Das Reboot :):):) !!!

Continuing my Das Reboot (by Raphael Honigstein) series (Das Reboot – Questionnaire!) here is one more post. While the book is essentially a story of how Germany reinvented itself in the football world, there are some observations, lines, stories that made me smile, made me laugh. This light hearted moments described in the book were refreshing, especially some of Rafa’s one liners!

So here are what I called the ha ha points (!!!) from the book!  

  1. Team bonding exercise before embarking on a journey to Brazil – 2014 Sauna World Cup Winner – 60 men in a sauna!  
  2. Thomas Müller: With his five euro haircut and legs!
  3. Joachim Löw : Pudding bowl haircut!
  4. Weise demonstration: Wish you could have recorded it!  Or even some pics, frame by frame. The way you have described it sounds very interesting! 
  5. Representatives from regional federations wanted to pick their “guys”. Ah, sounds like how things are in Indian cricket!
  6. Porto Alegre where shopkeepers sell things no one needs!
  7. Why can’t we be like Austrians? This sure would be music to the ears of Austrians! Oliver Bierhoff indeed is a PR pro!  
  8. Describing Mats Hummels (tall, dark, handsome, like a leading man in a Mexican telenovela) you sounded more like a M & B writer here!
  9. Now look how you described that match, Rafa – wretched, lucky, deserved, flattering, frightening, demoralizing, encouraging. Remember that German thing you mentioned – not being happy/not finding happiness?! And then the Austrian reporter put it in it proper context – “We would have been happy we are in the quarter finals!”
  10. Ralf Rangnick described as your typical dentist – bespectacled, quietly spoken. Gave the appearance of being more at home in an architect’s office rather than a TV studio!
  11. Klopp being Klopp: We would have also climbed a tree a hundred and fifty times if that brought us some points!
  12. FC Bayern Munich = FC Hollywood! Here comes the cameras! Reality Football Show!
  13. Conspiracy against Germany – after its exit in the quarterfinals at the WC in France! 
  14. England see Hitler’s Ghost: Same story in all sports – haunted accommodation, bad food, etc., specially if the visiting team(s) are not exactly doing well. In 2006 Daily Star reported that visiting England team was haunted by ghost of Hitler!
  15. Jurgen Klopp’s lament- They have done it like the Chinese! They have copied us! (On Bayern copying his gegenpressing style)
  16. Youth Hostel Warden!!! Well, if the players were divided into houses with head-boys how can they be left without a warden for the whole place?! Yes, the man responsible for that wonderful experiment in social engineering with Campo Bahia as base camp was labelled as Youth Hostel Warden by Per Mertesacker! That by the way is Mr Oliver Bierhoff! 
  17. Cacau aka Helmut – after he had to answer a question about then Chancellor Helmut Kohl for his citizenship exam!
  18. Vuvuzelas! They got on the nerves of lot of people. Have to admit I hardly noticed its sound when I watched matches live in 2010. But down the line watching the highlights of some of the matches now, I do find it a bit irritating.  
  19. Ah! Something the players were unprepared for! That feeling of having won the World Cup! They did not know where they were!  

 

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Das Reboot – Gems

This post was long over due.  In my post, Das Reboot – Questionnaire! I had mentioned that after my questions to the author, I’ll pen down my views on the book. Not exactly a book review but something different. In this post, I have compiled some of the interesting/salient points that I found in the book. I would like to call these “gems”. They provide an insight into people and their personalities, the times, the circumstances, what changed, how people adapted and much more.  Of course, the whole book is full of such treasured gems, but I picked some of the best (according to me!) from it.  They are in no particular order as such. I just kept noting them down as I moved along reading the book.   

PS: I have also added some points as follow-up on some of the policies put in place by DFB and its whole team (including the coaching staff).

