Once Upon a Time in [NFL] Europe A Flame Was Burning

Source: fotocommunity.com 
The Rhein Fire was a professional American football team in NFL Europe, in leagues “second generation”, formerly the World League of American Football. Established in Germany in 1995, the franchise resurrected the name of the former Birmingham Fire team which was active during the 1991-1992 WLAF seasons.

The team was based in Düsseldorf playing its games in LTU arena since 2005 season. Prior to this the team played in Rheinstadion until 2002 and in Arena AufSchalke from 2003 to 2004 in nearby city Gelsenkirchen while LTU arena was being built. The team shared facilities with the football (soccer) club Fortuna Düsseldorf. The Fire also hosted the 2005 World Bowl, where the Amsterdam Admirals upset the then-defending championBerlin Thunder.

The Fire had been one of NFL Europa's most successful teams as far as fan appeal and competitively on the field. The team is based in an area of Germany that does not have a local Bundesliga team and where American Football has become increasingly popular. The team itself has played for five World Bowl championships throughout its history, winning in 1998 (over the Frankfurt Galaxy) and 2000 (over the Scottish Claymores).

Although the first two seasons ended with a losing record - 4-6 in 1995 and 3-7 in 96 - the team increased overall attendance in its second year from 60,000 to 90,000.

In 1997, with Alexander Leibkind in his second season as General Manager and Galen Hall in his third year as head coach, the club posted a 7-3 overall record. The Fire finished as regular season champions and earned their first World Bowl berth, losing to the Dragons in Barcelona. Total attendance increased to 108,000.

Source: GrossPlastiken.de
In 1998, Rhein Fire finished second after the regular season with a 7-3 record and reached the World Bowl for the second consecutive year. With a 34-10 victory over the Frankfurt Galaxy, coach Hall and his team won their first NFL Europe League championship. Attendance at the Rheinstadion went up again to 127,500, including a record crowd of 41,212 against the Galaxy in Week 10.

In 1999 the Fire opened its defence of the World Bowl with two successive defeats and three losses in the first four games before returning World Bowl '98 MVP quarterback Jim Arellanes turned their season around. He inspired victory in five of the last six games and running back Kenny Bynum rushed for 960 yards, but the Fire missed out on the chance to defend their title at home by a tie-breaker. Home attendance figures rose again to a total of 142,828 and the Fire offense scored a league-high 286 points.

Fire reclaimed the World Bowl in 2000 with a narrow 13-10 victory over the Scottish Claymores in Frankfurt. Quarterback Danny Wuerffel threw for a new league record 25 touchdowns before graduating to the Green Bay Packers, while the Fire led the way as an average of 34,628 fans watched their home games in 2000. The Fire headed into the 2001 season with former defensive coordinator Pete Kuharchek at the helm as only the second head coach in team history. Kuharchek led the team to a 5-5 record, while the Fire increased total attendances for the sixth time in a row to 175,050, including a new NFLEL regular season record of 51,719 spectators for the Week 9 clash with Frankfurt Galaxy.

The 2002 season brought down the curtain on the Rheinstadion, which was demolished after staging World Bowl X on Saturday, June 22. A record crowd of 53,109 fans celebrated a giant farewell party in the stands. On the field, Rhein lost 20-26 to the Berlin Thunder. During the season, the Fire posted a league-leading 7-3 record.

Source: rp-online.de 
The 2003 season saw Rhein enter the brand new Arena AufSchalke, home of Germany's famous soccer club Schalke 04. Rhein football attracted 171,088 fans (average: 34,218). The Fire celebrated reaching another World Bowl but lost 35-16 to the Frankfurt Galaxy in the final.

The 2004 campaign marked the final season for the Rhein Fire at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen. Rhein Fire had - in front of a total of 105,361 fans - a losing season (3-7), but successfully hosted World Bowl XII.

In 2005, the team returned to D|sseldorf under the leadership of the new General Manager Sammy Schmale and hosted another successful league final as more than 35,000 fans attended Yello Strom World Bowl XIII on Saturday June 11.

After winning three games in 2005, head coach Pete Kuharchek resigned and was replaced on November 2 by former Berlin Thunder defensive coordinator Jim Tomsula.

The Fire made a strong start to the 2006 campaign, winning its opening four games. But a disappointing second half of the season saw Rhein finish with a 6-4 record - one game out of a place in the World Bowl. In January, 2007, Tomsula took a job with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers and was replaced by World Bowl winner and former NFLE Coach of the Year Rick Lantz.

Some of the players who used to be members of the Fire team:

-Cedric Bonner( 2004-2007) is a former American football wide receiver in the National Football League, his last team being the Washington Redskins. A 1997 graduate of H. Grady Spruce High School. He playedcollege football for Texas A&M University.

-Byron Daniel Chamberlain ( 1996 )is a former American football tight end in the National Football League. He played professionally for the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, and the Washington Redskins. He was voted to the 2002 Pro Bowl while with the Vikings.

-Michael Croel (1998) In a seven year NFL career, he played for the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks of the NFL and the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL.

-Jamal Robertson (2002) Canadian football running back and kick returner in the Canadian Football League who finished his career with the BC Lions.

-Daniel Carl Wuerffel (2000) former American college and professional football quarterback who won the 1996 Heisman Trophy and the 1996 national football championship while playing college football for theUniversity of Florida. Played for Saints and Redskins.

Nikola Davidovic
...with the help of Wikipedia