Walking backwards into the future ⋆ An Old International

Walking backwards into the future

The World Cup 2022 in Qatar ended just as the previous edition in a desaster when the team were eliminated during the group stages of the tournament. It initiated a debate about the national coach, Hansi Flick who fially stayed in office and about the manager and sporting director Oliver Bierhoff. The latter handed in his resignation shortly afterwards forcing the DFB to find a successor. This search ressembles a walk backwards into the future.

The DFB has launched a commission which consisted of Matthias Sammer, Hans-Joachim Watzke, the DFB president Bernd Neuendorf, Oliver Kahn, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Rudi Völler and someone from Red Bull who happens to work for RB Leipzig. You don’t need to be blind to spot the mistake with this group of people. Exclusively white men. No woman, nor person of colour or from amateur football, nor anyone from any other sport, nor someone who is maybe not as attached to and embedded in the German football industry.

Hans-Joachim Watzke, director of Dortmund and CEO of the DFL supervisory board, wields a lot of power and certainly will not accept someone who does not fit his image of a manager for a prestigious position such as the German national team. Just look how he has treated the coaches of his club Borussia Dortmund. This group of men however have to chose a successor.

Aunt Käthe

One candidate is Rudi Völler who managed the national team between 2000 and 2004 and achieved the runners-up spot at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea before crashing out at the same stage as his successor in 2018 and 2022 did and thus resigned as national coach. It sparked a period of unprecented success for German football as his former team mate Jürgen Klinsmann took over as team manager flanked by Joachim Löw as assistant coach (in reality it was him who coached the team, Klinsmann took the cheers and flag according to the situation) and Oliver Bierhoff on the managerial side of proceedings. Together this triumvirate took Germany by storm and revolutionised German football which climaxed in Brazil 2014. However, when he resigned after the Euro 2021, Löw has passed his sell-by date by five years. Yet, it had to come to the crash of 2018, a mediocre performance in 2021 and the repeat in 2022 before the DFB finally got into action.

Hanging onto Löw was born out of the lack of candidates available. Flick was not available until 2021 as he had a contract with Bayern Munich, Klopp was happy at Liverpool, possibly still is and Tuchel was so at Chelsea. If there were any candidates from other countries, these were not part of the speculative bubble. The situation in 2022/23 is tricky. There is no coach to replace but to find a successor to Bierhoff, someone with sufficient foresight to organise everything around the team and take care of the marketing. This requires someone not forcibly from the football sphere but experience of the field is vital.

This is not just a step back, this is a travel back in time – one is inclined to say to the stone age in the face of this possible recruitment. Rudi Völler has been a successful player and coach and most will remember his role during the quarterfinals at the 1990 World Cup and his alleged dive in the final that brought the decisive penalty. His merits are out of question. Yet at this point it requires more than past achievements, particularly with the Euros just a year and a half away. And more than the reactivation of Völler who is in retirement.

Whatever the outcome, the idea that Völler could be in charge is utterly absurd not because he may be incapable but for the lack of options and the signal this would send out across German football. The composition of this group has made progress almost impossible, regardless of their decision.

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image credit: © Zdenek Sasek | Dreamstime.com

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