Mass popularity, internationally coveted players – German soccer has never been so highly regarded. The secret to success: a finely-honed system of finding and developing talented players. The likes of Özil and Müller.
Rotterdam, June 2000. Germany goes crashing out of the European Championship Finals in the group stage. The team is too old, its style plodding and predictable - and there was no silver lining far and wide.
World Cup Success Thanks to Youth Development Programs?
This low point in recent German soccer history provided the trigger for a unique development. Youth coaching in Germany was revolutionized from the bottom up. Serious sums of money were spent on a nationwide scouting system designed to leave no talent undiscovered. At the same time, all professional clubs were obliged to set up state-of-the-art high-performance centers for young players. The high point so far: in July 2014, Philipp Lahm holds up six kilos of gold in front of a million people gathered at the Brandenburg Gate. Finally, after a wait of 24 years, the World Cup trophy was back in Germany.
From Prodigy to Pro
The documentary, compiled by Constantin Stüve, explains Germany’s sophisticated promotion scheme for young players: nationwide scouting of 11-12-year-olds, high performance centers at professional clubs and the under-age national squads. To find out more about the route from prodigy to professional and how times and the system have changed, we talked to experts such as Oliver Bierhoff, Hansi Flick, Horst Hrubesch and Benedikt Höwedes.
The Competition Never Sleeps
The film also takes a look at other big soccer nations. Where does Spain have the edge over Germany, how do the French break new ground and how does England, the motherland of soccer, develop its young players? Guardian journalist Raphael Honigstein explains the differences between the money-laden game in England and the current World Cup holders’ system. Will England threaten Germany again? And the documentary does not close its eyes to the down sides of the system either: the pressure on young players to professionalize is growing at an ever earlier age. They have hardly any free leisure time and they live in constant fear of not making the grade.