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Culture

German Soccer Body On Borrowed Time After Emergency Summit

A crucial meeting to heal the rifts in the German Football Association on Monday diverted a potential rebellion but failed to fully resolve the major problems threatening the future of German soccer.

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President Mayer-Vorfelder survived the summit but rebels still lie in wait

The German Football Association (DFB) is no closer to healing the deep divisions which are threatening the 2006 World Cup finals or finding a successor to Rudi Völler as head coach of the national soccer team after a closed crisis meeting on Monday.

The DFB was thrown into turmoil after the German team's disastrous Euro 2004 campaign ended with just two points, two goals and a first round elimination which immediately led to the resignation of Völler. It also prompted a serious review of the state of the German game which unearthed long-standing resentment towards DFB president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder and the working practices of the association.

The emergency summit was expected to include calls for 71-year-old Mayer-Vorfelder's head after five regional presidents of the DFB, who control most of the votes in the organization's general assembly, accused him of leading the association with an "autocratic" style and warned that his re-election in October was far from assured.

DFB vice president Englebert Nelle who is leading the rebellion, the first in the organization's 104-year history, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung on Saturday that Mayer-Vorfelder was the "root of evil" in the DFB.

But Mayer-Vorfelder survived and turned attention away from his own survival to the search for a new national team coach. The DFB president said at the meeting that he and DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt and Werner Hackmann, president of the Bundesliga Front Office would join Franz Beckenbauer in a four-man commission set up to find a new Germany coach.

Germany looks to 2006 World Cup

Deutschland Fussballweltmeister 1990

The golden days of German soccer drift further into the past.

While the rebellion looks to have been quelled for now, there is growing concern surrounding the health of Germany's game with the next World Cup being held in the country in 2006. The rebels have complained that the DFB has failed to promote the country's talent and has missed opportunities to reform the structure of the sport in Germany. There are doubts that the current administration can do what is necessary for the nation which has won three World Cups and three European Championships to regain its role as a soccer superpower.

While the five regional heads leading the revolt represent the amateur side of the sport, the Bundesliga's professionals are far from keen to see Mayer-Vorfelder removed this close to the 2006 World Cup. "Among those of us who have real say, we don't have a problem with him," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the president of Bayern Munich.

FIFA watch situation with concern

FIFA, soccer's world governing body, is also far from happy at the idea of a radical shake-up of the DFB so close to the next global showcase event. FIFA president Sepp Blatter spoke at the weekend of his concerns over the current crisis and the effect it may have on Germany's role as host of the 2006 World Cup.

Joseph Blatter

FIFA President Joseph Blatter has made his organization's feelings very clear.

"If I think about the 2006 World Cup in Germany, it's not the time to question the whole structure of German football," Blatter told the German sports agency SID on Saturday. "If that does happen, we will be very, very angry at FIFA."

On a national level, a weak performance from the host nation at the 2006 World Cup could jeopardize the interest of the Germans and affect the mood at the event. Franz Beckenbauer, the head of the World Cup organizing committee, warned that Germany needed to produce a winner for the event or risk just that. The first step in returning the team to form would be the appointment of the right coach, something that is proving increasingly difficult.

List of coaching candidates shrinking daily

After former Bayern Munich coach and preferred candidate Ottmar Hitzfeld turned down the DFB's offer last Thursday, the association approached Christoph Daum, the man who was due to take over the team until a random drug test showed traces of cocaine in 2001. He too turned down the job, preferring to stay at his club side Fenerbache in Turkey.

Otto Rehhagel mit der Trophäe Eruo 2004 Griechenland Trainer

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is the man the DFB want to restore past glories.

That prompted the DFB to turn their sights on Greece coach Otto Rehhagel after he crafted a Greek side lacking any obvious stars into European champions. However, according to Vasilios Gagatsis, the head of Greece's soccer federation, Rehhagel is going nowhere. "We won't consider it at all. Otto just extended his contract, not just until 2006, but until 2008. He will be with us until he retires. He told me that himself," Gagatsis said.

The only other German candidate appears to be Lothar Matthäus, the former Germany captain who played a record 150 times for Germany and lifted both the World Cup and European Championship trophy for his country. Matthäus, currently national coach of Hungary, has made it clear that he would take the job if offered to him but his lack of coaching experience would be a disadvantage.

Foreign coach a real possibility

Hiddink am Ball

Could Guus Hiddink be Germany's first foreign coach?

The shrinking list of potential coaches may lead Germany to consider appointing their first foreign coach. Speculation so far has included PSV Eindhoven boss Guus Hiddink (photo), who reached the World Cup semi-finals with the Netherlands in 1998 and South Korea in 2002, and Danish coach Morten Olsen. But for such a proud soccer nation which has won the major prizes in the game several times over with Germans at the helm, this would be a huge loss of face.

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