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Meet The Branches: How FIFA12 & Netflix convinced this fan to start a German Sunderland branch!

Via the medium of gaming, Lads fan Martin Steffner found a true love for Sunderland and, by starting his own branch overseas, is doing a sterling job of saying ‘Willkommen in Sunderland’ to the people of Germany.

RR: How did you come to form the German Black Cats branch and when did you form?

GBC: After a meeting with Chris Waters (SAFC supporter Liason officer) at our friendly at Hannover in 2015! Chris asked me if I would like to set up a branch for Sunderland in Germany.

Of course, I said yes and at that point we made our social media pages, on Facebook and now Twitter. We are hoping to have a website soon as Sunderland are gaining more and more fans in Germany.

RR: How many members do you have so far, and from which areas of Germany are you all based?

GBC: To be honest, there’s only really me as a member currently, but then you could maybe count our followers on Facebook and Twitter. I would say we actively have at least fifty or so people via those channels who are interested in the news from Sunderland AFC.

Interest in Sunderland is really growing though. The reports in Sport Bild and most recently the magazine 11 Freunde, we got a boom of supporters and now many are wanting a meeting in Germany to really get things going.

There are supporters all over Germany, all the way from Berlin to Karlsruhe, with many of them British people who live in Germany.

Popular German newspaper Sport Bild visited Sunderland in December.

RR: It’s never been a better time to be part of the club right now, with Wembley, this new regime and hopefully promotion. Have you managed to get the branch over for many games this season?

GBC: Definitely it is a good time. Many of our supporters get over for matches and send me the photos of their visit to share. It is our plan to do this together over the next few seasons as a collective.

To be honest, until recently with the documentary and the new era, the interest to Sunderland wasn’t too big outside of people knowing about our fall from grace and people giving us some jokes about it, but I feel that the time has changed.

We were described as most awesome third tier club in the world in Germany recently, also “Sunderland ´til I Die” has fascinated the people of Germany, as well as I’m sure many other countries. The possibility for a number of Germans to come over as a group and visit the city regularly is suddenly huge. I have managed to get to two or three games this season and was at last week’s 0-0 draw with Barnsley alongside the other 4500 of us!

How did you become a Sunderland supporter?

GBC: This is where it gets crazy and interesting.

Me and my friend are big fans of the game FIFA, and we were playing FIFA12. Anyway, we had a bad season at Manchester City, got fired on the game and we moved to Sunderland, after that for some reason we never changed the club on the game and got addicted! We won the Premier League and the Champions League - which will hopefully be real life soon!

Not long after we got interested in Sunderland it was the League Cup Final, which was momentous! We also watched the opening game of the season the following year where Lee Cattermole was on fire. I remember his goal very well.

After that it was simply clear: I am a Sunderland supporter. If I am not working or have commitments, I watch all the Sunderland matches if it’s possible on SAFsee.

RR: What are you hopes for the branch moving forward?

GBC: Germany is a huge football nation and so they respect many clubs. Everybody who watch a Sunderland match with me is instantly fascinated about our support and cross their fingers for us!

My hope is that we can build a group of people who wanted to support Sunderland AFC here in Germany, come to games and travel together. We’d like to get some German Black Cats merchandise and a meeting in Germany is my first step towards growing our branch.

Hopefully after that we can all come to a game together as a branch. These are the first steps and once we have done that, I am positive we will growing.

11 Freunde’s cover reads as ‘Sunderland Till I Die’
Pic Click

RR: We’ve noticed SAFC have been included in 11Freunde and also Sports Bild in recent months. Is Sunderland’s popularity in Germany growing?

GBC: Definitely! After the report in Sport Bild many followed our Twitter and Facebook and are surprised that Sunderland have their own set of German fanatics, and yes there is a German branch!

The Netflix documentary did so much for our popularity and grew us almost over night. It showed the quality of our amazing supporters, so it’s easy to understand why.

Everybody heard about the attendance on Boxing Day and the 8.000 supporters in Blackpool. People notice that kind of support.

RR: If you’re a fan in Germany and want to get involved with yourself, where can we find you and group together?

GBC: Personally, I am located in Schwabach near Nuremberg in Bavaria.

For our first big branch meeting, we are looking to book a pub or bar where we can go and watch the game and share our love of the club over some beers.

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