) in action.

“I take my hat off to the way our visually impaired fans are able to provide post-match analysis. You get the feeling they’ve made a mental image of all the incidents in the game,” said Andreas ‘Paffi’ Paffrath, the Bayer 04 fan and disability liaison officer. The club has invited all reporters for the blind over the last 20 years to the game against RB Leipzig. The AGM of ‘Die Sehhunde’ fan club is being held at the BayArena on Friday night and the members will be at the game on Saturday.

Overview of events on Saturday:

  • The Werkself mascots coming on with the two teams will be visually-impaired children this time.
  • Bayer 04 honorary captain Stefan Kießling will join the reporters on the microphone in the first half.
  • During half-time, the Bayer 04 team doctor Dr. Burak Yildirim will be interviewed by the stadium announcers Petra Dahl and Tobias Ufer. Dr. Yildirim was the first reporter for the blind at the club in 1999.
  • The specially printed Werkself shirts will be auctioned at a later date; the proceeds will be used to provide a new radio unit for visually impaired fans.

Bayer 04 were the trailblazers of match commentary for blind supporters in the Bundesliga – but the idea was not completely new. Kurt Vossen, the then, and now deceased, head of the football section at TSV Bayer 04, was inspired by a visit to the top Premier League club Manchester United who had already provided the service years before. After working with ‘Die Sehhunde’ fan club, with memberships from partially sighted and blind fans from across Germany, Vossen established the facilities for match commentary for the blind and the service was launched at the BayArena on 15 October 1999.

The section for the blind is almost always sold out. Tickets are available via the Bayer 04 hotline (+49 214/5000 1904).

Bayer 04 fan Gerhard Stoll has been a member of the ‘Sehhunde’ for many years and he reported on a special away trip to Berlin the Werkself Magazine in May 2017.


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