VfL Wolfsburg were born into a devastated Germany; a nation lacking in cultural identity and fragmented by a war that led to many millions of people dying. But out of the destruction came hard work with local people eager in the mind to give rise to a new city and new leisure pursuits from the surrounding ruins.
On September 12, 1945 in a hut in Wolfsburg an ‘Association for Physical Education Wolfsburg’ was established. Out of this were launched seven sporting divisions including one dedicated solely to football. The new football club was briefly known as VSK Wolfsburg and began life playing in the green and white shirts that are still worn today. Eventually the new group adopted the moniker VfL, with VfL standing for Verein für Leibesübungen or ‘club for gymnastics and exercise’.
The city of Wolfsburg is a new town, founded in 1938 as Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben or the City of the KdF Car at Fallersleben. The city housed a small group of autoworkers who built the car that would later become the Volkswagen Beetle. Post war – most certainly at the urging of the allied occupying powers – the city was renamed as Wolfsburg in May 1945 mainly because of the eponymous castle that is located in the area.
Early years for VfL were tough and largely uneventful. When Germany’s first professional football league the Bundesliga was formed in 1963 Wolfsburg were still playing in the Regionaliga Nord.
From the mid 1970s even through to the early 1990s, the wolves or Die Wölfe played as a third division side in the Amateur Oberliga Nord. Consecutive first-place finishes in 1991 and 1992 followed by success in the promotion play off games, saw the club advance to the 2.Bundesliga for the 1992–93 season whereafter it has seldom looked back.
VfL Wolfsburg continued to enjoy some success throughout the 1990’s.
The team advanced to the final of the German cup in 1995 but they were beaten 0–3 by Borussia Mönchengladbach. They then went onto gain promotion to the top flight on the strength of a second place league finish in 1997.
In the 2008–09 season under Felix Magath Wolfsburg claimed their biggest ever success by winning their first Bundesliga title. During this campaign Wolfsburg equalled the longest winning streak in one Bundesliga season with ten successive victories after the winter break. Many wins came thanks to the goals of the Bosnian Dzecko.
Today, VfL Wolfsburg are one of the best performing German clubs and play football at the imposing Volkswagen Arena which sits not far from the huge autostadt. It is a football only stadium which seats a total capacity of 30,000 spectators and a smaller stadium nearby also plays host to games of the highly successful Wolfsburg women’s team.
From 1948 Wolfsburg had played their home games at the smaller 20,500 capacity VfL-Stadium nearby the new stadium. It still stands today as a traditional monument to the early years of the club.
From less than 1000 inhabitants in 1938 the population of Wolfsburg has increased to the 125,000 mark it stands at today. With lots of work directly or indirectly related to VW it is a prosperous place. Given its status as a new town the centre of Wolfsburg is different in that there are no visible medieval buildings. Instead, Wolfsburg is dominated by VW signs and the Autostadt is effectively an open-air museum/works come theme park dedicated to automobiles owned, made and operated by Volkswagen.
Nearby is this equally imposing Volkswagen Arena located in a vast sporting complex. Here crowds of more than 25,000 regularly watch a star studded football team; one that has come a long way in a very short life.
You can see some images from our trip to Wolfsburg here.