The resignation of German national football team coach Rudi Völler dominated the editorial pages of newspapers here, with the latest attacks in Iraq playing second fiddle.
The Stuttgarter Zeitung attributed to former national player Rudi Völler the fact that, despite all its sporting disappointments, the German Football Association is these days seen once again in a positive light abroad. The paper commented that, in resigning, the former world class striker has done something that’s quite untypical in the football world. "He doesn’t insist on his rights," the paper wrote, "but clears the way for somebody else to take over." The paper expressed doubt, however, over whether Völler's departure would really help the German team.
"Respect! That was a worthy exit," wrote the editors of the Westfalenpost in Hagen. "In the hour of defeat," the editors wrote, "Rudi Völler shows that he’s a great man, not only a great footballer. He faces up to his team, and clears the way for what will hopefully be a better future. With no pressure; and with guts. We can only wish that there were more leaders like him; and not only in football," the paper wrote.
"Rudi at a loss. The chancellor at a loss. And the whole of Germany in the second division," moaned the editorialists at the Leipziger Volkszeitung. The paper continued the comparison between German football and German politics, saying they’re both at "rock bottom, without prospects, cramped and lacking ideas." To crown the catastrophe, the paper wrote, they are "chronically bad at making the best of the opportunities they’re given." Can a country of "clumsy politicians produce anything other than clumsy footballers?" the paper wondered. "Who, it asks, is still prepared to sweat for Germany – either in the football stadium or on the reform platform?"
But the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung turned its nose up at all the fuss. "Are we the national idiots," the editors asked, "or wasn’t this just a game of football that’s been lost?" Despite the heated discussions of the past few days, the paper commented, "the country is not now lying in ruins just because its footballers have been eliminated from the European championships." You can get annoyed about sporting failures, the paper wrote, but the real crises are elsewhere.
On the subject of the latest violence in Iraq, the Mannheimer Morgen posed the question of how the Iraqi interim government, with its weak security forces, can be expected to cope if the Americans with their nearly 140,000 soldiers are unable to bring law and order to the country? The daily expressed its fear that even NATO cannot really help here, and that, should it decide at its upcoming summit in Istanbul to train the Iraqi military, this would at best serve to take the tension out of the meeting.
Meanwhile, the editors at the Nürnberger Nachrichten wrote that it would be "wishful thinking" to expect the deadly series of apparently coordinated attacks to stop after the Americans hand over power to the Iraqi authorities next Wednesday. The editors expressed their belief that those involved will "pay the price for the Bush administration’s decision to make the date for the start of the withdrawal from this disaster," which the paper described as one of America’s own making, "dependent on the date of the U.S. presidential elections, instead of on a sober assessment of the real situation on the ground."