Penalties – and the English win!

At the end, not only the two best teams faced each other at the Opel Soccer World Cup, but also the most motivated. “With fans like ours behind you, you just have to give all you’ve got,” said Helmut Mikulanec, team leader of the trainee team from Opel Vienna, referring to the “fan club” from Austria in the stands at the “Am Sommerdamm” stadium that chanted their support loud and clear all day long. “Most of them already took a day off on Friday to be here today,” said Mikulanec, who is a member of the employee works council in Vienna in real life.

But the opponent was also completely fired up. “We aren’t only playing for Vauxhall, we are playing for England,” said Luton’s team captain Bill Baldry, pointing to his uniform: because Vauxhall is also uniform sponsor of the English national team, the Luton players wore the same outfit that Wayne Rooney and Co. wear for the Three Lions. That brings a certain responsibility with it.



The final opponents: Frenetic fan support made in Austria (red shirts) against Britain’s honor (white shirts).


Frenetic fan support made in Austria against Britain’s honor – that could only result in a finale that went down to the wire. And so it was. By this time, spectators were used to close games. Opel doesn’t only deliver top quality throughout Europe when it comes to cars – the different locations are also on the same top level when it comes to their soccer skills. From the quarter finals, most of the games went into a penalty shoot-out. The Rüsselsheim “Legends” lost a dramatic 1:3 shoot-out against their colleagues from Russia. In the semifinals, it was Opel “Sbornaja” that had to bow to the British team with a 2:3 shoot-out result.


In contrast, the Vienna team had avoided these kinds of nerve-wracking games during the tournament. As the youngest team in the field, they played the whole tournament with a refreshing carefree approach and top quality soccer. In the semifinals, they even beat the formidable Eisenach team 2:1. This made especially the older players proud. “These guys played together for the first time – hats off to their great performance,” said 56 year-old Uwe Sinke, the Thuringia team’s goalkeeper.



It’s obvious: Eisenach’s goalie Uwe Sinke is called „the cat“ because of his extreme agility.


For the semifinals, the goalie – called “the cat” because of his extreme agility – decided to have some fun and went to the face-painting station, one of the most popular spots in the kids’ fun parcours, to get a cat face painted on. But that wasn’t enough to derail the Vienna team from its path to the finals. With all of the close games, it’s no wonder that there still wasn’t a winner in the finale after the normal playing time expired. When both teams stepped forward for the penalty shoot-out, the English team got a collective sympathetic smile from the spectators. Because their reputation as the “eternal penalty shoot-out losers” has preceded them for years – all around the globe. But at Opel everything works – and sometimes a bit differently.


The shoot-out went on and on, as no one was going to give up. Ultimately perhaps it was decided by the fact that the British counted on both youth and experience. With 21 year-old Marcus Campbell they had probably the best young soccer player of the tournament on their team – and with their 58 year-old captain Bill Baldry and 55 year-old Pat Walsh, also two of the most experienced players. And also one more point in the 4:3 penalty shoot-out result. “We are thrilled to have won against such a strong opponent,” rejoiced gentleman soccer player Baldry, who normally works as a logistics manager in Luton. A worthy victor deserves a proper tribute. So Captain Bill Baldry’s team enjoyed the awards ceremony to the sounds of the Königsteiner Fanfare Corps. Opel Group CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, Vice President Sales Peter Christian Küspert and Vice President HR Ulrich Schumacher presented the World Cup Trophy.



Opel Group CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann, Vice President Sales Peter Christian Küspert and Vice President HR Ulrich Schumacher presented the World Cup Trophy.


Everything went so smoothly thanks to “JumpStart“, an initiative by Rüsselsheim Opel employees established in 2012 based on an American model that has been organizing events “by employees for employees” since then. “We were also responsible for the Rüsselsheim tournament in May. After seeing how that went, management gave us thumbs up to organize the Opel Soccer World Cup, which of course was on a completely different scale,” said Frank Sunder of JumpStart. Around 20 Opel internal event managers in green shirts made sure everything went smoothly from the early morning until late into the night. Trainees from the Rüsselsheim vocational training center also helped, for instance making sure the event was “flagged” properly for Opel and organizing the shuttle service between team hotels, the stadium and K48, where the big salsa night took place after the tournament.

At the end of the day, there was only praise for the volunteers, so JumpStart can be certain they have recommendations for even larger and more complex events. Stadium announcer Karam Belkini deserves a special nod for his tireless work and repeated on-field efforts to calm down overzealous players. “Ambition is a good thing, but sometimes you have to rein it in a bit, too,” says the mediator. “But even when emotions ran high, everyone always agreed: at Opel we are all family.”


All results at a glance: Click on group stage and final rounds to find out more.


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On the sidelines

As exciting as the action on the field was, it was worth it to take a look at what was on the sidelines too. The new Opel Corsa was presented in a number of different executions – just one week before its official presentation at the Paris Motor Show.



Even if their teams were already out of the running: the fan groups and cheer leaders from Norway and Denmark left a lasting impression on tournament spectators. Hopefully there’ll be a reunion soon.



Young guests enjoyed a bouncy castle, a foosball table and face-painting station. A special soccer highlight was the show by the “United Freestylers“, who demonstrated perfect ball control – not only with their feet.




Soccer meets salsa: Long after the final game was played, tournament participants were still on their feet. In honor of the World Cup in Brazil, “JumpStart” organized a salsa night in K48. Top acts like Sheila De Jesus and Kelvin Hernandez kept the Opel family dancing until long after midnight. They were joined by members of various salsa schools in the region during the course of the evening.

That the event ended at three am was due more to the request of plant security than to the party guests. By the way, the great contact to the salsa scene was thanks to Maria-Luisa Engels, a Rüsselsheim finance expert with Spanish roots and talented painter who also created the “Parrot ADAM”.