Investment, youth planning are secret of Germany success
14 July 2014, 16:58
Rio De Janeiro - Coach Joachim Loew summed up the secret of Germany's World Cup success best when he said the country realised a decade ago that its traditional footballing virtues were just not good enough any more to achieve international success.
The Germans won their fourth World Cup on Sunday in what was the crowning moment for the country's youth system in which they invested more than $1 billion over 10 years.
Their 1-0 victory over Argentina, 24 years after their last World Cup success and 18 since their most recent international trophy, highlighted the commitment to change and adapt to the times.
Long-known for their battling spirit, never-say-die attitude and physical strength, the Germans realised after European Championship flops in 2000 and 2004 this was not enough to guarantee continued international success.
Things had to change for the then three-times World Cup winners and three-times European champions on every level and the nation's football authorities did exactly that.
With an annual investment of more than $80 million the started a project to retrain young players across the nation and teach them new skills.
In a new licensing system for Bundesliga clubs, it became mandatory for them to have a youth training centre. These were inspected annually and rated according to their standard.
That in turn determined the level of the football authorities' financial support.
From the German Football League (DFL), which is in charge of the top two divisions, to the national football association (DFB), the clubs and the individual federal states, soccer chiefs created a web of youth development.
"It is the result of a lot of work at the DFB, the Bundesliga and the amateur leagues, all working together," said DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach after the final on Sunday.
"It is not like in other countries where relations are poor. It's all about working together. Six players on the team were European champions in youth divisions a few years ago."
Particular attention was paid to the very young with the DFB setting up mobile coaching units, travelling across the country to visit schools and clubs and advising locally on training methods.
Some clubs found sponsorship money to set it up, others, like Borussia Dortmund, used the revenues from the sale of just one player, to create their new centres.
It made financial sense as much as it made sporting sense.
Instead of spending millions to bring top players to a club, they could be created in-house at a fraction of the price.
Bayern Munich may be the standout example of having successfully nurtured home-grown talent with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos, all of whom are now world champions.
But every club has its own success story and when Mario Goetze scored the winner in extra time to help beat Argentina 1-0 on Sunday he instantly became the ultimate poster boy for the German youth system.
A Dortmund youth player, Goetze, still only 22, was brought into the senior team as a 17-year-old. Fast, exciting and young, he personifies everything that is good about this approach.
His club received some 37 million euros when he left in 2013 to join Bayern despite the anger of local fans for what they saw as betrayal at the time.
There could not be a more appropriate scorer in the World Cup final, although almost everyone from the German team would have fitted that description.
Whether it is Andre Schuerrle, who now plays for Chelsea, or Mesut Ozil, plying his trade for Arsenal, or even little-known Christoph Kramer, who started the final, the German team is awash with home-grown talent.
"It is the joint efforts of German football since the turn of the millennium that have now been rewarded with this title," said the Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert.
"This outstanding development as well as the results in the Champions League in recent years underline the fact that the victory in Rio de Janeiro was not accidental."
With the German youth system now the envy of the world, more talent can be expected to come out of the factory line to feed clubs and maintain the nation's status as the smartest footballing power.