  1. Joachim Löw as a genteel soul. Someone who values harmony and shuns open conflicts. Wonder if this could be the reason why he is happy to coach a national team rather than a club team? We did get a glimpse of Löw’s  tenderness in that break in the extra time in the 2014 WC final. While Alejandro Sabella, the Argentina coach was screaming his heart out, trying to pump up his players, what we saw on camera was Löw caressing Goetze’s chin and then checking with Ozil and giving him a warm hug – as if a father saying to their child, it is okay, you’ll be fine, just few more minutes of agony. Of course, his technical expertise is well documented when Klinsmann mentioned that “not one manager was able to explain to me how the back four worked, and it only took one minute with Jogi (Löw)  for me to understand how it worked.” 
  2. Sami Khedira, quite well rounded. He read books for motivation, read about leaders in business and politics at 18! Wonder if he still reads? And if yes, what does he read? Also interesting point about his role as a peacemaker.  E.g. finely tuned sense for dressing room moods. And he learned Spanish before arriving in Madrid! 
  3. Muller too wise for his age: at the age of 12 he describes “a team”! 
  4. Overall personality grooming. How the coaching staff, FA and everyone involved focused on this. Not just grooming for becoming football players but overall personality development. Good example, cultural training before embarking on the trip to Iran.
  5. We still continue to see the excellent PR work by DFB. Full page ad in a french newspaper after Euro 2016, open letter by Julian Draxler (of course, written by DFB PR team!) in Russia during ConFed cup, thanking hotel staff at Evian, even the juniors (Euro U21) and the whole coaching staff stood with a banner thanking staff in Poland.  
  6. The makeover: Overall change of image. Deep cleansing of the image which still continues. How the players conduct themselves very important. Now DM is almost like a brand. This reminds me of the incident that took place after Germany loss to Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics finals.  Germany right-back Robert Bauer made a gesture referencing Germany’s famous 7-1 victory over Brazil in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  He was reprimanded by the DFB and later apologized for his actions.  
  7. 2006 is where Germany started re-discovering itself. This is also when the Die Mannschaft started becoming multicultural. And now we always see this multicultural team right from the junior level and up. 2010 was multicultural Die Mannschaft with players of immigrant background well and truly part of the team and paving for others to follow suit.
  8. Löw and Urs Siegenthaler partnership. Consumed by football, tactics and analysis. Data gathering on other teams – not just tactical data like playing style but also mental data including off the pitch mentality.  Thomas Hitzlsperger describes this example in the book regarding Siegenthaler and his research: “I remember he was saying that the Ecuadorians were very hard workers, strong athletes, but they were prone to losing their heads.  They have a tendency to become impatient and didn’t react well to pressure.  So you had to keep them busy all the time.”  
  9. Per Mertsacker, yes, the BFG, worked with handicapped people in mental hospital for 18 months in lieu of military training. And he got some valuable life lessons.  
  10. Mertsacker’s view: What one experience as a player on the field, during the game is very different to what those off the pitch experience it, especially those in the media. Maybe because the emotions, the adrenaline, the belief that while those on the field could do something to change the course of the game, those on the outside have very little influence.  
  11. German disposition: Ingrained unwillingness to accept imperfect performance irrespective of extraneous circumstances.  For example, economic crises elsewhere but not in Germany, banks going bust, not in Germany. Everyone including the German public expect that everything has to function perfectly in all spheres of life.  Hence so much of negative reaction against the team after their round 16 match against Algeria.
  12. Talent Development Research: Conducted on behalf of German FA since 2008. Fourteen thousand youngsters tested in six disciplines: 20 metres sprints, agility, dribbling, ball control, shooting and ball juggling.  
  13. Sexism, no sexism: Ralf Rangnick exchanged notes with a female volleyball player in the late 70s.  They both learned from each other through their different sports. While Ulla Holthoff, Mats Hummel’s mother had to face sexism when she became the first female commentator.  
  14. Rangnick was labelled a ‘professor’ in a negative way. Basically an academic who was out of touch with reality. In hindsight, Rangnick admits it was a mistake to go on that TV show (ZDF Sportstudio). Other labels attached to him were, a nerdy person, Kopfmensch (literally – a head person).
  15. Ah! Even Joachim Low has had the misfortune of being fired – May 1998 – Stuttgart.
