“Player material”: Jochen Breyer reacts to Füllkrug’s quip live on ZDF

“Player material”: Jochen Breyer reacts to Füllkrug’s quip live on ZDF

Jochen Breyer announced the report with a confident grin. “Niclas Füllkrug wanted us to broadcast a sentence from him. And we are fulfilling that wish today,” said the ZDF presenter during the broadcast ahead of the last group matches of Group B.

An excerpt from a ZDF interview with the German national striker from the previous evening after the group final against Switzerland was then shown. “I’m not worried at all because we have really good players. Best wishes to Per Mertesacker and Christoph Kramer,” said Füllkrug and laughed.

The scorer of the goal that made it 1-1 was reacting to the discussions that had been sparked by a statement made by Breyer during the ZDF broadcast of the Spain vs. Italy match (1-0) last Thursday. During the pre-match report, Breyer had reprimanded former international player Mertesacker for using the term “player material” in his analysis of the Spanish team. The former international player said that the Spanish had a different style, “because they no longer have the player material to just play for possession.”

This gave Breyer the opportunity to interrupt his expert’s comments and address the following words to Mertesacker and Christoph Kramer: “Player material – because you both use the term often: I know that some fans at home are critical of this, because people are not material. Maybe in future we’ll just say squad or player potential.” The two 2014 world champions registered the comments with a tight-lipped “Okay.”

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Background: In 2000, a jury of six linguists chose the similar word “Menschenmaterial” (human material) as the bad word of the 20th century because, in their view, it represented a tendency to “judge people only according to their ‘material value’”.

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After Breyer’s intervention, a heated debate broke out on social media about whether the word should be removed from everyday language or not. “Nobody needs to worry that Chris and Per are no longer allowed to use the word. I get a lot of messages during a tournament and have heard from several people that they are critical of this word,” Breyer said in an interview with “Bild”: “I try to incorporate this feedback and just wanted to pass it on.”

Mertesacker and Kramer with humor

Breyer reiterated this in the broadcast on Monday evening and repeated his statement to the ZDF audience. But that was all. The fact that he had made Mertesacker look like a clueless schoolboy on live TV was not mentioned. Breyer simply stated: “Our viewer Niclas Füllkrug gave us feedback that the term is completely okay.”

Then Mertesacker himself had his say: “I like Fülle not only because he is from Hanover and because he came to my farewell game. But also because we can always play verbal one-twos. I think it’s very good that he takes part in our discussion,” Mertesacker continued, which was not surprising given Füllkrug’s opinion.

Kramer, like Mertesacker an expert on ZDF, was also allowed to comment: “I’ve been following him on Instagram since recently, I find him likeable. And he also has taste in TV shows. Good man.”

The tenor (and probably also the intention of ZDF) was clear: “player material” as a term has not been banned after all. It’s just that Breyer didn’t say it himself, but let his football experts do the talking.

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The moderator concluded by simply summarizing: “We note that there are people who are offended by the term, and there are also many who are not offended by it. And it is also very important to inform them that those who are being referred to in the term, the players, are not offended by it. And that is why…” he said, and at this point a backtracking, perhaps even an apology or at least a little remorse from the person who started the whole debate would have been perfectly appropriate. Instead, however, he concluded with the following words: “Many greetings from this place to Herzogenaurach, dear Niclas. We were in contact today via Instagram. Your wish to send this has hereby been fulfilled.”

You could call it confident, or you could call it unreasonable. In any case, it was good that the reprimand was discussed again. Ultimately, it was Füllkrug who took the edge off the discussion with his charm on the ZDF microphone and showed Breyer and ZDF a gallant way to recapture the unnecessary discussion and to be able to concentrate in the discussions on what is really important these days: the European Championship, football, the teams and their players.


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