German football is reaping the rewards of their football strategy -Amir Alagic’s blog


The turnover point was poor results in 1998 WC in France and 2000 Euro. German FA identified technical level as one cause along with a system that values coaches and nurtures indigenous talent. German football is booming, reaping the rewards of the football strategy drawn up after their disastrous performances in 1998 and 2000, when Germany finished bottom of their group. German FA determined that solution was investment and thought into Youth Development. Forced into an overhaul of youth football, the DFB, the Bundesliga and the clubs decided that the development of more technically proficient homegrown players would be in everyone’s best interests. This led to the creation of academies right across the top two divisions. The talent education program started in the season 2002/03 with 366 DFB-bases across Germany. The incredible depth of Germany’s coaching resources, as well as the DFB’s close relationship with Bundesliga clubs, helps to make the programme. If you take all these facts into consideration seriously then no wonder why German football is quite on the top in the world. Perhaps it should be a role model for Indian football.

More than half of current Bundesliga players came through the DFB’s talent development programme, which was introduced in 2003 with the aim of identifying promising youngsters and providing them with technical skills and tactical knowledge at an early age. Covering 366 areas of Germany, this impressive initiative caters for children aged 8 to 14 and is served by 1,000 part-time DFB coaches, all of whom must hold the Uefa B licence and are expected to scout as well as train the players. Some youngsters attending the development programme are already affiliated with professional clubs but others may be only turning out for their local junior side, which means the weekly DFB sessions are also a chance for Bundesliga teams to spot players. It is the opposite of what happens in England and elsewhere, where the FA relies on clubs to develop youngsters. According to Uefa, Germany has 28,400 (England 1,759) coaches with the B licence, 5,500 (895) with the A licence and 1,070 (115) with the Pro licence, the highest qualification. The country that invented the game has forgotten that players need qualified people to teach them. For Germany, post-Euro 2000 was about changing philosophies as well as employing more full-time coaches and upgrading training facilities. The German FA wanted to move away from playing in straight lines and relying on “the German mentality” to win matches. Instead, coaches focused on developing fluid formations that required the sort of nimble, dexterous players who would previously have been overlooked because of their lack of physical strength. Everybody knows that an important thing for a football player is technique and then the height of the player, ordinarily, will be small. In the defence we think we need big players. Khedira, Hummels, Draxler are big but very good with the ball. For example In 1982 Mats Hummels wouldn’t have played in defence, he would have played at central midfield. In the 1970s, Beckenbauer was playing football and Schwarzenbeck (inside back) was running after the opposing players – if he got the ball he gave it to Beckenbauer and the job was done. But now Schwarzenbeck is Hummels, and Hummels plays like Beckenbauer and Schwarzenbeck. Players train at the football school up to four times a week and play in a league, where teams can win a title and be relegated, a major difference to the way academies are run in England. The earliest an academy player would take part in competitive football with a professional club in England – where the theory is that it “should be about performances, not results” – is at under-18 level. None of those kids involved can be left behind without having a chance to show himself. The most important thing is to educate the coaches in the youth academies. The money is a big part of the problem in England because clubs go out and buy finished players instead of waiting. Young players need to make mistakes to get better, but managers think they can’t afford for that to happen. You see the squads, even in the smaller clubs, they get players from all over instead of bringing young players through. The landscape could not be more different in the Premier League, where the majority of clubs are in foreign hands and English grown players in the minority. It is hard, almost impossible, to imagine Germany accepting such situation, not least because the success of the national team is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. I think one thing is very important, coaches who are coaching for the national team of Germany, from upstairs to down, they are very respected and it’s a good job to have. In England or France I am not so sure about that. I think there is a feeling that to work for a club is much higher than the FA but that’s not the case in Germany.

Over 1000 certified coaches are working in the Bundesliga academies (fee-basis paid), coordinated by 29 fulltime regional directors. The second step was that every Pro club had to build an academy, at the moment there are 49 plus a few academies from regional federations in regions without a Pro club. The third step was that every academy had to work with one of the 29 elite schools of sport. The class schedule is balanced so that players have much more time to play football than in regular schools. An additional benefit is that DFB-coaches and youth coaches from Pro-Clubs go into the schools to do extra training in the morning (in the afternoon they go to training at their academies). The talent promotion has four steps:

Basic promotion (grassroot clubs & schools)

Talent promotion (elite schools of sport, academies, DFB bases)

Elite promotion (youth national teams, academies of Proclubs)

Top class football national team, international football, Bundesleague).

