Franconian Sweat: Photo book by Jürgen Rank shows football pitches in Upper Franconia – Bavaria

It’s that feeling you get when you’re the first to arrive at training late in the afternoon. Or when you used to go to the football field straight after breakfast during the school holidays. This quiet, no one there yet. That smell, a bit of grass, a bit of a cabin. This warmth, the sun is shining, the world is in order. Afterwards, in the evening, there’s a lot of bullying, sweating, strife – but at this moment it’s all just an idyll.

If you don’t play or have played football yourself, you may not know this feeling. But anyone who does, or at least has done, will feel it when they open and leaf through this football-heartwarming photo book with the punny title “Fränkischer Sweat”.

Contrary to what the name suggests, the 130 images do not show the secreted bodily fluids of physically fit northern Bavarians, but rather the peculiarities and characteristics of football pitches in Franconian Switzerland. This can still be described as a niche topic.

The man who has filled the niche is called Jürgen Rank, born in 1970 and raised in Bayreuth. A city in which the most famous Wagner is not a former footballer (Sandro) or an occasional football columnist (Franz Josef), but a composer (Richard). So how is it that the photographer and author of this football lover’s work comes from Bayreuth, a non-football stronghold?

The enthusiasm was instilled in him from birth, says Rank in an interview with SZ. He, Jürgen, was named by his father, an ardent Frankfurt fan, after the Eintracht legend Jürgen Grabowski. His grandfather also had a house right next to the Hans-Walter-Wild Stadium of the Bayreuth football club. And he has been taking photographs for a long time.

“Fränkischer Sweat” is the second book by Rank, who designed football jerseys full-time for Adidas, used to play handball and founded a museum in honor of the Bayreuth game association in 2001. In his debut work “The reason is football” he portrayed the large stadiums of the world, now the small places in Upper Franconia. He makes no difference whether it is Old Trafford in Manchester – also known as the Theater of Dreams – or the square in Neideck. “What’s around the outside is of course always different,” he says, “but in the middle you always have a playing field.” It can be that simple.

If a team is particularly strong at home, their home ground is often declared a fortress. In Wolfsberg, a part of Obertrubach, things are a little different: here the castle of the same name towers over the pitch. (Photo: Jürgen Rank)
At TSV Donndorf-Eckersdorf they set clear priorities: “Peace and order are the first commandment” – and the culinary delights come second at most. (Photo: Jürgen Rank)
The floodlight mast in Schönfeld may be a bit old, but that only increases the contrast in the blue and white sky. Which is something a photographer is unlikely to complain about. (Photo: Jürgen Rank)

However, he did notice a difference to sports facilities elsewhere in Germany or abroad. In Franconia, the density of breweries is extremely high, and almost every clubhouse serves a different beer – as can be seen in some of his photos.

There are no people in the book, however, because Rank firstly preferred to visit the places in the morning on his photo tours in the summer of 2022 and secondly never gave any notice beforehand. “Otherwise they would have mowed the lawn or cleaned the clubhouse,” he says. “But I wanted to let the places speak for themselves.” And so he almost never met people, except perhaps a groundskeeper. One of them wanted to know what he was looking for here – there was nothing to see.

When looking through the book you have to contradict the groundskeeper: there was a lot to see. Football pitches in front of castles, football pitches in front of palaces, football pitches in the forest, football pitches on hillsides. In addition, rusted floodlight masts, gate walls from which the paint is peeling off, fields that grow together with nature. And appeals written in Fraktur script like the one on a board in Donndorf-Eckersdorf: “Peace and order are the first commandment for every player and sports field visitor.” Still questions?

The quality of the one-, two-, three-sentence explanatory texts in the book cannot keep up with that of the photos, but that’s not a big problem since, as the subtitle shows, it’s “a photographic journey to the wonderful football locations in Franconian Switzerland.” – and not a written one. Accordingly, the pictures take up the most space. And they are definitely worth seeing.

“Fränkischer Sweat” was published by Heinz Späthling and costs 19.90 euros.

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