From Leipzig to Paris – the story of how the DFB became the first association to join FIFA

120 years ago today, the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) was founded in Leipzig. Four years later a missed boat and a telegram played an important role in the history of association football.

Football found its way to Germany in 1873, ten years after the foundation of The FA in England. Konrad Koch, a teacher from Braunschweig, is commonly credited with introducing football in Germany alongside his colleague August Hermann. Koch published the first German version of the Laws of the Game in 1875. At first, the new sport was not well received by society. In Imperial Germany, the game with the ball was seen as barbaric.

But like the rest of the world, Germany quickly took a liking to the game. Clubs first appeared in the 1880s and even different regional associations like the Association of German Football Players (1890) or the German Football and Cricket Association (1891) were founded. The demand for uniform rules, national championships and international games let to the foundation of a German football association, as an umbrella association for all German clubs and regional associations. On January 28th 1900 in Leipzig, the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) was founded by representatives of 86 German clubs. Ferdinand Hueppe, the representative of DFC Prague, was named its first president.

Another representative present at the foundation of the DFB was Gustav Manning. He was to play a critical role in why Germany today is considered the first association to join FIFA four years later. On May 21st 1904, representatives from the French, Danish, Swiss and Dutch football associations met in Paris to form an international football federation. Two representatives from the Belgian FA joined a day later, while two additional countries arranged a proxy vote. The Swedish association authorized Ludvig Sylow from Denmark to act on their behalf, while Madrid Football Club (later renamed Real Madrid) arranged for Frenchman André Espir to represent their interests.

Gustav Manning was chosen to represent the German FA at the meeting in Paris. He was due to arrive from England, but the boat crossed the Channel without him. The DFB hastily called up a replacement, Philipp Heineken, but he didn’t reach Paris in time either! So the Germans sent a telegram. Since no-one was at the meeting to represent Germany in person, they were not recognized as founders – despite the fact that the DFB’s secretary, Dr Ernst Karding had been instrumental in drawing up the new organisation’s first statutes! The telegram they sent made them instead the first association to officially join the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or as it’s more commonly known, FIFA.

Enjoy your 120th birthday DFB!