GFL: Comets Debut In The Playoffs

The German Football League (GFL) is one of the largest American football leagues in Europe. The top four teams from both divisions will take part in the first and second round of the playoffs this month in the hopes of making it to the GFL Super Bowl. One team that is making its debut as a favorite in the playoffs is the Allgäu Comets. In 1982, then the Kempten Comets were formed by a handful of enthusiastic athletes that met twice a week. In the Comets’ early stages, GI’s stationed at the American barracks in Memmingen and Augsburg, helped fill in for the team. The Comets played in Germany's top football league, the American Football Bundesliga, now the German Football League, from 1985 to 1994. From 1995 to 2007, the club experienced some up and down seasons. In 2007 the Comets turned things around and went on a run, leading to winning the Southern Division of the GFL 2nd league in 2012 & 2013.

Long time Comet great, Jürgen Haslach, who played 17 years for the Comets since 1982 at the positions of DE, TE, OL, and backup QB, mentioned how football in Kempten has strengthened over the years, “The basic strength of the Comets is their companionship and how they learn and grow with the input of American import players and coaches.

Joachim Hössl, current President of the team, started his journey with the Comets back in 1983, when a good friend talked him into going to a tryout. In recent years, Joe has been the active Chairman for the team. Joe reflected on the Comets long road back to the GFL, “Football in Kempten was up and down in the beginnings, from the 1st league back to the 5th and up again to the 2nd league. We made it in the last 5 years with a new concept back to the top, the GFL.”

The Comets are a small town team, with a big heart and huge aspirations. The players, coaches, and management believe that the sky is the limit for this team. Hössl concluded, “Comets are a big family and they can absolutely compete as a rather ‘small’ city with all the big city's.”

The team’s success in recent years can be contributed to their Head Coach, Brian Caler. Brian, a former player for the Comets, became their Head Coach in 2009 and helped grow the team into an eventual GFL contender. Brian commented, "The thing that brought me to the Comets was the same as all American players coming over to Europe, it was the opportunity to continue playing after college. As a player with the club in 2004, I fell in love with the city of Kempten and seen that there was large potential in building the sport up in the community. Therefore when I got the opportunity to come back in the 2009 season as the Head Coach it was a no brainer for me.”

“Over the years the team has developed dramatically. In my fist year we had only two teams. There was a men's team with 40 players at most, and a youth team with 30 something. Today we are a thriving club with a total of five teams. We have two men's teams with a total of over 90 players, and three youth teams that consist of two tackle football teams and one flag team. Not only has our club grown and developed over the last six years, the popularity of the sport in our community has boomed. With an average of 2,000 fans at each home game. The Comets have become the entertainment and pride of Kempten.” – Caler

The Comets have seen a rise in their German players over the years. Thanks to youth football programs in Kempten, German players get to strengthen their football skills at a young age. One player that has made his way through the Comets’ program is Christian Hafels. Hafels commented, “I grew up surrounded by American football. My father was playing and my mother was a cheerleader. Then my brother started to play and football never stopped being a part of my life. The only thing I wanted to do is play football for the Comets.”

Picking the right American import for a GFL team is an important task. A good imported player can change the outcome of a game on any big play. The Comets have made their decisions carefully when it comes to choosing the right American player or coach. The Comets felt they made the right choice in third year veteran American import, Colin Barrier. Barrier reflected on how he came to be apart of the Comets, "What brought me to the Comets was Brian reaching out to me with another opportunity to play football. I had been to a few open tryouts after playing college football, and after a couple of years, Brian contacted me with an offer to come play in Kempten.”

In his third season with the Comets, Barrier has been able to see the growth of football in Kempten. Barrier noted, “The strength has grown in Kempten over the years from the foundation of support we have. Because we have so much support from family & friends, that pushes us to perfect our craft and elevate our game to continue to make these people proud while doing what we love. “

The Comets, Kempten, and Germany have created a special place for American football amongst athletes and fans. The sport of football has gown tremendously over the years, and has developed special memories amongst those in the Comets’ organization.

“The best thing about being apart of the Comets is that it’s a family, a brotherhood, we have so much love and respect for one another with in our team that playing in the blue and black is a special feeling. As for the community of Kempten, wow, they have unconditional never-ending support for our team; we have the best fans in Southern Germany!” – Caler.

“What I enjoy most about the organization & the town is the relationships I’ve built with some of the guys here. I have really gained brothers here in this city and the support for the team as well is really something that has kept me coming back.” – Barrier.

I'm enjoying the family flair! Everybody helps one another, doesn't matter what. We stay together if we win or lose. I love Kempten; I was born here and grew up here. Kempten is not too big and not too small for a city. You can be in the middle of Kempten and a couple minutes later you can be at a quiet place and enjoy your life.” – Hafels.

Going into the playoffs, expectations are high for this thriving club. A plan had been set out among management and coaches, and the team feels as if they are fulfilling their destiny. Caler noted, “The expectations for this season is simple, finish in the top four and qualify for the GFL Playoffs. As for the future of the team, really the sky is the limit. Continued development of our German players and the help from both European and American Imports, we have a long-term focus and goal of being a GFL Champion Contender year after year and to reach the German Bowl and win a German Bowl Championship someday.”

As a former player for the Comets, I understand the relationships formed and expectations the players have for each other. Myself and the other imports I played with were brought into the Comets family, and we still feel apart of the family to this day! Kempten is a very special place that cares for their beloved Comets. The team cares for their domestic players and wants to see them grow. The organization brings educated, veteran American imports that will develop football even farther with the Comets. Memories are formed here that can never be forgotten.

My special memories here are several conversations I have had with teammates, speaking life into our relationships and just really showing me who they are as men, and also moments when teammates have asked me to pray with them or have bible studies with them. These kinds of things show me that people pay attention to what you do more than what you say, &and I feel like God is leading us in the right direction." – Barrier.

The Comets have made it through the first round of playoffs, defeating the Kiel Baltic hurricanes by a score of 39-27 in front of a sell out crowd. The Comets will continue their run at history as they prepare to face the reigning champs, Braunschweig New Yorker Lions. The Lions will host the Comets in a semifinal match-up this Saturday 26.

Brian Casey