  16. Klopp versus Rangnick: Harry Potter vs Professor!  While they both crossed swords (and continue to do so) the defining moment for their careers was not on the touchline but in the TV studio. While Rangnick’s 90 second interview hugely damaged his career/image, Klopp found instant success in the ZDF TV studio.  Klopp with his easy manners, self-deprecating humor without patronizing the audience instantly connected with the audience. Also, he was willing to try out new things. He worked with a software company to develop a new video tool that allowed him to draw circles and arrows on to the screen while working a football expert on TV.  Jan Doehling (an editor in ZDF Sports office) has this to say about Klopp, “We realized he (Klopp) knew how to put his point across and to mesmerize people.  If he had started a political party they would have voted him into government immediately”! And this remain true of Klopp till date. At Mainz, in Dortmund and currently at Liverpool, the fans absolutely love him. Meanwhile, it took Rangnick years to atone for the impudence of explaining the back four tactic.   
  17. Klopp’s contribution is not limited to the touchline but off the pitch too, into the homes of people, on the TV screens. According to Christoph Biermann, “Other Bundesliga coaches should thank Klopp for introducing a bit more objectivity into the way football is being talked about.
  18. Recognize failings: According to Matthias Summer, one of the many failures in German football in the 90s was not defining the role of the managers as the decisive figure.  
  19. Religion is a sensitive subject all around the world. When some interior designers put Buddha figurines in the new Allianz Arena performance centre it did not go down well with the supporters in the staunchly catholic Bavaria. They were offended by those figurines.  It is safe to assume those statutes would have been removed immediately.  
  20. Klopp’s BVB team of 2010-2011: According to Der Spiegel, “This team is emblematic of the kind of paradigm shift in German football that the national team stands for.  Young professionals, technically and tactically well educated, aware of their own strengths but never arrogant – BVB was like a miniature of the national side.  The comparison is apt in another sense too. Rarely was a squad so well liked by the whole of the country.  
  21. Even when Klopp and Rangnick crossed swords, Rangnick had high praise for Klopp and his Dortmund team, “he had the courage of his convictions, that was the key to his success at BVB.”
  22. Germany were too late and hence could not get the best roll turf for the team to practice on (for World Cup in 2014 in Brazil).  Ah, even the best prepared can get caught off – are unprepared.  However, groundsman Rainer Ernst and his team still managed to get the practice pitch ready before the team arrived in Brazil.  
  23. Stating the obvious: Football is a tough business – one player gets injured, other comes in, life goes on. Same in other sports. Same in life. One person’s misfortune is an opportunity for somebody else. Life goes on. Indeed it does.  
  24. Klinsmann footprints left an impression. Bierhoff went ahead with Campo Bahia.
  25. Players were offered a course in video editing to take their minds off football at the team hotel in 2010 in South Africa.  
  26. Germany’s boggie teams: Italy (of course, they finally did defeat them at Euro 2016), Spain, Croatia, Serbia.
  27. The photo: Of that goal which was “in” but stood as “out” with doctored line hung next to the massage bench in 2010!  
  28. Youngsters were groomed very well by the coaching staff who are in for high praise. Muller, Ozil, Khedira, Neuer benefitted from this.  
  29. Winning players trust – Arne Friedrich writes that after that semifinal loss against Spain in the 2010 WC he went to the head coach, Löw and asked him to continue as a coach for the national team. And seven years down the line, Löw is still at the helm. Must be doing something right! 
  30. Pressure: Philip Lahm describing the tremendous pressure, especially he and Schweinsteiger were under at the Champions League finals at Wembley against Borussia Dortmund in 2013. The way he describes it, it sounds greater than playing in the World Cup finals.  
  31. Emotions of fans versus those of the players: According to Thomas Mueller, “when you are in the thick of it (match situation) you don’t have any time to feel any emotions. As a supporter you get much more excited because you are powerless to influence the game.  You get swept along.” So very true.  
  32. The finals: Christoph Kramer was the last minute replacement for Sami Khedira who got injured minutes before the finals. However as luck would have it, Kramer himself took a knock on the head some 20 minutes into the game. He continued playing and played in fog. He actually asked the ref if he was really playing in the World Cup finals. The ref told Schweinsteiger that Kramer needs to be subbed straight away. And he was subbed by Andre Schurrle – the man who provided the Mario Goetze assist.
  33. How to motivate, the Joachim Löw style, part 1: The cup will come with us to our hotel”, Löw keeping it simple with this message.    
  34. How to motivate, the Joachim Löw style, Part 2: “Show Messi you are better than him” was what Löw told Goetze when he came on the pitch in the World Cup finals. 
  35. Keep it simple: Simple message again from Löw to the team during the break in extra time. “No panic, play on calmly but with motivation.’ Nothing complicated here.  
  36. Bench players: They too played a special part in the team’s win even if some of them did not play a single match. The manager brought them all together. United we stand, divided we fall…  
  37. A Very German Success story: A Job well planned and executed. Indeed. And rightly summed up by the man who sort of started the revolution, “winning the World Cup is a validation of German way of life” according to Jurgen Klinsmann.  The players grow up in an environment, in a society that spurs them on to achieve things.

