International-Style Soccer in Tennessee - Wacker Chemie AG


International-Style Soccer in Tennessee

The idea of founding a soccer team was a no-brainer for Mathias Wiedemann. For the Ph.D. process engineer, who was sent abroad along with 35 other colleagues from Germany to build a new plant, a soccer team represented “a good way to get to know new people on a different level.” That’s what his colleagues thought too.

Soccer instead of football: every week German and American WACKER employees train together. Pictured here are: Holger Maier (2nd from right, front row), Michael Loew (far right, front row) and Mathias Wiedemann (3rd from right, back row).

The only issue is that they were sent to the United States – a country whose residents love baseball and football, but not necessarily soccer, which is however steadily growing in popularity.

And that is especially true in a small town like Charleston, Tennessee, where WACKER is currently building a polysilicon production site. At first, the would-be athletes looked for a playing field in vain. “It’s not like it is in Germany, where every little town has its own soccer field,” says Wiedemann.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. A few WACKER employees are members at the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in nearby Cleveland, and the facility includes a playing field. The field is small, but still, any port in a storm. The site manager donated the missing goals.

The project group’s soccer team has been meeting after work every Wednesday since the spring of 2012 to kick the ball around for at least an hour and a half.

While roughly a dozen WACKER employees come regularly, others sometimes drop in as well, including an occasional soccer enthusiast. In addition to Wiedemann, core team members include Michael Loew, a civil engineer who plays sweeper, and Holger Maier, a process engineer and center forward known as the Laufwunder – the Wonder Runner.

Part of the Charleston team members are also Americans, “which makes integrating the team easier,” says Loew. And as Maier assures, “They play just as well as we do.” Switching from football to soccer is not the easiest for his colleagues, however, as Maier admits: “Sometimes they slip up and use their hands.” But we all take it in stride – it’s all for fun, after all, even if “we do take the game seriously at the time,” as Wiedemann makes clear.

Wiedemann modeled his team on the soccer team at his home site of Burghausen, and, in that sense, the German colleagues now based in Tennessee are also continuing a tradition. They will remain there until mid-2015, keeping construction moving forward on the plant, which will have an annual capacity of at least 20,000 metric tons of polysilicon.

Maybe playing against an actual opponent would ramp up their team spirit even more: 20 kilometers to the south, the city of Chattanooga is home to a Volkswagen site, and Volkswagen has a soccer team too. A face-off between the chemicals industry and the automotive industry – wouldn’t that be something? “We’ve certainly said often enough that we should do that sometime,” says Wiedemann.