Overtime is already underway in Lathi, Finland. Until then, the German team had been unlucky. A penalty was missed, the mood of the fans is clearly in favor of the hosts. But then Karsten Klein pulls from 25 meters. The Finnish goalkeeper can only drain the ball, Oliver Luksic dusts off. Goal! 1-0 for Germany! Then it’s over.
“This game was the can opener for our tournament,” says Kassem Taher Saleh a few days later. Also against Austria and Switzerland there is zero, the duo Luksic and Taher Saleh whirl in front. After three games, the Bundestag football team has achieved something historic. After eleven long years full of defeats and setbacks, the FC Bundestag won the unofficial European Championship again for the first time at the 49th Parliamentarians’ Tournament.
“In Finland we had a clear strategy of letting our best people play,” says Green Party politician Taher Saleh, who missed the penalty against Finland but scored twice in the 4-0 win over Austria. The Saxon, who was born in Iraq, has only been a member of the Bundestag since September. Sport was his key to integration, he said during the election campaign. Now he plays in the midfield of the FC Bundestag.
The election not only rearranged the balance of power in the Bundestag, but also in the team around captain Mahmut Özdemir (SPD), who was injured at the tournament. The team has become younger and more diverse. With Maja Wallstein (SPD) and Tina Winklmann (Greens) there are also two women in the FC Bundestag for the first time. In Finland, however, they were absent due to scheduling difficulties, as were the Union players. Coincidence, stress everyone involved.
So it was above all the players of the traffic light parties who brought Germany from victory to victory. Under the eyes of the German ambassador and ex-soccer player Jari Litmanen (stations in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Liverpool and Rostock), the Germans first managed to win 4-0 against Austria and finally beat Switzerland 3-0 in the final.
In addition to defense chief Johannes Schätzl, Chancellor’s State Secretary Carsten Schneider (both SPD) is behind the line of defense. But the celebrated hero will be Oliver Luksic, in normal life Secretary of State for Transport and FDP politician from Saarland. With five goals he even becomes top scorer in Lathi. “Well, at least in football, my cross-party competence is out of the question,” says Luksic on the phone and laughs.
Despite his hat-trick in the final against Switzerland, national coach Hansi Flick has not yet called the 42-year-old. “In terms of type, I’m more of an old-school striker, my style of play a bit like Klinsmann – only much worse,” says Luksic, who played for 1. FC Saarbrücken when he was young. Injuries forced him to retire, and now he’s experiencing his second Spring.
The FC Bundestag has been around since 1961, and Gerhard Schröder (SPD), Joschka Fischer (Greens) and Norbert Lammert (CDU) have also played for the team. The first game took place for a good cause between parliamentarians and journalists in front of more than 10,000 spectators in Bonn. In the meantime, the team plays regularly in the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark in Prenzlauer Berg against hobby teams, such as the team of Bundestag chauffeurs, the Sparkasse or Flixbus.
For MPs, sport offers a brief opportunity to break out of the otherwise restricted political life and to get in touch with politicians from other parties. The FC Bundestag trains once a week during the session weeks. “This is my most important appointment of the week,” SPD politician Johannes Fechner told the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. “You wouldn’t believe how good it feels to get out of the whole meeting routine and clear your head.”
But also in Finland it was about politics, all players report. Above all, the war in Ukraine occupied the parliamentarians of the four countries. The Finnish MPs reported on the problems with joining NATO, the Swiss on their neutrality, which is crumbling in the face of the Russian war of aggression. The tournament has a “class reunion character”.
On the pitch, on the other hand, there is a different tone. “Members are not used to being shouted at,” says Luksic, who has already scored more than 100 goals. Together with captain Özdemir, he has decided on a new tactic , because I introduced the performance principle at the European Championships, but it’s more fun for everyone when we win.”
In fact, the atmosphere in the team seems to be good. According to information from the Tagesspiegel, the European title was celebrated extensively in a Finnish club. But the next game for the team is already on Tuesday.
Next year the title will be defended in Austria. Before that, however, the team hopes for some recognition, says Taher Saleh. “I hope that the President of the Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, will honor us in the plenum.”