Bibiana Steinhaus: Performance, not gender should matter

Bibiana Steinhaus entered history books yesterday, September 10, 2017 by becoming the first woman referee to officiate in a top European football league. She was the referee in the Bundesliga game between Hertha BSC and SV Werder Bremen on Match Day 3.  She became a celebrity and was trending on social media.  So far so good.  

B Steinhaus
Bibiana Steinhaus (Photo: Reuters)

But once this initial euphoria dies down is when we will get to know the real impact of her path breaking beginning. To begin with this is 2017 and yet we have to talk about gender equality. Not just in football, in sports in general but even in other spheres of life. That there exist a gap be it in opportunities, be it in equal pay, be it just the general perception.  Women are fighting on all fronts to find their footing.

However, I want to focus here more about the world of sport, the world I am familiar with.  As a sport administrator, I have come across attitudes that are patronizing, condescending, and downright, why exactly are you here to oh, poor you. I am sure there are many other women out there in the sport industry who would have many more stories to share.  Back to Bibiana though.  

That she has broken the glass ceiling is to be appreciated. It has to be celebrated. Because hopefully she has opened the doors for many other women out there who are interested in careers as referee at the highest level. And not just in football/soccer but other sports too. Well, cricket did see women umpires standing in for men’s games. But again, it is not yet a regular thing.  

So when are we going to see Bibiana again in action in the Bundesliga? More importantly, I wonder what will be the reaction if she makes a mistake in her next game or in future matches? Will the narrative read, oh what is a woman doing in the men’s game? Will the talk be about her gender or will she be given the same benefit given to other men’s referees – they are human after all and/or incompetent? Because even while her appointment was widely accepted all around, there were still some social media posts which highlighted the gender bias (the most common question – does she know the offside rule? C’mon, give me a break, there are many men who still don’t the exact rule and no, I am not the expert either).  

While we are on subject of mistakes, two recent high profile matches (both 2016-17 season) come to mind. One the round of 16 UCL quarterfinals between Barcelona and PSG at Camp Nou and the other the UCL quarterfinals between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at Santiago Bernabéu. Both matches involved some questionable/debatable decisions from the referees and his assistants. But all the talk was about either it being human errors and/or incompetent officiating.  I wonder if Bibiana find herself in similar situation, will it all be blamed on her gender? I genuinely hope not.  

Also, hopefully to those who it matters the most – the players on the field, it is about their confidence in her as a referee and not about her gender.

As much as we celebrate Bibiana’s achievement (and it surely it has to be applauded), I just hope in future we concentrate on her performance (or lack of it) rather than talk about her gender.  Here is to many more Bibiana Steinhaus’ on football pitches at the highest level and hope to see her on pitch soon in the Bundesliga and other competitions.  

 

Das Reboot – Questionnaire!

Let’s say this is my project.  During the Christmas holidays I finished reading Das Reboot by Raphael Honigstein. While I reading I had so many questions, that I wandas-reboot-e1501273453968.jpgted to stop and pen them down. But then I also wanted to finish the book as I could not resist what was in the next line, paragraph, page or chapter! So I promised myself to read it again which I did in the beginning of the summer holidays. Of course, this time with taking notes and jotting down all the questions.  So here it is, my long list of questions for the author.  And yes, I will have a separate post (will be up in a few days) about the book itself.

