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.

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.