I know that the whole quote is

Der Ball ist rund und das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten

by Sepp Herberger.

I got it from Wikipedia in English only that it means something, and from this page that it must be something inspiring. And I have also checked the Wikipedia in German but I find it is a tall order for me to understand all what is explained.

I come to here to seek an answer by taking a short cut(I know if I have the knowledge of the related history it would be not hard).

  • 2
    According to the german Wikipedia-article, these are two independently quotes: "Der Ball ist rund." and "Ein Spiel dauert 90 Minuten." – IQV Apr 28 '17 at 5:48
  • 2
    A round ball can easily go any way you imagine. A hockey puck can move only horizontally, and a cube cannot easily move at all. – Kilian Foth Apr 28 '17 at 7:08

The statements by Sepp Herberger were nothing more than stating the obvious: of course the ball is round, and everyone knows that a (normal) soccer game lasts 90 minutes.

There is no story or deeper sense behind that two sentences, just Sepp liking to give interviews and forming humorous statements.

People tried to put sense in these statements later that was not originally in there.

Both statements (der Ball ist rund and das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten) do not belong together and were made in different interviews on different dates.

They became a complete statement later as these were the most striking ones made by Sepp Herberger.

The meanings that were later added to the sayings are:

Der Ball ist rund
The ball can go in any direction, it is not predictable what happens in a soccer game
--> everything can happen

Das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten
In soccer one team can dominate a complete match but does not score even one goal. Sometimes it happens, that the underdog then in the very last minute of a match gets one single chance and scores, and then wins the game.
Trainers then often use this statement, to say: it is not enough to play good 89 minutes, as every game lasts 90 minutes and the result can be changed within the last second.

  • Der Sinn des zweiten Teils, der von Dir richtig als unzusammenhängend identifiziert wird, war gar nicht gefragt. Abseits ist, wenn der Schiedsrichter pfeift. (Oder war es Tor/Elfmeter/Foul?) – user unknown Apr 28 '17 at 17:08
  • Das ist sinnvoll! Danke schön! – Lerner Zhang May 1 '17 at 8:27

It means: We don't have any other facts than these - everything else would be guessing. Anything is possible and there's nothing definitive I can say.


It's a saying that although the odds may be heavily in favour of 1 team, a round ball can travel in any direction & thus the underdog (unfavoured team) still has the possibility of winning the game.

The phrase is often used when there is perceived talent mismatch between 2 teams. Since the next 90 minutes are yet unknown, the possibilities are endless.


Even if this very much sounds like a blunt tautology, people have interpreted a lot into this saying: Apparently, it's more important what's not said about football than what's said:

It basically means "Those two are the immutable facts - Everything else is up to the teams and everything else is possible."

  • Since, as already noted in an answer and a comment, both statements where made independently from another, your analyse is false. – user unknown Apr 28 '17 at 17:05

The ball has no favorites. It doesn't care if the national champion is heavily favored by bookmakers against an underdog village team. It's indifferent to one's reputation, which has to be proven on the field.


»Der Ball ist rund« reminds me of the Cole Porter musical

Anything Goes

while »Ein Spiel dauert 90 Minuten« guides me to the phrase

it’s not over till it’s over

  • Der zweite Satz war nicht gefragt. Deine Assoziationen auch nicht. – user unknown Apr 28 '17 at 17:10

"Der Ball ist rund" rather obviously rings of "Die Welt ist eine Kugel", though football overall lacks the epiphany of this cosmogenic insight, there may be an allusion nevertheless, as the ball revolves around the (star) players, as much as the sun does not revolve around earth (though it's just a matter of choosing any frame of reference you like).

"The game lasts 90 minutes" might be a riff on the banality of the former statement. It might mean, that not everything revolves around football soccer sportsball.

That is just my two cents. I'm not aware of the context. This notion supposes that the statements were prepared upfront, which is not out of the question.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.