Rafa, here is my long list of questions. I know you are busy with Klopp’s (Bring The Noise) book. Also, it may not be possible for you to answer all the questions. Or you may choose not to answer at all.  Nonetheless, it would be great if you are able to answer at least some.

Bring the noise
Coming soon!

Or let me try this format…

First five questions compulsory; out of the remaining 30, attempt any 10. If you have time you can attempt as many as possible (or all)! Or you could even ignore this and answer whichever question(s) you want to. Best part about this questionnaire – there is no set time limit! All questions are from the syllabus, i.e. from the book!

Here is my list of questions for you, Rafa! A big thank you in advance!

  1. Urghhh…this should have been my first question to the author. How did I miss it? Would you have still written/published this book if Germany would have lost in the finals to Argentina?
  2. The World Cup at home in 2006 drove the FA into action – crises management response. If the WC was not at home, would we have seen these reforms?
  3. You mentioned that plans were sitting in the drawers, dusted. Nobody asked why they were just sitting there? Nobody thought of giving it any attention? Also, if Germany had reached the semis in France, would the plans have still sat in the drawers?
  4. How would history judge Joachim Löw? German public know him now or does he still keep a low profile? Did you speak with him for this book?
  5. How is the team spirit now? Do you believe a repeat of Euro 2012 will take place – at least in the next 2-3 decades? Also, you have written about the wonderful team spirit during 2014 WC. There absolutely were no camps/no infighting  (like you briefly mentioned the pro-Schweini/pro-Bayern, pro Khedira camps) in the team? Or this too was kept away from the media/managed to get hidden in the success.  Any friction in the coaching staff?
  6. It is not possible for any team to stay on top forever. But do you believe that Germany can ever again see the kind of slump they witnessed in the 90s or will this system that is put in place take care of itself?
  7. Was it deliberate not to have photos in the book?
  8. Rafa, when Klinsmann began his reform drive – were you convinced or you too had doubts/ you too were skeptical about his methods?
  9. How many players and coaching (talking about Germany) staff have read this book – both past and present?
  10. When Klinsmann began his tenure, he faced resistance. How do people see his methods and contribution now, especially those connected with the sport?
  11. What is Ralf Rangnick standing in German football? No, not as RB chief, but how do people perceive him now, especially all those who laughed at him in the beginning?
  12. Revolution of youth, both players and especially coaches, like young coaches in Bundesliga. Is this the result of what they saw in the late 90s when they were shunned? For example, Rangnick got the backlash and talked about the “sensitive” nature in football. Would Rangnick then now be more open to young coaches having experienced the treatment he received?
  13. Why do you say confidence is opposite of self-consciousness?
  14. Checking quotes with interviewees – is this still customary in Germany?
  15. Lothar Matthäus, is he still an outcast in German football? How is his relationship with Löw (the one who does not like conflicts!)?
  16. Dressing room stories are still leaked? (I would be surprised if they are not!)
  17. Improvement in society – Is football one of the avenues for immigrants to become part of the mainstream?
  18. Is the model for development still in place? Has it being expanded? What changes, if any, are incorporated in the model? Also, is personality development still part of academy education?
  19. From 121 regional centres it increased to 366. What is the current number?
  20. Any follow-up on this story – 1982 drug use…Algerian players’ children born with disabilities. Any possibility that this was a coverup. Football world refuses to acknowledge the problem of drug use.
  21. Would you say, Neuer is a ‘no-nonsense’ guy?
  22. Right to say, Per Mertesacker and his teammates knew they had played badly and hence he was ready for the reaction and hence that calculated outburst?
  23. Is there anyone Löw does not get along with?
  24. Why should football have been any different- what do you think is the reason? Why did it take them (the administrators) such a long time reg. Systematic in-house player development?
  25. Talent research since 2008. Is it still ongoing?
  26. What is Erich Ribbeck’s view now or was eventually when it all started to fall in place?
  27. How was it for you covering the German football soap opera – your thoughts on it.
  28. How is the relationship between Klopp and Rangnick? (keeping aside the Keita drama)
  29. Licensing is in place now for Sporting Directors? Any courses on offer?
  30. Do you think the kind of determination that we saw in 2014 WC was lacking in the Euro 2016 squad?
  31. Do you know if Bierhoff has started looking for Campo Bahia (CB) # 2?!
  32. Was Campo Bahia ready when the team arrived in Brazil? How big was the overall delegation including all the support staff that stayed put at CB?
  33. Those relationships – the social engineering process – have they survived beyond WC 2014?
  34. What is the current mood, a year away from the WC. Entitlement, hope or resignation (we can’t win it back to back?)
  35. The under-21s and the other youngsters did well recently. However, the U20s and U19s didn’t not do so well at international tournaments (U20 at WC in Korea and U19s in Euro). So the immediate future is bright and down the line is there a slight decline?

