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Could the Trainer Drain Cause Germany Pain?

Germany has exported a number of soccer coaches abroad in recent years. Now those expats could end up causing the German national team trouble in upcoming international tournaments.


Where have all the German trainers gone?

With the battle lines drawn for the upcoming European soccer championships in Portugal in 2004 and the qualification groups chosen for the World Cup in Germany in 2006, the world’s soccer teams are carefully eyeing their opposition ahead of these important future clashes. Germany will once again be one of the teams to beat in both tournaments and coaches the world over will be watching their progress intently.

Some in the coming World Cup campaign, however, will have a distinct advantage over the others. These are the German coaches who ply their trade abroad that could potentially return to haunt their countrymen.

Berti Vogts


Berti Vogts.

The current Scotland coach is no stranger to the big stage. Vogts coached the German national side from 1990 to 1998, winning the European Championships in 1996. Such is the regard in which the Germans hold their team, Vogts’ decision to coach the lowly Scots caused derision in his home country, leading to the omnipresent “McBerti” moniker whenever his name was mentioned in the press.

After battling hard in games against his countrymen for the chance to go to Portugal next summer, securing respectable results against the World Cup runners-up, Vogts’s Scotland crashed out against the Netherlands in the play-offs. Now, presuming Berti retains the “Mc” prefix for the next four years, Vogts target is a return to Germany in 2006 with a Tartan Army ready to take on the hosts.

Otto Rehhagel

Trainer Otto Rehhagel FC Kaiserslautern 2000 Bundesligageschichte

Otto Rehhagel.

The former championship winning Kasierslautern coach now watches over the Greek national team and faces a tough group in qualification if his dream to take his latest charges to his home country in the World Cup is to come true.

A former Bayern Munich boss, Rehhagel took control of Greece in 2001 and was faced with competing against Germany in the preliminary group stage for a place in the 2002 World Cup. Much to the Greek’s disappointment, their World Cup dream was shattered by a David Beckham last minute free kick in their final game against England. Rehhagel will also relish taking his team into Euro 2004 with a chance of meeting his countrymen if Greece make it through the first round.

Bernd Stange

Bernd Stange

Bernd Stange.

After bringing the survivors of his Iraq team together after the war, Stange has set his sights on getting his squad through the qualification phase of the World Cup and bringing them to his home country for the competition proper in 2006. If the former East Germany coach gets Iraq to the finals, he will have achieved such a feat against remarkable odds. With the land scarred by conflict and its people traumatized by decades of fighting, Stange could bring immense pride to the nation and any fixture against his home country at the championships would add a personal note of satisfaction to the tie.

Winfried Schäfer

Winfried Schäfer, Trainer Kamerun

Winfried Schäfer.

Handling Lions is no mean feat, especially when they are as Indomitable as the Cameroon variety. Schäfer took over as the coach of the Cameroon national team in 2001 and inherited one of the most unpredictable and talented sides on the African continent. Within months of Schäfer taking over in his first coaching job outside the Bundesliga, the Lions had captured the African Nations Cup and qualified for Japan/Korea 2002. Fate then threw up an opening group game against Germany which Cameroon lost. Schäfer and his Lions will be looking for revenge if, as expected, they qualify for the next World Cup.

All these respected coaches have chosen to lead foreign sides into international competition and as a result put themselves on potential collision courses with their home country every time a major competition comes around. But one must wonder why they would rather face Germany than manage the team itself.

The obvious answer is that only one person at a time can be the German national coach. That’s Rudi Völler’s job – for now. Such a high profile position as the man responsible for delivering further glory to one of the world’s most successful -- and demanding -- soccer nations should be a most coveted appointment. However, Völler took the job mainly because there were no takers at the time and that his original wishes were to hold the post until a permanent successor could be found. It turned out to be him.

So the stresses and strains of managing Germany could be a reason. But other factors play an important part in the coaches’ decisions to play away from home. There is, of course, the basic need for employment and a salary but with such a high turnover in soccer’s fickle coaching market, opportunities soon come along at the expense of less successful counterparts.

But the over-riding factor must be the challenge of pitting their teams against the great Germans…and possibly beating them. What more incentive could any German-born manager need?

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