Wonderful News: “International Youth Football Tournament pro memoria Walther Bensemann” returns – thanks to “Nie wieder – Erinnerungstag im deutschen Fußball” (“Never again – Remembrance Day in German Football”) and Maccabi Germany.
Who was Walther Bensemann?
Walther Bensemann was born in Berlin in 1873, but spent his youth at a boarding school in Montreux, Switzerland. Here, his international classmates showed him English sports, including association football.
In 1889, he moved to Karlsruhe to a grammar school and founded a football club here in the same year as well, the International Football Club. The new club bore the cosmopolitan, international football that Bensemann had become acquainted with in Montreux in its name. Where the players came from was irrelevant. The important thing was to play together.
Two years later, he founded Karlsruher FV (and was involved in the founding of numerous other clubs, including FC Bayern München and Eintracht Frankfurt). Not only the two later Jewish national players Julius Hirsch and Gottfried Fuchs played here, but also the Strasbourg-born Ivo Schricker, later FIFA General Secretary.
“Sport is a religion, is perhaps today the only true means of connecting peoples and classes.”
In 1899, shortly before the turn of the century, Bensemann achieved an outstanding coup: with the help of Ivo Schricker, he was able to realise his idea of an international tournament. The so-called Fore-International Matches (“Ur-Laenderspiele”) were not comparable to a European Championship or World Cup. And yet it was outstanding: Bensemann managed, virtually single-handedly and as a 26-year-old private individual, to convince the English FA to play in Germany for the very first time ever. More precisely: the 15-year older Frederick Wall, the FA’s secretary at the time.
“In the years that followed, Bensemann passionately fought for his pacifist and internationalist ideas as a club founder, organiser of international matches and as a journalist. In 1920 he founded kicker-sportmagazin, which is still the leading sports magazine today, for him ‘… a symbol of reconciliation between nations through sport…’. His sports feuilletonistic style set standards and made the ‘kicker’ a much respected newspaper that accompanied the football boom of the 1920s.” (Source)
Walther Bensemann died in 1934 as a Jewish refugee in Montreux, Switzerland. At first he had hope that the fascist and anti-Semitic policies in Germany would change. But then he lost it and his heart broke. One evening in mid-November 1934 – it was the evening after Bensemann’s funeral – some of his friends decided to set up an open, international-understanding football tournament in his honour and memory. Among them were Albert Mayer, by now mayor in Montreux, and his friend and sportscaster for decades, Ivo Schricker. A tournament as Bensemann had intended in 1899 (literally translated: “Ur-Länderspiele”) and Schricker was able to realise in 1930 (World Cup).
History of the tournament
The “Tournoi international de Football-Juniors pro memoria Walther Bensemann” took place for the first time in Geneva in 1937 and – with an break between 1940 and 1945 due to the Second World War – was held annually until 1991.
The name of the tournament was changed to “Tournoi international de Football-Juniors pro memoria Walther Bensemann et Ivo Schricker” after Ivo Schricker’s death in 1962, because the former FIFA General Secretary was the driving force behind the tournament.
This can be seen clearly in the locations where the tournament was initially held: Strasbourg (Schricker’s birthplace) in 1938, Zurich (Schricker’s place of residence and work at the time) in 1939. In 1951, the tournament was held in Germany for the first time and the location is hardly surprising: Karlsruhe, because Schricker also lived here for a long time and played with Bensemann at Karlsruher FV around 1900.
The in-between end and the restart
Karlsruher FV was also the club that held the tournament for the last time in 1991 in honour of its two famous players. Before that, UEFA had withdrawn its years-long financial guarantee, thus removing the financial basis for the tournament.
2022 is the year in which the tradition will be revived. Although Schricker has been dropped from the name again, the idea and the spirit have remained. Football as an element of international understanding.
What is planned
On the last weekend in July the U17 teams (m) of 1. FC Nuremberg, Tel Aviv, Karlsruher SC, FC Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Bologna, Chelsea FC and Crakovia Krakow will participate in the tournament in Nuremberg.
“For the U17 players, this is also about kicking – but the focus is on the young people’s confrontation with the Nazi history (of Nuremberg), the powerful work of Walther Bensemann and the development of a strong attitude for cohesion, democracy and human rights.”, says the tournament’s website.
The supporters and patrons
These have revived the tournament
“!Nie wieder – Erinnerungstag im deutschen Fußball” (“Never again – Remembrance Day in German Football”)
Horst Hrubesch: Director of youth development at the Hamburger SV youth centre
Dr Charlotte Knobloch: President of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria & WJC Holocaust Memory Commissioner
Marcus Koenig: Lord Mayor of the City of Nuremberg
Dr Josef Schuster: President of the Central Council of Jews
Website of the 2022 Tournament
More on the history of the Bensemann-Schricker Memorial Tournament can be found in the KFV’s commemorative publication from 1981: Karlsruher FV (Hg.): 90 Jahre Karlsruher Fußballverein. Karlsruhe 1981, p. 263–292.