 – The End – !!!

Modified e-sports

So the news of e-sports as officially a medal event for the 2022 Asian Games has obviously, invited some criticism. The definition of “sport” itself has been turned upside down with e-sports. It took me back to my days as a sport management student. One of my professors, Mr. Cant, himself a basketball and rugby player/coach, always defined sport as something to do with physical activity.  

I remember once in our class discussion, he strongly objected to putting chess in the realm of sports. No, it can’t be, he told me.  In chess, he said, you just sit in one place and maneuver your moves. It has nothing to do with any physical activity or exertion.  As I now wonder, what Mr. Cant would make of e-sports as a medal event in a multisport event, I sit here conjuring up in my mind how e-sports could be combined with physical activity as well, to fit in Mr. Cant’s definition of ‘sport’.  

This is how I imagine e-sports event taking placing at the 2022 Asian Games.  In a large stadium, in the middle would be a setup where computer consoles would be placed in a circle.  These computers would be connected to large screens across the stadium for the spectators to cheer their athletes performance on the consoles.  E-sports athletes (athletes? oh well, never mind!) will occupy their seats and go through various heats based on timings. Yeah, just like in the various athletic events. Once they are done on their consoles, they’ll then move on the track and participate in 100m, 200m and 400m races (depending upon their own choice). Combined timings of both the events (on console and on track) would be used and top three finishers would be the medal winners.   

The same thing could be applied to other e-sports, like target hitting ones. These e-athletes take part in say, shooting or archery.  After they are done shooting on computer screens they move to real shooting ranges or archery fields and hit the targets in real. Computer FIFA players too can follow this pattern. If they already know the game and its rules, it should be easy to put it in practice on the field. Of course,  football/soccer being a team sport, the rules and regulations of e-football and field football needs to be worked out. In short, a work in progress.

This model could be applied to all sport across the e-sports spectrum. And some possibly could be mixed and match too. Run on the console and then shoot in the shooting ring. Let the participants have a choice of events. Does it sound complicated? Probably, yes. But once it is all worked out, run as a test event on smaller scale, and later it surely could be fine tuned for bigger stage events.  Maybe this could be tried out at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, where e-sports is a demonstration sport.  Let e-players wrestle on the screen and then wrestle it out on the floor, jump as many hurdles on the screen and then jump the hurdles in the equestrian events or shoot the hoops on screen and then move to the basketball court.

While traditional sports jostle for space in the already crowded multisport events like the Olympics, Asian Games, Pan-American Games and many other events, e-sports has found its entry without any opposition as such. Of course, commercial side of things have a huge role in the fast tracking of e-sports, and yet one cannot but wonder if there is more done to attract youth to sports fields.   To make sports more accessible, to clean up the mess most sport federations find themselves in, to deal with drugs, match-fixing, bribery and many such other scandals. In short, to restore faith of the youth in sporting bodies and sports in general. Of course, this is not going to happen, even for the most optimistic person out there.   

By the looks of it, e-sports is here to stay. How about we make it work then through combining it with traditional field/on court sports? Maybe that way we would still be able to adhere to the definition of ‘sport’, and satisfy both the traditionalists and as well as help attract the screen-attached, screen-swiping youth generation.

