An Old International

More “WE”, Less “I”

Football is often overburdened with social problems that are not easily solved even in society. Football is a mirror of society and as such works as a prism for the workings of the people.

In a rare moment of fragility, the German national coach Julian Nagelsmann had to fight back his tears after his team lost to Spain in the quarterfinals of the 2024 Euros. It was a little sentence delivered almost at the end of his press conference that reverberated through the night.

He spoke of society in need of more “We” moments than “I”. Yet, way more remarkable was his statement that we need to think more solution oriented than being focused too much on problems. This is a very important point as we, as society, simply need to replace one word with another: not crisis but task for which there is a solution.

Berne, July 4, 1954 – Notes on a perceived Miracle

‘Rahn should shoot from the background. Rahn shoots! Goal! Goal! Goal!’

These words spoken by radio commentator Herbert Zimmermann in the heat of the moment when Helmut Rahn had scored Germany’s third goal during the World Cup final 1954 in Berne are familiar to many Germans and have become cultural icons like Kenneth Wolstenholme’s words at the end of the 1966 World Cup.

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riding through the storm

Who marches so late through the night dark and drear?
It’s Germany’s team, for Euro 2024 they steer.

Erlkoenig Schwind
Moritz von Schwind, Erlkönig, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The quote above originates from Johan Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem “Erlkönig”. These two lines are the opening lines of the poem. They are quite fitting to describe Germany’s match against Denmark in Dortmund.

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Clouds over Germany

While for many the European Championships will be a festival of football, other thoughts need to be considered, too. Read more →

Dortmund is arming up

The news broke on Tuesday but the deal was signed before, for sure: the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall will be one of Dortmund’s sponsors for the following next three years. Even before the Champions League Final at Wembley against Real Madrid, the logo of the company will be visible on advertisement hoardings. While there is nothing wrong with a sponsorship deal in general, there is some problem here, nonetheless.

While announcing the deal, the CEO of Dortmund, Aki Watzke has stated that this deal should also contribute to a wider discussion about security in and for society. In other words, he and his club intend to initiate a debate that is best left to politicians and those who have an idea about security, espeically in an international context. Because the national security of Germany or any other country for that matter, is NOT the main business of any football club.

While it is undeniable that sport and politics are intermingled, the governing bodies of the sport staunchly claim otherwise. Football has become the biggest show on earth and it is undoubtedly political. Any attempt to state the opposite sounds ridiculous.

The so-called West and its state model of liberal democracy have been vocal critics of countries that (mis-) use sports in order to re-create a new, a better image for themselves. The allegation of sportswashing has been levelled repeatedly against these countries. The most recent and obvious example for this was Qatar, the host country for the 2022 World Cup. Somewhat closer to home, Bayern have been brandishing adverts for Qatar Airways on their shirts between 2018 and 2023. The deal between Dortmund and Rheinmetall is nothing but sportswashing for the arms manufacturer.

According to some German news outlets, the fans have only been informed and not been involved in the discussions, which leaves them feeling snubbed and used as a fig leave. Additionally, the timing could not have been worse. By accounincg the sponsorship agreement just days before the biggest of the past decade for the club, the board surely must have hoped that the waves this may cause will go unseen and maybe remain unremarked. This horrendously backfired and Dortmund look as though they have exposed themselves and have been disgraced.

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whatever happened … ?

A little post to say I’m still alive and that things are still running at An Old International. There is an urge to state some obvious things, however. Read more →

Ideas on Player Ratings

Experience as a teacher includes marking students work and essays. However, not all these works deserve the same weight in the final bulletin. Here are some ideas how to weigh players performances differently. Read more →

Hostage situation at Parc des Princes is over

It is with great relief that the hostage situation at Parc des Princes has been dissolved without any bloodshed, injuries or other serious consequences. The situation has become untenable over the past few years. Kylian Mbappé was the poster boy of the Parisian team and the squad was built around him; so much so that a number of players left the club while Mbappé had a say in signing new players. It left him as THE star player at PSG. However, the results were disappointing: the Champions League Trophy eluded PSG and has become a wet dream.

