After waking up a snoozing nation with an outburst after his team’s dull performance against Iceland on Saturday, German soccer coach Rudi Völler found on Monday that many respected Germans supported his comments.
"Rambo Rudi" looks ahead to Wednesday's game against Scotland.
The German nation had held its breath for a remarkable two days. The usually unflappable Rudi Völler, the mild mannered, bubble permed man known as "Aunt" Rudi, had blown up on Saturday in the wake of what many had dared to call yet another disappointing performance by the German national soccer team against Iceland in the European Championship qualifiers.
The silence on Sunday was deafening as the calmer, yet still unrepentant, Rudi smiled sheepishly for the cameras at the squad’s training ground and signed autographs at arms length for wary spectators after his team had been put through its paces.
Then on Monday, the collective sigh came. Germany’s soccer fans gasped for air as the vacuum of comment began to be filled. Would one of the most popular coaches in the history of the German national team survive the fallout from his expletive filled televised outburst? Would experts in the game round on the highly decorated former player and the man who took an unlikely side to the 2002 World Cup final? The responses were enough to make even the hardest German supporter faint with relief.
Soccer legends and politicians offer support
Instead of calling for Rudi’s grey and curly scalp, soccer legends, pundits and even politicians came out in support of Völler and his passionate response to the criticism that had so obviously pushed him to the edge.
While Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a self-confessed soccer fanatic, refused to comment on the affair at this time, his fellow Social Democrat, Interior Minister Otto Schilly, said he understood Völler’s reaction to the criticism he and the team had received. “It was the final straw,” he said. “Journalists must not practice such arrogance.”
Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber said: “I understand Rudi Völler. This malice, this dragging through the mud has to stop.”
German Football Association (DFB) President Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder addressed a press conference on Monday to offer the DFB’s guarded support of its man. "Rudi comes from the football world and not from university. His language can be a bit crude but every word he says should not be interpreted as an insult to the German nation."
ARD commentators "a load of crap"
Völler lost his cool after the game in Reykjavik in an interview with broadcaster ARD, telling the German television station that commentator Gerhard Delling’s analysis of a poor German performance was "a load of crap" and singling out former Germany star turned pundit Günther Netzer for abuse for his constant negative comments about the German team.
“I can't take it any more -- I'm fed up with the constant criticism. All this shit really ticks me off,” Völler raged. “I don't agree with Delling and Netzer, who spoke of a new low for Saturday night entertainment -- that's ridiculous, they always find a new low.”
“Once we've hit rock bottom, they say we can fall even deeper,” he continued. “That's shit; I can't hear it any longer.”
Former coaches close ranks
Many of Völler’s former teammates, colleagues and counterparts still working in the game also chose to let the dust settle before defending the incumbent German coach. The messages of support started with two men well accustomed to the pressures of the top job: former national team coaches Franz Beckenbauer and Berti Vogts, who manages Germany’s next opponent, Scotland.
"I can understand it because I often enough talked back in similar situations," said Beckenbauer, who led Germany to its 1990 World Cup victory and captained the side to the ultimate prize in 1974. "You feel like a hen that wants to protect its chicks. This has been building up in Rudi for weeks now and has broken through. This is human, now he'll just have to collect himself again."
Writing in Monday’s Bild tabloid, which had christened Völler "Rambo Rudi," Beckenbauer added he had felt similar feelings when he was in charge of the German team at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and understood the pressure Völler was under. “I realized that we only had an average team and the expectations were immense,” he said.
Vogts also said that he could understand Völler’s actions, saying he knows the feeling well when an unfancied side like Iceland tests the team and prompts critics to question the coach. “I know that feeling when you're described to everybody as an idiot,” Vogts told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Ten years back when I was in charge I was the fool. In Germany most people think that there are only ponies and geysers in Iceland.”
Scotland game becomes crucial
Ironically, Vogts could conceivably heap more misery on his counterpart’s shoulders as his Scotland side comes to Dortmund’s Westfalen Stadium on Wednesday to face off against Germany in a game that takes on even more importance now.
Another lackluster performance or even defeat at the hands of the Scots would bring Rudi Völler back into the firing line and maybe even out of the door. As he said on Saturday: “I'm not going to put up with this for long. I'm not like (former coaches) Erich Ribbeck and Berti Vogts. I'm not going to cling on to my job here. It's not worth it for me.”