When Germany won the World Cup on July 13th, 2014 it was not only an achievement of their football team as a whole and their remarkably talented side, but also a vindication of the project that was introduced 14 years ago in order to re-organise German football.
The resurgence of the German national football team over the past decade or so should serve as a reminder to all sports nations, including India that a comprehensive plan and its execution is all it takes to improve the fortunes of a country as a sporting power. The Germans produced some scintillating football throughout the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but it took the country a fair few years to reinvent their skills and reach where they are now.
The Events that Triggered the Rethink
You might have watched the way in which Germany humiliated Brazil 7-1 in the first semi final of the 2014 World Cup, but more than a decade back in 2000, German football was not in such robust health and it was only because of a change in their strategy that the team again became a strong one.
Germany had won the European Championships in 1996 but 4 years later they were eliminated in the very first round after humiliating defeats to England and Portugal in the group stages. Two years prior to that, they had been knocked out of the World Cup in France by minnows Croatia and it was evident that German football was on the wane.
Germany is a proud footballing nation and till then they had already won 3 World Cups and an equal number of European Championships, which is why the football administrators in the country were in shock. However, they did not give in to despair and let the team deteriorate further, but instead they decided to overhaul the entire system from the grassroots level.
The idea was noble but what remained to be seen was whether they had the procedure in place to bring such sweeping changes at all levels of German football. The German authorities had correctly realised that modern football had left them behind and hence they decided to bring in the changes that would keep German football in great shape for many years to come.
The Project: –
First of all the Germans realised that their style of football or what was commonly known as the ‘German style’, which laid emphasis on directness and strength was no longer the way in which global football was going to be played in the future. Hence, they needed to produce players with technical ability and footballing intelligence in order to play a high level technical game, however such attributes do not develop overnight; they need to be developed from a young age.
In order to facilitate that change, the German Football Association or DFB, recruited football coaches, who had earned their coaching badges and also had knowledge of sports management. These coaches were then placed in charge of the children aged between 8 and 11 at the smaller clubs across the country, so that the promising children could get the best possible coaching in football.
The authorities also conducted global surveys on the youth set ups in countries across Europe so that they could set up a system that borrowed the best practices from the different systems.
The best players who emerged from these smaller clubs were then sent to the biggest clubs in the country and drafted into the youth teams. However, such a operation was only possible because the DFB had an excellent relationship with the biggest clubs in Germany like Bayern Munich, Borrussia Dortmund and the other elite clubs in the Bundesliga. Gradually talented, well rounded players with the requisite knowledge of all aspects of the game started to emerge and it was not till the 2006 World Cup in Germany that the project bore fruit.
Jurgen Klinsmann, the German manager at the time was supplied with a squad of young players including the likes of Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski and the team played brilliantly to go as far as the semi final, in which it was eliminated by the eventual champions Italy in extra time.
Since then Germany has produced players of such rare technical ability and footballing intelligence with remarkable regularity and now the German set up is a model that is an envy of the world. Players of the calibre of Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mats Hummels and others did not emerge just like that; they all emerged through the system that the DFB have in place.
Germany now seems to have an unlimited supply of hugely talented players but it was all achieved through superb planning and inch perfect execution by everyone involved in the project. The questions that were thrown at German football after the Euro 2000 debacle have been answered in a stunning fashion once and for all.
By: Soham Samaddar
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