The player has miscalculated his move: it comes too late. He fancied playing alongside Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, yet his French teammate has chosen to play in Saudi Arabia. The MLS is surely no option for him as the level of competition is too low for a player of his age and talent.

The options therefore are limited: Real Madrid or Manchester City. It will be a question of money and attractiveness. Madrid vs Manchester, I guess this is a fairly simple question to reply to.

For PSG the period of superstars is over for now; Ibrahimovic, Beckham, Messi and Mbappé to name the biggest names – all have worn the shirt of the first team in Paris. The biggest names remain Marquinhos and Donnaruma, while the majority of the squad are starlets or largely unknown. Irbid a chance for the club to tackle their future challenges without the burden of big names but with the tag of the underdog. Mostly though, they will have to rebuild their squad to be be and to remain competitive in the Champions League, the only currency of value for PSG.

In conclusion it can be noted that the hostage situation is over, there were no casualties only a mistimed transfer and a player who wielded too much power and influence has finally decided to leave.

Jerome Pugmire helped in the writing process with his invaluable insight and knowledge.

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Franz Beckenbauer 1945 – 2024

The story of German could have come quite differently, had not one incident decided the fate of the two Munich clubs, 1860 and Bayern, respectively. As a youngster, Franz Beckenbauer played for a small Munich club in his neighbourhood, Giesing. It was his intention to move to TSV 1860 Munich at some point in his career. However, temper and fate intervened. In a test match between the youth teams of Giesing and 1860 Munich, Beckenbauer got involved in an argument with an opponent. His adversary slapped him in the face and thus sealed the fate of 1860 and Bayern: Beckenbauer simply switched his allegiance from the blue part of the town to the red part and signed for Bayern.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

We live in a period in which every loss adds to the general feeling of a period ending for people of a certain age. In the case of Franz Beckenbauer, it is certainly the end of an era: The loss of a player who transformed one playing position, the libero, or sweeper, like no one before him; those following merely re-interpreted that role anew, but it was him who put life into this position. Beckenbauer did so by not just playing, but by adding a touch of grace and elegance to it that his successors could not match. Yet, also the end of an era in which men in football got away with almost everything. Beckenbauer was a superb player, but he was also a womanizer, and as an official he was involved in one of the biggest scandals German football has experienced. His remarks about slaves in Qatar were a sign that his touch with reality was not well established at the time.

His was an era in which players negotiated bonuses and fees with their coaches and clubs themselves — unthinkable nowadays. Today, there would be numerous representatives of the player in question, the setting would be an office. What a contrast the early 1970s were: The West German national team negotiated their fees with the DFB in the training camp with the tournament just a few days away and the coach at the time, Helmut Schön, was frustrated by the attitude of his players. The post-war generation fully embraced the lifestyle of professional footballers and tried to make as long as the days lasted.

It was also Beckenbauer who allegedly took over selection duties from the coach after the East Germans beat their Western counterparts 1-0. Legend has it that it paved the way to the World Cup Final and success. This may be so, and it is indicative of his personality: he wanted to be in charge. And the success proved him right. Had any of these previous instances gone wrong, he would be a mere footnote of German footnote. As it is, he is the uberfather — Der Kaiser.

The Midas Touch

From the outside, it looked as though everything he had touched turned to gold. It was he who guided Germany to the title in 1974 as a player; 16 years later he repeated the feat as national coach, thus becoming one of three men to lift the trophy as player and coach: Mario Zagallo of Brazil and Didier Deschamps of France. During the 1990s, he took over as coach of Bayern Munich, his club and, needless to say, they duly won the German league title in 1994. In 1996, he added the UEFA-Cup to their trophy cabinet.

