The Rhein Fire were a professional American football team in NFL Europa, formerly
the World League of American Football. Established in Germany in 1995, the franchise resurrected the name of the former Birmingham
Fire team which was active during the 1991-1992 WLAF seasons.
The team was based in Düsseldorf (and
early on was occasionally referred to in the U.S. as the Düsseldorf Fire), playing its games in LTU
Arena since 2005 season. Prior to this the team played in Arena AufSchalke in nearby city Gelsenkirchen while LTU Arena was
being built. The team shared facilities with the football (soccer) club Fortuna Düsseldorf. The Fire also hosted the
2005 World Bowl, where the Amsterdam Admirals upset the then-defending champion Berlin Thunder.
had been one of NFL Europa's most successful teams as far as fan appeal and competitively on the field. The team is based
in an area of Germany that does not have a local Bundesliga team and American Football has become increasingly popular. The
team itself has played for five World Bowl championships throughout its history, winning in 1998 (over the Frankfurt Galaxy)
and 2000 (over the Scottish Claymores).
As with all teams in NFL Europa, the roster of players is predominantly
comprised of American "developmental" players assigned by the member teams of the National Football League.
Rhein Fire is a 'second-generation' NFL Europe League team, joining
the league along with Scotland and Amsterdam in 1995.
Although the first two seasons ended with a
losing record - 4-6 in 1995 and 3-7 in 96 - the team increased overall attendance in its second year from 60,000 to 90,000.
In 1997, with Alexander Leibkind in his second season as General Manager and Galen Hall in his third year
as head coach, the club posted a 7-3 overall record. The Fire finished as regular season champions and earned their first
World Bowl berth, losing to the Dragons in Barcelona. Total attendance increased to 108,000.
Rhein Fire finished second after the regular season with a 7-3 record and reached the World Bowl for the second consecutive
year. With a 34-10 victory over the Frankfurt Galaxy, coach Hall and his team won their first NFL Europe League championship.
Attendance at the Rheinstadion went up again to 127,500, including a record crowd of 41,212 against the Galaxy in Week 10.
In 1999 the Fire opened its defence of the World Bowl with two successive defeats and three losses in the
first four games before returning World Bowl '98 MVP quarterback Jim Arellanes turned their season around. He inspired victory
in five of the last six games and running back Kenny Bynum rushed for 960 yards, but the Fire missed out on the chance to
defend their title at home by a tie-breaker. Home attendance figures rose again to a total of 142,828 and the Fire offense
scored a league-high 286 points.
Fire reclaimed the World Bowl in 2000 with a narrow 13-10 victory
over the Scottish Claymores in Frankfurt. Quarterback Danny Wuerffel threw for a new league record 25 touchdowns before graduating
to the Green Bay Packers, while the Fire led the way as an average of 34,628 fans watched their home games in 2000. Total
attendance stood at 173,140 at the Rheinstadion.
The Fire headed into the 2001 season with former
defensive coordinator Pete Kuharchek at the helm as only the second head coach in team history. Kuharchek led the team to
a 5-5 record, while the Fire increased total attendances for the sixth time in a row to 175,050, including a new NFLEL regular
season record of 51,719 spectators for the Week 9 clash with Frankfurt Galaxy.
The 2002 season brought
down the curtain on the Rheinstadion, which was demolished after staging World Bowl X on Saturday, June 22. A record crowd
of 53,109 fans celebrated a giant farewell party in the stands. On the field, Rhein lost 20-26 to the Berlin Thunder. During
the season, the Fire posted a league-leading 7-3 record.
The 2003 season saw Rhein enter the brand
new Arena AufSchalke, home of Germany's famous soccer club Schalke 04. Rhein football attracted 171,088 fans (average: 34,218).
The Fire celebrated reaching another World Bowl but lost 35-16 to the Frankfurt Galaxy in the final.
2004 campaign marked the final season for the Rhein Fire at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen. Rhein Fire had - in front
of a total of 105,361 fans - a losing season (3-7), but successfully hosted World Bowl XII.
the team returned to D|sseldorf under the leadership of the new General Manager Sammy Schmale and hosted another successful
league final as more than 35,000 fans attended Yello Strom World Bowl XIII on Saturday June 11.
winning three games in 2005, head coach Pete Kuharchek resigned and was replaced on November 2 by former Berlin Thunder defensive
coordinator Jim Tomsula.
The Fire made a strong start to the 2006 campaign, winning its opening four
games. But a disappointing second half of the season saw Rhein finish with a 6-4 record - one game out of a place in the World
Bowl. In January, 2007, Tomsula took a job with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers and was replaced by World Bowl winner and former
NFLE Coach of the Year Rick Lantz.