And, oh, by the way, I am still trying to understand why is e-sports even put in the bracket of sports.   

Hardened sentiments – Borussia Dortmund bus attack

It seemed like a routine match day for a football team. They are ready to leave for one of the important matches in their football calendar – first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals at home. The team leave their hotel in the team bus and within few minutes – boom, an explosion. Three bombs detonated. Bus windows shattered, tires flattened.  We get the news one player on the team is injured and so is the police escort on the bike accompanying the team.  

News spread around fast, through media and social media. What followed after this is what I am trying to understand here. The fans of the two teams – Borussia Dortmund and Monaco shared wonderful camaraderie and came together in wake of this attack. The match was postponed till the next day and the away fans were offered accommodation by the home fans. Images of this camaraderie were to be found, where else, but on social media.  

However, there was some backlash too on social media. Some fan photos were labelled as attention seekers or cringeworthy. Some people called it overreaction to the incident. Why overreaction? Because there were no casualties. Because only one player was injured. And his injury was not too serious – just an an injury to his arm and wrist.  Even the injured player, Marc Batra’s post on his Instagram account evoked some negative sentiments like, rich footballers, spoiled, soft, etc. What is the big deal? It is only his arm and wrist.  

Yes, this is also the reaction we got on social media. One has to wonder have we become so immunized by bomb blasts/terrorist attacks all around that the attack on the Borussia Dortmund football team bus didn’t deserve any sympathy/empathy? It appears that now for us to react to any tragedy is by means of how many lives are lost in such attacks. If there are no casualties, it does not really matter. In a sad way, had this been any other bus, in any other part of the world (read – developing nations) then probably it would not have received much attention.

So the basic answer to my earlier question – yes, we have been immunized. But probably our reaction would be different if we or those close to us are caught in such a situation. Perhaps then we would be able to fully grasp and understand the condition of those players on the bus that evening in Dortmund. That the players were shell shocked after the incident would be an understatement. Because, yes,

They are footballers. They are rich. They are privileged.  

Now, how about if we start from the very basic.  

They are human beings. They are mortal beings. They have loved ones.

So, if we look at the very basic elements, they are not any different to us.  Rich, yes, privileged, yes. But they are first and foremost human beings. Just like us, they too are mortals.  

There is no denying to the horror we see around us in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. We cannot imagine how people survive in those hostile conditions. However, it is not about comparing this incident to the people living in those environments. It is about showing empathy. It is about what could have been in the Borussia Dortmund case…

It also shows how we react to such incidents. The show must go on. Get on with life. Such attacks can happen anywhere, anytime in the world.  We are not cowards, we should not bow down to those terrorists. We have to continue living the way we have been. All this bravado is nice. And yes, life has to go on.  But is it too hard to even pause for a bit, to take time to process, to come to terms with reality, to get over the shock, and when lives are lost, to take time to grieve?

Also, what would are the wider implications of this incident? Police protection was provided but it was not able to prevent the attack. With active social media accounts all sport teams keep their fans updated on teams’ schedule and activities. Will this make them ponder to be a bit discreet about some of their activities? After the attack the location of the Borussia Dortmund team members was kept hidden. I recollect the friendly match between Germany and France in Paris on that fateful evening in November 2015.  DFB (Germany) team’s social media account mentioned about the team’s whereabouts and that tweet was deleted immediately.  

It may not happen instantly, but teams may start to be a bit discreet about their activities if, god forbid, security issues become more threatening in the future. And as for dealing with terrorist attacks, even if it looks less tragic from far off, let us at least be sensitive to those who are caught in such unfortunate attacks.  Let us give them time and space to deal with it.

Of Bastian’s character test, Jose’s apology

So finally, Bastian Schweinsteiger has left Manchester United and joined Chicago Fire, the MLS team in the USA.  Schweinsteiger completed his move and already has played a match for his new team, and the cherry on the top was him scoring a goal on his debut match for the new team.  All seemed like a fairy tale after what he endured during his time with the Premier League team, under the new manager, Jose Mourinho.

