Werder Bremen's place in the UEFA Cup final is a proud moment for the Bundesliga, according to German Football Association (DFB) president Dr Theo Zwanziger, following his country's seven-year wait for a shot at a European trophy.
With the last appearance of German clubs in European finals dating back to 2002, there was a sense of relief in Dr Zwanziger's comments to uefa.com before Bremen's showdown with FC Shakhtar Donetsk this evening. Ominously, his country's last finalists both lost that year; with BV Borussia Dortmund going down 3-2 to Feyenoord in the UEFA Cup and Bayer 04 Leverkusen beaten 2-1 by Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Champions League. A fortnight after Bremen beat Hanseatic rivals Hamburger SV in the last four to reach the final, the DFB president said: "It was about time. We haven't been in European finals as much as we hoped for in recent times, so I can say I am proud to have had two teams in the semi-finals and one team in the final.
"I think for any national body and club football competition, this is the highest you want to achieve. For the players, it is something fantastic and it also brings new enthusiasm for our football. For us Germans it also has an important meaning, because football is very big in Germany. Because of big tournaments like the World Cup in 2006, we have very passionate fans. But, of course, they want to see some results too. You don't always get there, you have to work hard. But I also think that a Champions League final is something that can be achieved again."
Dr Zwanziger sees a bright future for German football. "I think that the Bundesliga is able to compete," he said. "Of course we know, economically speaking, especially with the TV market, that Spain and particularly England with the Premier League have more power. But building a team is not only a question of money. So I think that with the Bundesliga, especially when you see the exciting final part of the season, if you put all that together, you see a huge exposure there. The stadiums are full and we have an enormous fan base, so the national competition looks very strong." That said, he added: "Internationally speaking, we are facing the top teams of England and Spain and you have to notice there that they have players in their teams who are among the best in the world."
As for tonight's final, Dr Zwanziger is loyally backing a Bremen side denied the services of two of its key players through suspension, Brazilian playmaker Diego and Portuguese forward Hugo Almeida. "I think it will be a balanced final. Either team can win it. Werder Bremen are a very compact, tight team who, of course, are missing two of their most important players. Maybe their strength is in the tightness of the team, a good defence and good attacking play. I am convinced this team will do everything to win."