More exercise, a more active lifestyle, a healthier diet and lasting weight loss − they are all objectives that a very special group working under the guidance of TSG Hoffenheim is hoping to achieve. "It's not like on Biggest Loser, where it's all about shedding as much weight as quickly as possible. For us, it's about a new way of living in order to achieve a lasting change in terms of nutrition and exercise," said Paul Tolasz. He the Scouting Coordinator at the TSG Hoffenheim Academy and the contact person for the project 'Football Fans in Training' (FFiT) at TSG Hoffenheim. The first course for 20 men organised by TSG has already finished, with the next scheduled to start in summer.
To be eligible – and this applies to future courses too – you have to be a man between the age of 35 and 65 with an abdominal girth of over 100 centimetres (or a Body Mass Index over 28). Many course participants continue to meet on the outdoor pitch at the Sporthalle am Großen Wald in Hoffenheim on Thursdays to play football together. Matches against the FFiT teams of other Bundesliga clubs are even organised, as was the case in March when the XXL fans of 1. FC Nuremberg and Bayer 04 Leverkusen visited Hoffenheim. It was an occasion where "slimming fans made big friendships", according to the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung.
It all kicked off in September 2018, when plus-size TSG Hoffenheim fans with bellies of varying diameters convened on Thursdays between 19:45 CET and 21:15 CET. Under the tutelage of Pascal Söll, a former U19 Bundesliga player who is now the TSG U13 coach, and Paul Tolasz, the fans were put through their paces over 12 weeks. There was a 30-45 minute theory presentation about good nutrition and other health aspects. As for the practical element, fans initially performed easier exercises − which became more demanding as the course progressed − before having a kickabout for 45-60 minutes. However, there was no reason for anyone to fear being overexerted in the workout drill. It was possible for every person to go at their own pace, with the objective of achieving small but manageable progress.
Weight loss easier in a group than alone
"The participants were very pleasant, we had a lot of fun together," said Tolasz. "When you see how they are at the outset and how they move but how they then make progress on a weekly basis, it's amazing. It's brilliant to be able to help people like this," added Söll.
A particular highlight was a large tournament held in Mainz in which the FFiT teams of all the first and second-tier clubs took part. "The whole thing was really good for my health. Plus, I'm a Hoffenheim fan. It's particularly special to be able to do this with your own club. The coaches are class, the other participants are class. FFiT pays off," said 47-year-old Sven, who completed the first course.
The basic idea behind FFiT comes from Scotland. "Sometimes, trying to do it alone is much more difficult than in a group, where you can see the others losing weight too," explained Gerold, 62. The nation-wide evaluations of the preventative project show that the overweight fans really benefit, with participants losing approximately 6.5 kilograms on average.
Athlete-appropriate nutrition is obviously an important topic for the Bundesliga team and within the TSG Hoffenheim Youth Performance Centre. We have already outlined why that's the case and how the catering is organised at professional and junior level on Friday (5 April). That was followed by another article on Saturday (6 April), which explained how TSG Hoffenheim's involvement in the topic of nutrition reaches many other people too.