German student tackles East Bay on and off the field


Tam V. Duong Jr.


Kevin Vera,

Two years ago Steffen Sauer decided to move from Germany to California to play soccer for Cal State East Bay. The decision was simple: sunny days year-round, the opportunity to study abroad and bragging rights to say he lives in the state where “Baywatch” was filmed.

Sauer had visited San Francisco as a child and remembered the Bay Area atmosphere. As it turns out, CSUEB was the only university in California that offered Sauer a scholarship.

In general I would say that my teammates were a big part of why I stayed at East Bay

Raised in Bremen and Kiel, Germany, Sauer is now a junior midfielder and the only international student who currently plays for the Cal State East Bay men’s soccer team. Previously he had defended the left flanks on soccer teams in Germany.

Born in 1994 in the city of Minden, Sauer spent his early years playing soccer in Bremen. The youngest of two boys, Sauer’s passion for the sport led him to local district team, VFL 07 Bremen. He spent five years at the club before he relocated with his family to Kiel, along the northern coast of Germany. His strong performance at Holstein Kiel earned him a spot to play for CSUEB. According to East Bay’s Pioneer website, Sauer has appeared in 18 games and accumulated 1 goal, 1 assist and 4 shots on goal.

“I liked being part of a team and I played in club teams with many different coaches over the years because there are no high school sport teams in Germany,” Sauer said.

Sauer started to play soccer when he was eight, when a friend of his from elementary school invited him to a tryout. Prior to playing soccer, Sauer participated in Judo but explained that he quickly learned soccer was more interesting and pursued the sport.

“When I recruited him in Germany, he was playing as an outside back,” said CSUEB Head Coach Andrew Cumbo. “Once he started playing here I realized that he is a great playmaker and a creative thinker on the ball, so the decision was easy to put him up in the midfield. He’s adjusted well to the style here.”

Soccer players like Sauer are part of the rebirth of youth soccer programs in Germany. In the past, German soccer teams had a track record for winning championships and producing all-star athletes, but at the turn of the century, their national soccer team became a laughing stock as they consistently lost.

After a major loss in the European Cup in 2000, the Deutscher Fussball Bund (D.F.B), or German Football Association, restructured. Throughout the last decade, Germany has vested roughly $1 billion in its youth programs to create academies ran by professional teams and training centers overseen by its National Soccer Association, according to the New York Times.

“[I had] many good coaches with great knowledge about tactics and very specific in details; the coaches gave us a specific game plan for every game and tips about the other team,” Sauer said.

Upon his arrival at CSUEB, Sauer was warmly greeted by his teammates and although his English wasn’t perfect, they made it easy for the German native to feel comfortable in his new home. He explained that besides their time on the field, the team spends a lot of their free time together as well. Sauers credits his improved English to his time spent with his teammates.

“My teammates helped me a lot at the beginning to get used to everything so I never had a tough start when I came here,” Sauer said. “In general I would say that my teammates were a big part of why I stayed at East Bay.”

Sauer’s sophomore year concluded with the honor of being named part of the CCAA Fall All-Academic Team. As a business major, Steffen is still exploring internship opportunities and aspires to earn his master’s in business.

“On the field, Steffen works very hard on both sides of the ball, helps motivate the other players by his words and actions and is very creative and effective with the ball at his feet,” commented Cumbo.

While Sauer becomes more engrained in Bay Area culture, he remains unsure whether he will stay in California after graduation. Sauer explained, “I still have two years left at East Bay so there is some time left to make up my mind and to figure everything out. I do not think about that decision too much because many things can change in two years.”