I had written an article on Schweinsteiger few months back. It was about his conduct and how it could be viewed from human resource perspective.  Here I want to talk about the same conduct shown by Schweinsteiger and also talk about Mourinho’s apology.  

Schweinsteiger conducted himself in this whole muddle like a thorough gentleman.  Not once did he utter a word (absolutely not in public) against his manager, against his club, against his teammates, and/or against the treatment that was meted out to him. Absolutely nothing negative came out from this 2014 FIFA World Champion.  

He was sent out to train with the under-21 side. He went and trained with them. He was made to train alone. He trained alone.  And when he was sitting out during the first team matches he posted photos of him at the stadium, cheering on his team.  He posted good luck messages on social media on match days. He remained positive throughout.   

During the early days of his exile when it became clear that he was not going to get any time on the field of play, he still remain tight lipped about his situation in the press. All he mentioned once was, yes, I have spoken with the manager and I don’t have any problems with him.   

But everyone knew this cannot last long. Schweinsteiger did not have a place in Mourinho’s plans and that he had to leave. And leave he did. When it all happened last month, things went by quickly – the signing of the contract, the official announcement, the medicals, the visas, warm welcome at the airport, the gaffe at his first press conference, his first training, first match and the icing on the top, his debut goal.  It looked like a smooth ride. Except that it was not.

It must have been difficult period for Schweinsteiger. Yes, he was still on Manchester United’s payroll. Something people like to bring up often when he was being treated as an outcast by the manager. But as a player, as a self-respecting athlete with a stellar career, he surely  would have preferred to be on the pitch rather than warm the benches and take home that not-earned-money.

We did get a brief insight on Schweinsteiger the person on his time as a benchwarmer. In an interview with Rory Smith of the New York Times, Schweinsteiger mentioned that his time in exile from the first team at Manchester United was nothing more than a character test. He talks about how is not a negative thinker and that even when he was training alone with one of the United’s fitness coaches he enjoyed his time in the training.  

That positive attitude we can conclude allowed him to ride the tide during his tenure at his former club.

Since the new manager played such a huge role about Schweinsteiger’s situation at the club, let us talk about Mourinho’s reaction to his move. Mourinho while Schweinsteiger was at the club, made it amply clear to the world that he did not fit in his plans. Yes, in between something happened which saw Schweinsteiger return to training with the first team and also get some match time. However, Schweinsteiger in that interview with Smith refused to divulge the details of this conversation except that after the talk he returned to the first team training.

Now Mourinho after Schweinsteiger left the club talked about his time at the club. About how he felt bad about the treatment he meted out to the player. He said he regrets how he treated Schweinsteiger and mentioned that he had apologized to the player.  It is nice of Mourinho to acknowledge this in public. However, it still does not exactly exonerate him for his role in the whole saga.   

Schweinsteiger surely passed his character test with flying colors.  He didn’t crack under pressure, he didn’t allow negativity to overpower him and most certainly he didn’t take the route that many take – rant on social media and/or plant stories in the media about his plight. I could be wrong, but even if there were stories, they appeared more genuine than planted.

However, I am not sure about Mourinho’s apology. Sure, it is brave of him to acknowledge his mistake publicly.  And the established mode when someone apologizes is to accept it gracefully. But there is a part of me that wonders, if we are hurting/harming someone knowingly and then apologize after the act, where does that apology stand? Is it even an apology? Err in judgment, sure. A genuine mistake, sure. A brain fade (I love this term, thank you, Steven Smith!), sure. But when you continue to inflict humiliation on someone for a sustained period of time, and then apologize after the event, does it even count as an apology? I am not sure about it.

You can’t kill someone and then apologize to them, I am sorry, I killed you. I didn’t intend to harm you but nonetheless it still happened. Not done.  

Of course, in the Bastian-Jose story we only know what has been written in the press and the chatter we got in the press conferences.  We do not know all the details of what happened behind the scenes.  All we can say now is, everybody is in the happy space.  

Bastian at Chicago Fires on the pitch, getting that game time.  Jose at Manchester United with the players he wants in the team and not having to deal with someone who he didn’t want in the first place.