Belly instead of head in German football

Ehere is a feeling that people who find the unleashing of modern football problematic have long felt. They regularly explain why the capitalist principle of profit maximization could sooner or later take away the fascination of football. Because the game has become so interesting because of its special culture that has been established in one city after another.

Because this interest attracted investors. Because these investors want to make a lot of money. Because all this money destroys the special culture. And because without this culture the game is no longer as interesting. As conclusive and sympathetic as one might find this diagnosis, one had to stubbornly point out that the final piece of the causal chain was missing. The regression of the general interest was not measurable for a long time – and thus no more than a felt truth.

Now, in January 2023, at least German football has woken up in a different world. The World Cup in Qatar was watched by so many measurably fewer people that those in Germany who call the shots in this sport would actually have to contradict the diagnosis presented by the system critics with an intellectually appealing answer. Because the feeling is no longer just a feeling.

WM should trigger a turning point

However, there is no indication that the country’s most important football institutions, the German Football Association (DFB) and the German Football League (DFL), will or want to conduct this fundamental discussion publicly. And it seems that no group is forming at the moment that calls for these discussions. Instead, the focus is now on the good old Bundesliga again.

There, most of the leaders, who even in the eleventh season of Munich’s permanent rule, do not even want to seriously discuss models such as play-off rounds in public, will probably hope again that at least one team will challenge FC Bayern for the championship. In a few months, the same managers will not want to admit that the next Bayern championship will embarrass them again given their diagnosis of the Bundesliga.

In Germany, the experience of the World Cup in Qatar should trigger a change in the urgently needed discourse on the problem of how modern football can remain interesting for a mass audience. At the moment, however, the maneuverability of the institutions must be questioned. It is true that not only the football institutions in Germany find it difficult to make progress.

But it is also true that the DFB’s crisis policy was backwards. “We’re more like gut people,” said DFB Vice President Hans-Joachim Watzke when he spoke last week about how Rudi Völler became DFB director. That makes this reverse cut possible: Now, in January 2023, since the feeling of the critics of the system is no longer a feeling, those who call the shots in the system argue – with feelings.

There is no question: Sport should trigger feelings. Maybe Völler can give the football country a good one in the short term. But that doesn’t change the fact that the most important representatives of the associations convey the feeling that the most pressing problem is being overplayed by their lack of willingness to engage in public debate.



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