When the Goalhanger was growing up in the 1970's, one of its earliest football memories was of German clubs being pretty good in Europe, with Bayern Munich's hat-trick of European Cup victories from 1973 to 1976, followed by Borussia Mönchengladbach's appearance in the 1977 final.

So the Goalhanger had realised that German clubs were pretty decent, yet it wasn't just this that attracted interest. It was also the names of the clubs. And not just the strange-sounding city names, such as Mönchengladbach or München, but the odd words and numbers that went alongside them.

What exactly is a Borussia ? VfL ? VfB ? And most importantly, why all those numbers, such as all the 1.FC's, the 04's and 05's ?

The Goalhanger looked into it, and can now help to explain...

The Common German Club Names...

Here are the meanings and explanations behind the popular names that you'll find in a large number of football clubs across Germany...

1. FC
1. FC Koln

1. FC is by far the most popular club name in German football. And here's why...

1. FC stands for Erster Fußball Club, which translates as First Football Club.

So any club with 1. FC in its name means that this was the first football club in that town or city. So, for example, 1. FC Köln can lay claim to be the first club to be formed in Köln (Cologne).

04, 09, 96 and other random numbers
Hannover 96

So putting aside all of the 1.FC's that used to confuse a young Goalhanger, there was also the matter of all these strange numbers in some of the other German club names, such as Schalke 04, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Hannover 96, BV Borussia 09 Dortmund etc. It all seemed so odd as a kid, but the reality is disappointingly simple - these numbers were just the year in which the club was formed, so 1904 for Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, 1896 for Hannover, 1909 for Borussia Dortmund etc.

Borussia
Borussia Monchengladbach

Borussia is the Latin name of Prussia (one of the historic regions covering part of Germany and northern Europe) and was a widely used term when German football and sports clubs were being named.

Strangely though, Germany's most famous Borussia, Dortmund (apologies to fans of Mönchengladbach), was actually named after the Borussia Brewery in Dortmund.

BV
Borussia Dortmund

You'll notice quite a few BV's in the full titles of German football club names, it stands for Ballspiel Verein, which in English means "Ball Game Club".

The most famous BV is BVB Dortmund, as in Ballspiel Verein Borussia Dortmund.

Dynamo
Dynamo Dresden

The Dynamo name comes from Sportvereinigung Dynamo (Dynamo Sports Association), which was the sports organization of the security agencies in the former East Germany (based on the society of the same name from the Soviet Union, the name of which was was supposed to mean "Power in Motion"). So, for instance, Dynamo Dresden was affiliated with the East German police before the reunification of Germany. Famous clubs such as Dynamo Dresden and Berliner FC Dynamo have since kept the name, but lost the association with the security agencies.

Eintracht
Eintracht Frankfurt

Eintracht means "Unity", thereby making it very similar to the United name that is so common amongst British clubs.

The most famous Eintracht is undoubtedly Eintracht Frankfurt.

FC
FC St. Pauli

Fußball Club, which is obviously "Football Club" in English. Simple as that.

Fortuna
Fortuna Dusseldorf

Translating as fortune, or good fate, Fortuna is used in a number of German club names, most notably Fortuna Düsseldorf and Fortuna Köln.

Kickers
Kickers Offenbach

As you can probably guess, this just refers to a general name for the players. The best known club names using it are Kickers Offenbach and Stuttgarter Kickers.

Rot-Weiss / Rot-Weiß
Rot-Weiss Essen

Red-White, usually referring to a club's historic colours, e.g. Rot-Weiss Essen.

SC
SC Freiburg

Sport Club. A number of German football clubs were formed under the umbrella of a larger sporting organisation, so there are a number of clubs who are named SC.

SV
Hamburg SV

Sportverein, which means Sport Club. The most famous example of this is Hamburger SV, commonly referred to as simply HSV.

TSG
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Turn- und Sportgemeinschaft. Meaning "Gymnastic and Sporting Community". As in TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

TSV
TSV 1860 Munich

Turn- und Sportverein. Which translates as "Gymnastic and Sporting Club". As in TSV 1860 Munich.

VfB
VfB Stuutgart

Verein für Bewegungsspiele. Which means "Club for Movement Games". Quite a lot of VfB's around, but the best known use is with VfB Stuttgart.

VfL
VfL Bochum

Verein für Leibesübungen. Which means "Club for Physical Education". Similar to some of the other names in that historically it was the name of a larger sporting club or organization, the best known VfL's are VfL Wolfsburg and VfL Bochum.

The Individual German Club Names...

Some unique club names for you here, and what they mean...

Bayer
Bayer Leverkusen

As in Bayer 04 Leverkusen. People often think this is similar to Bayern, just because it's only one letter out, but they're actually nothing to do with each other. Bayer is actually the name of the giant pharmaceutical company whose headquarters are in the city of Leverkusen.

The club was formed in 1904 as a general sports club for the employees of the company, called TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen. It wasn't until 1999 that the football part of the sports club was separated into a separate entity.

Bayern
Bayern Munich

Bayern is the German name for the state of Bavaria. So because Munich is located in this state, so its football team is named after it.

And that strange blue and white diamond pattern in the centre of the Bayern Munich crest ?

They're the colours of Bavaria, and the design of one of its flags. So now you know.

District names, such as Schalke
Schalke

Having spent too much time as a youngster goal-poaching in the park, rather than doing geography homework, imagine the Goalhanger's surprise when he realised that a trip to the fine German city of Schalke wasn't going to happen. Surely, with such a huge stadium, filled with such massive support, Schalke is a huge city, and well worth a visit ? But no, Schalke is just a district where the club was formed, in the city of Gelsenkirchen. A bit like Tottenham and Chelsea in London.