Where there is light, there is shadow. Throughout his career, Beckenbauer had the dubious habit of tax evasion and had been fined a few times. Another legend has it that he signed for New York Cosmos to avoid a larger punishment for a similar infringement.

His legacy will always be marked by allegations of corruption to win the hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the summer fairy tale. Of course, he argued he would never intentionally do bad, let alone bribe someone.

Der Kaiser vs Uns Uwe

The contrast with Uwe Seeler could not be bigger. The Hamburg player, who passed away in 2022, never left his hometown, let alone did he play for another club. Seeler was of a different kind, approachable, a man of the people: “Uns Uwe” as the people called him.

The nickname, ‘Der Kaiser’ is revealing. A deity of such heights is untouchable, almost immortal. Another nom de guerre was ‘Lichtgestalt’, a shining figure possibly surrounded by a halo (remember Gandalf the White when he arrived at the final battle
These attributes constitute(d) an aloofness of Beckenbauer, of him standing above the things. This, of course, is impossible, as the corruption allegations show.

Here, a quote of his is revealing. During the “Welcome Tour” for the 2006 World Cup, he met politicians as well as Sheikhs. About both groups, he stated, “Politicians come and go, a Sheikh or an Emir will stay, these are very special people.” Did he indicate here that he was susceptible to their offers and charms?

Franz Beckenbauer’s life was very much a typical one for West Germany: growing up in poverty during the immediate postwar period in 1945 to benefit from approving living conditions for the majority of the population from the second half of the 1950s onwards. The economic miracle made Beckenbauer possible. He represented an openness that previous generations did not show. In an interview dating from June 2010, he spoke about a trip to Argentina in 1966 where he observed “people dancing in the streets” — unthinkable then in Germany. The smell of Argentina is different, he added: “spicier, hotter, more sensual”. What a contrast, Geoff Hurst of England. About being in Mexico for the 1970 World Cup, the golden boy of 1966 stated about the specifically imported team bus, “The smell of leather and tobacco in felt reassuring”.

“I recommend to everyone to go abroad, if there is a chance”

This credo of his is still very much valid today.

With Franz Beckenbauer, German football has lost one of its greatest-ever players, without a doubt. His story, his career would be unthinkable, if not impossible, today. However, his story did not end with his last trophy in 1996, but with allegations of corruption and bribery and an apparent blindness regarding working conditions in Qatar. This is vital to paint a complete picture of The Kaiser.

image credits: featured image: The successful German national team sit down with the trophy, via Wiki Commons CC0 1.0 Deed, twitter card: Friedrich Magnussen: training camp of the German national team in 1965, via Wiki Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE Deed

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Z10ane – An Exhibition Review

Another splendid exhibition or rather art installation is still visible at the Philharmonie de Paris. It focuses on one player alone: Zinedine “Zizou” Zidane, captain of France’s first World Cup winning team in 1998.

The installation shows the film “Zidane a 21st century portray” by Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon. In total 16 screens show the film in a darkened room, enabling visitors to wander around and watch different scenes, taking in the movements of Zidane, the development of the game and, of course, the noise: the music by Mogwai and the noise inside the ground, i.e. the spectators but also the brief conversations on the pitch as well as Zidane’s utterings to himself.

As a longtime observer of football, it is staggering to see the game’s slowness at that period. The difference to 2023/24 is telling. The build-up of attacks is much slower and the passing game of Real Madrid was sloppy at times, not to mention their defending. It was almost the end of the ‘Galacticos’; that ensemble of stars like David Beckham, Michael Owen, Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Zidane and Roberto Carlos, which did not work all too well on the pitch but sold well off it.

Showing the film on several screens is in line with recent developments in watching sports and football in particular: the second screen is never far away, be it for statistics or be it to share thoughts and ideas on various platforms. Also, the number of cameras allows us to see the game from different angles. However, the absence of VAR is refreshing; here it could have helped though.