My Berlin Spot – “Apocalypse Rugby” at Tempelhofer Feld

Lukas Pluska, a doctoral student in Prof. Thomas Sommer’s research group, introduces us to the team sport “Jugger”, which is still largely unknown in Germany, and his favourite place to play the sport, the park Tempelhofer Feld.

“Drei, zwei, eins, Jugger!” calls the referee as he starts a new game. The action that follows resembles a battle rather than a game. Two mixed-sex teams, each comprising five players, charge at one another wielding clubs and chains. Lucas explains: “These clubs and chains are our sports equipment, and here we call them ‘Pompfen’. They are padded staffs, mostly made from fibreglass. Now, you can even buy these padded weapons in specialist shops. But like most of my teammates, I make mine myself.”

The objective behind a game of Jugger is to carry the ball, called the “skull” or in Berlin the “Jugg”, from the centre of the pitch to the opponent’s goal. Only one player in the team, the runner or “qwik”, is allowed to touch the Jugg. The other players must protect their qwik, clearing a path to the opponent’s goal, and obstruct the opposing qwik. This is where the Pompfen come in. If an opposing player is struck by a weapon, he or she has to kneel on the floor for a set amount of time. During that time the player is not actively involved in the game. What Lukas likes most about the sport is the team spirit and the quick switches from defence to attack. “It’s a brilliant game to play outdoors in summer,” he adds.


This is just a game. "Rigor Mortis" players with their "Pompfen". (Lukas in the middle). Photo: private

It was at one such outdoor tournament that Lukas first found out about Jugger. “I was walking across Tempelhofer Feld one day in 2011 and saw these crazy people running at each other flailing clubs around. I immediately wanted to know what it was.” Lukas learnt how the game was played and started to train regularly. Now, his team “Rigor Mortis” are reigning German champions, and he is hoping that they can defend their title in the upcoming season.

“I’d recommend anyone to pay a visit to Tempelhofer Feld and look out for people playing Jugger. My team will be taking part in the Berlin Jugger Cup there on 25 and 26 April. That’s the traditional curtain-raiser for the new season.” Anyone not able to make it on those dates can watch Lukas in the league play-off tournament on 5 and 6 September on the pitch at Columbiadamm 111 – provided his team qualifies. This pitch, right next to Tempelhofer Feld, is Rigor Mortis’s current training ground. “Teams from all over Germany compete in regional groups to qualify for the league play-off tournament. Twenty-four teams then fight it out to be league champions,” Lukas explains.

Lukas is happy to provide further information and answer any questions about Jugger: “I’m always keen to help the sport gain popularity in Germany, and it’s especially nice to get new players. Anyone who would like to watch a training session or even join in is welcome to do so.”


Lukas Pluska, this time in the lab. Photo: Susann Förster

Lukas, who has been a doctoral student at the MDC since December 2013, is researching ubiquitination within the endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD) of a protein. This is a means of degrading misfolded and therefore non-functional proteins. These proteins can have a cytotoxic effect and cause certain diseases. Lukas adds: “Ubiquitination is the enzymatic binding of ubiquitin chains to proteins. It helps to identify misfolded proteins and to enable their degradation. In this regard, I am especially interested in the role of E2 enzymes, which are responsible for a partial reaction in the ubiquitin-labelling process.” Using the findings of the ERAD ubiquitination machinery, Lukas and his colleagues in Prof. Sommer’s research group hope to gain a greater understanding of the factors that facilitate and regulate the formation of ubiquitin chains, which could potentially be used to reduce the risk of diseases.

For those who would like to know more about Jugger:

Website of Turngemeinde in Berlin 1848 e.v. with more information and training hours (German only)

Video footage on Youtube

Featured Image: Lukas (second from left) and his team “Rigor Mortis” at a tournament on Tempelhofer Feld. Photo: private