German team sports missed the London bus | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 25.07.2012
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German team sports missed the London bus

When the medals are awarded for team sports at the Olympic Games in London, most German athletes will be watching from back home in Germany.

Thomas Bach, President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), has long recognized the dilemma, and the crisis facing German team sports is only going to become clearer during the London Games.

Only the men's and women's field hockey teams have qualified for London, and the men's volleyball team made it in at the last second. Water polo, football, basketball, and handball players have all had to stand by and watch when Olympic medals were awarded in the past.

Dirk Bauermann, long-time national trainer for the basketball team, says the reasons for failure are obvious. "The difference lies in state support," he told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

He says it is imperative to make changes in sport policies. Otherwise, Germany's team sports will continue to miss out on the Olympics. Bauermann says youth development concepts need financial support from the political arena.

Handball coach Martin Heuberger also sees an acute need for action. In an interview with the German sporting news agency SID, he said national associations and the individual leagues must work together to provide more playing time for young athletes.

The luxury of field hockey

But what works for field hockey? The men's team won gold in Beijing in 2008 and already have their eyes on medals in London.

"You can't forget we have entirely different conditions," coach Markus Weise told DW. "I have the luxury of dealing with amateur players and can still be in contact to my placers. I can work on both training methods and team building, unlike my colleagues in the professional arena. I think that's the difference."

But while the amateur status of field hockey players is seen as a blessing, other sport associations complain about a lack of professionalism.

Soccer's bad luck

That is not the case in soccer, however. The women's team, generally used to a great deal of success, had the bad luck to fall to the eventual World Cup champions Japan in 2011, missing their chance to qualify for London.

German supporters watch the group D match between Germany and Denmark at the Ice hockey World Championships in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday, May 12, 2010.

With the exception of field hockey and men's volleyball, there won't be a lot for German fans to cheer about in London

The men's U-21 team, which was tasked with qualifying for the Olympics, had to give up many of its best players to the Joachim Löw's senior national team. But Heuberger thinks the soccer teams are on the right track. The youth training centers implemented by the German Football Association (DFB) have enabled Germany to climb back to the top in that sport.

Still, some of the professional players might be wise to heed the advise of field hockey coach Marcus Weise.

"It's the inner attitude of cooperation between the clubs and the national team," he said. "I always call for cooperation and not this 'one or the other' [of the club or the national team]. Then there might be some progress in some of the other sports."

The lack of athletes from the team sports is the main reason that the German Olympic squad is the smallest it's been since reunification. Less than 400 German athletes will make the trip to London for the games.

Author: Tobias Oelmaier / bm,mz
Editor: Kathleen Schuster

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