Before in Germany, if you played in the Bundesliga for a few years, clubs said: ‘We’ll take them to manage the under-17s.’ But they had no education to be a coach. Sometimes the same thing happens in England – I saw this. On the pitch these players played very well but that doesn’t mean they’re a coach, and now this changes in Germany. And then under-15, under-17 and under-19 coaches, they gave them a salary so they could do this work full time. Coaches came from university, who had studied sport, they mixed it up and then it got better. It believes that the introduction of the “50% plus one” rule in 2001, which requires Bundesliga clubs to be owned by their members, has helped to promote homegrown talent. In the absence of foreign benefactors it makes financial sense, and also appeals to the supporters in control, to give young German players an opportunity. Why is it that Bundesliga academies so rarely bring in players from overseas? If you want to get an African player, or a player from Brazil, you need money. It’s cheaper to bring through your own player from Germany. And they have enough players there. If they called you up for a national team, the elite selection of the federal association, you had a decent chance of being spotted by a big club and moved on from there. There were big differences as far as the federal associations’ ability to look after these kids was concerned. Some didn’t have the finances, some didn’t have the manpower. Germans thought that was unfair. Every kid playing in Germany should have the same opportunities. They also found that not all big clubs were doing as well as they could, in relation to their financial resources. Their proposed first step was the introduction of a comprehensive talent-spotting and development scheme, with the help of a network of 115 regional centres. In 2003, the German FA introduced a special licence for youth coaches to ensure a uniform level of competence. A year later, a nationwide U19 Bundesliga, split into three geographical tranches, came into being. The B-Junioren (U17) got their own national league in 2007. People don’t really talk about it that much but I believe the introduction of the junior Bundesligas was a vital part of the reform process. Pitting the best of the best nationwide against each other made it possible to compare players and increase the quality. It also, indirectly, forced clubs into spending more money on youth coaches. The football Germans are playing today is based on those ideas. At least 10 players who are involved in the national team today we would have never found otherwise. Think of Toni Kroos from Real Madrid. He hails from a small place in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (German Province). No one would have looked at him at all.

A few months after Germany lost to Brazil in the final of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, German DFB introduced the “Talent Development Programme”. 390 bases across Germany were set up where football talents worthy of being further developed would start their training. Initially, these bases trained youngsters between the ages of 11 and 17, while nowadays, the age group is primarily between 11 and 14 years. Once a week, in addition to the club’s normal training routine, the DFB invites the regions biggest talents to an “extra session” in the talent development programme. Unlike in their clubs, the coaches in our talent development bases have enough time to address every individual’s needs. In 2007, the programme made its next step; a new orientation was introduced: The specific education in technical and tactical areas would particularly benefit a promotion of an elite player. The strong core who have helped develop the programme in the past few years shall now develop an education that specifically targets the development of an elite player. With help from the regional association, the development of the 11 to 14-year-olds was moved as the focal point of the education. The older age groups were already being integrated into the development centres of professional clubs and received the best possible education there. With approximately 25,500 football clubs in Germany, the 390 development bases give a rough ratio of 65 clubs per base. Thus, a tight web of bases has been formed, which allows an efficient scouting of potential candidates. Every talent is given the same chance to be scouted, developed and sponsored. That is the claim of the talent development program. Approximately 22,000 children and adolescents profit from the talent promotion every year. Roughly 1,200 coaches, employed by the DFB, conduct the training sessions. Apart from the physical aspect that is required on the pitch, the talent development programme also requires expertise on the touchline. The DFB have hired 29 full-time base coordinators for the organisation of this project. They work closely together with the regional associations in order to ensure a smooth operation and communication aimed towards unified training and playing philosophies. Thus, the base coordinators assume a central role in the youth development concept. The fact that the German FA invest around 10 million euros a year shows how important the talent development programme is. Principally, the talent development programme is designed to be an ideal enhancement to the additional cornerstones of the FA’s youth concept: The coach service, the school cooperation, the professional club’s performance centres and the youth national teams. Since 2006, the talent development concept is also being scientifically tested through research and analysis. The FA have made the continuous development of their youth players one of their top priorities. It is very difficult to foresee whether or not a young football player can develop into a quality professional in the future, given the complex structure of football as a sport. It’s important for U14 players to have good footballing ability, but that is never a guarantee that they will manage to make the grade at a professional level. Evidence for that is the fact that in the 90s, only about half of the players that were making their national team debut also belonged to the top teams in Germany when they were 15 or 16 years old. The others were made up of regional top talents, but only became top-class players at a later stage in their development. It’s important to avoid focusing on just a small group of talents and thus discounting a large bulk of talented youngsters. Instead, the FA’s aim is to acquire talented and motivated young players in Germany and promote them as best as possible. In order to ensure an effective training style, every youth development base creates two groups of no more than 30 players. One group coaches U11 and U12 players, while the other group focuses on the age groups U13 and U14. A scouting system this qualified and extensive in these age groups is unique in Germany.

The players I think will make it to the German squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup from this Confederations Cup champion team, are Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp, Jonas Hector, Joshua Kimmich, Shkodran Mustafi, Emre Can, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, Timo Werner and Lars Stindl.

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By Amir Alagic


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