The game of football is a major cultural phenomenon in Germany. It is by far the most popular sport across the country and its popularity started around 1910 when young sportsmen felt that the usual gymnastics are stereotyped and boring. Soon playing football became a dynamic sport that young guys started enjoying on Sundays. It became a mass sport among military guys who played it to keep their minds distracted from the daily stress during the First World War. The sport soon became popular among the youth as a means to keep their body fit and strong. Slowly, it percolated from military class to the middle class and finally to the working class. Consequently, DFB(Deutscher Fußball Band), which now holds the jurisdiction over German League and National teams, rose to prominence as more and more people found football interesting to play and watch and the business class thought of it as a financially lucrative activity.
German Sports and Culture
Sport is an integral part of German life and culture. As many as 2.7 million people are members of sports clubs in Germany while 1.2 million people are actively involved in different types of sports. Among all the sports, association football or soccer has emerged as the most played and watched game. As a matter of fact, German Football Associate(DFB) is the largest football sports organization in the world. The world-class German Club Football League Bundesliga consistently draws the second highest attendance of all sports league in the world. Germany has won FIFA world cup four times. The secret to this success lies deep in Germany’s culture where football is deeply rooted.
The Football Training From Grass-Root Level To National Level
Since football is a part of Germany’s culture and the most popular sports, kids are drawn into it naturally. DFB has taken the responsible to train the kids and grow their skills and enhance their future prospects to play football at junior levels and then move on to club football and finally to the national team. The entire training process is divided into four divisions.
1. Basic Development – This stage is for kids of age between 3 to 10 years. It starts in kindergartens and schools and moves on to amateur clubs. The objective of this stage is to develop a complete personality in terms of health, skills of movement, social learning, and cognitive properties. To have the required architecture, DFB in cooperation with schools and clubs have laid down mini pitches for kids to play football. To enhance the spirit, school level football competitions are arranged. Football has been included in the list of physical education to make it interesting among students across Germany. Furthermore, the development of girls football has been given importance by creating various groups to supervise.
Focus Point – Firstly, the importance is given to running, jumping, hopping, rolling and bouncing balls. Then some fun and motivating tasks are given to complete with the ball at the feet. Dribbling is taught around various obstacles and shooting the stationary targets. Then comes the final focus point where game ideas are taught like different ways of making a goal, scoring and preventing goals, and finally small competitions are held to make all learning and practice put into action. For all these, coaches are appointed to guide the kids in the right direction.
This entire category of kids in basic development falls under Junior E and Junior F group.
2. Talent Development – This stage is for students of the age 11 to 15 years. Talents are identified for the basic development stage and they are move to talent development program to bring out their skills and sharpen them. There are around 360 bases across Germany and 1000 coaches for this stage that DFB has at present. As many as 14,000 talents are there at this stage on an average. From the talent development program, talents are promoted to Centers Of Excellence.
There are 45 centers of excellence in Germany with 200 full-time coaches. The main goals are training talents to be professionals and promotion of best talents in their region and identification of fans to get him motivated. The centers of excellence have ideal playing and training areas, sports medicine support, rehab area and scouting concepts. From Centers of Excellence, talents are promoted to Elite Football Schools. Here, talents are provided athletic training, individual support, educational or vocational training and practical exposure to develop the personality like teamwork, fairness, openness, respect, tolerance, and will.
3. Elite Development – This stage is for teenagers of the age 15 to 20 years. Selected talents from the talent development stage are a move to U-national teams. This is where the professional training starts so that they can play at the national and the international level. The main focus points are health protection, video teaching for football tactics, special training for position orientation and self-management to develop techniques, psychological support and performance diagnostics and personalize fitness training. A systematic monitoring of the perspective players done and the talents undergo junior training, transition training, and high-performance training. The talents are taught and practiced the game philosophy of DFB teams and professionalism. All the talents are intensely screened to make a selection for U-15, U-17, U-18 and finally regional A-Team.
4. Top-Level Football – This final stage is all about scouting by the professional German football clubs. GFB has divided Germany into five zones for the betterment of selections and competitions among upcoming talents. The talents in the elite development are generally first noticed by the regional teams which are in the 4th level of the entire national football league structure and the top is occupied by Bundesliga. Consequently, teams and players move up from the five different zones to 3rd level league called “Liga” and then to the 2nd level league called “2. Bundesliga” and finally, they are scouted by the top level clubs like FA Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and likewise. This is the traditional path but top-level teams have scouts who notice the young talents in their elite development stage and bring them up directly to provide personal training and let them represent in Bundesliga directly when the time arrives.
Once a player starts playing well in top level Bundesliga from his club, he gets national and international recognition. He could be purchased by international football clubs and he could also get called up for the national team. After so much of training and skill development, the national team gets the cream of the crop and this is the secret of them winning World Cups and various the international football tournaments.