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Culture

Germany's Most Unwanted

The coach of Germany's national soccer team still remains unfilled despite once being a coveted and prestigious position. As the saga continues, many explanations for the job's current pariah status have been offered.

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German soccer still waits for a savior to step from the shadows

One of the most demanding yet satisfying and coveted jobs in international soccer used to be the head coach position with the German national team. With a history full of glory, World Cups, European Championships and truly world class players, the Germany job was something to be proud of. How, then, did it suddenly become the most unwanted of vacancies?

When scanning the list of previous incumbents and their achievements, it could possibly be that many possible candidates see the German coach's shoes as a pair too big to fill. Legendary names such as Sepp Herberger, Helmut Schön, Franz Beckenbauer and others helped to secure Germany's position as a superpower in world soccer. There would be no shame for a coach, even one with a huge reputation in the game, who looked at the roll of honor and wondered whether maintaining the legacy would be too great a test.

Not much recently for coaches to fear

Rudi Völler Rückklick Euro 2004

Rudi Voller joined the list of those not to win a trophy as Germany coach.

This would be a consideration worthy of discussion had it not been nearly a decade since Germany won a major title and even longer since the Germans held the air of invincibility on the world stage. There has been a long pause in the continued building of the legend, one which has watered down the prestige of the job. Instead of comparing themselves with more successful predecessors, there is more danger of German coaches joining the list of coaches who have won nothing alongside Erich Ribbeck and Rudi Völler in recent years.

But why is this so? Coaches who have come to the job have done so in the past because they were deemed good enough to carry on the legacy of the successful German national team. Their records were impressive enough for them to be offered one of the biggest jobs in the game. Even the coaches who failed to deliver more titles were hardly inexperienced and yet the team has floundered in the last decade.

Put off by under-achieving team?

Then could the state of German soccer be put down to the quality of the players? Could the fact that no one wants to coach the German national side in 2004 be linked to a void of talent? It seems unlikely given the players that formed the surprisingly successful 2002 World Cup squad and the exciting newcomers who pushed their way into the team in the run-up to the ill-fated Euro 2004 campaign.

EM 2004 Deutschland gegen Tschechien Michael Ballack Bastian Schweinsteiger

Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger are just two of a potentially successful crop.

Any coach would look at the likes of Michael Ballack, Philipp Lahm and Thorsten Frings and see the basis of a team with the potential to win the World Cup on home soil in 2006. They may have severely under-achieved until now but what an exciting challenge it would be to mould these undoubtedly talented stars into world champions.

And yet, the queue of coaches wanting to inherit such a group of players ahead of the country hosting its biggest soccer event since 1988 has diminished to such an extent that the German Football Association is looking to foreign lands for the first time in its history as it searches for a new team chief.

Respected team chiefs have all refused

Ex Bayern Trainer: Ottmar Hitzfeld

Ottmar Hitzfeld.

The list of German coaches who have said no hardly points to a group of men who can not recognize a potentially successful team when they see one. Ex-Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, Fenerbache's Christoph Daum and Euro 2004-winning Greece coach Otto Rehhagel have all had enough experience in the game to know that the German team hardly lacks quality and yet all these men have been courted but have turned the job down.

The embarrassing saga has opened up many old wounds in the DFB as some observers look to the running of the organization as the main deterrent for coaches wanting to take the job.

DFB chaos a deciding factor?

Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, Präsident Deutscher Fußball Verband

Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, President of the DFB.

The DFB under the presidency of Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder has been accused of being autocratic and tactless in its handling of German soccer and has been cited as the reason for the dearth in applicants by rebellious members inside the DFB who almost unseated the president in a recent emergency summit. The chaos at the helm must surely be a turn-off for anyone considering the job of German coach.

However, the search goes on. The position is now open to foreign coaches and the "second string" of German coaches that have jumped to the head of the DFB's wanted list. PSV Eindhoven trainer Guus Hiddink and Denmark boss Morten Olsen head the foreign coach list while Cameroon's Winnie Schäfer has recently been promoted to "top candidate" status.

Matthäus anger at foreign coach idea

Matthäus

Lothar Matthäus.

One coach who has not been approached but feels he is the man for the job is former World Cup and European Championship winner and national captain Lothar Matthäus who recently threw his hat into the ring. Matthäus is disgusted by the idea of a foreign coach, telling the Bild tabloid: "You only appoint a foreign coach when you have reached a real low. Their job is to bring small countries forward."

"When Otto Rehhagel started in Greece their football had reached its lowest ebb, but the situation is different in Germany."

As the DFB soap opera rolls on, it would be hard to find a more damaging situation in German soccer since the Bundesliga bribery scandal in the early 1970's. German soccer may have reached its lowest ebb.

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