Reuters Great Debate: No blues for the Bleus

Luck is the residue of design—even in football

by Isaac Getz

JULY 9, 2010

This Sunday will decide the World Cup champion. Yet, most nations will ask themselves again what’s needed to build a world-class national team?

The majority will go for the easy answers: great players, great coach. England had both. Some nations, though, might search for more complex answers—as Germany did.

After the French won both the 1998 World and 2000 European championships, the German World Cup winning player and coach Franz Beckenbauer said: “France is a model with its school tracks [combining] sports and studies and its [soccer clubs’] training centers. We are trying to copy… but we will need ten years to catch up with them.”

And Germany did. Its football federation completely redesigned the German football system. Its most important new component became the mandatory academy for every professional club which trains future great players beginning from the age of 12.

Like earlier in France, it assured the constant supply of top candidates to the national team. The current German team’s young players are its products.

And concerning the “great coach,” Aimé Jacquet, the coach of the French 1998 team said: “The clubs start by relying on their training centers… In the club, the most important person is the head of training. The coach of the first team is just a passing technician.”

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