One thing you can guarantee these days about anything DFB related is that it will be controversial in some way, even when they’re doing something right (which you have to admit is a rare occasion these days) they somehow manage to screw it up and the past two weeks have been no exception. Even before the squad was announced there’s been plenty of drama due to Jogi’s decision last week to inform Müller, Boateng and Hummels that they would no longer form part of his plans (at least that’s what it sounded like then – Jogi has since backtracked a little on that – which is exactly part of the problem). The way it was worded in the press release (obviously I don’t know how exactly he put it to the players – which just adds another layer of confusion) is that Jogi is planning in the future without them, that 2019 is the right time to give the team a new face, in time for the Euros in 2020.
With what he said yesterday, he’s slightly backtracking on that now, or just being very pedantic – depending on your perspective. He got very short with the sky journalist who attempted to get him to clarify that point further, asking if the three had any chance of returning to the team in the future. Jogi’s reply did not make anything any clearer. He stated that he doesn’t know what will happen a year from now, that such a thing is a hypothetical situation. More to the point Jogi said that he told the players in question he’s planning the qualification for the Euros and the tournament itself without them.
But given their ages, that kind of is the same thing as ending their international careers. It’s not just the sky journalist he was short with, he commented on his displeasure at the way in which the press analysed and interpreted the situation. He doesn’t seem to see that if he had been more clear from the outset, there would have been less confusion on that point. But then communications and handling the press does not seem to be the DFB’s strong point at the moment. He claims not to be swayed by public opinion or what other people think he should do, that he’s guided by the courage of his own convictions. I have to say, it doesn’t come across that way. It comes across like he doesn’t have the courage to come right out and say that he has no future use for those players at all, and instead is hiding behind hypothetical situations and claiming he can’t answer that.
Surely he can answer, because if the development of the young players works out as planned, then there won’t be any place for those three. It not only makes it seem like he doesn’t have the courage to say that, it has the effect of making it seem almost as if he doubts that the younger players will progress to the point where those three won’t have a place in the squad. Whether he likes it or not, people can and will interpret it that way. Der Spiegel wrote a pretty good piece on the matter which included a paragraph about Jogi being in his own world and not affected by outside views – making the point that it’s not always a good thing to be that way. It is possible for a person to get too ensconced in their own world, too rigid and too fixed on their view of things. Believe me, I know a lot about that.
There is one very interesting aspect of this that article could have mentioned but didn’t, namely that things haven’t gone very well since Hansi left. I know the Confed Cup happened after he left, but that seems to have been an anomaly of sorts. In the case of the Confed Cup Jogi had no choice, he couldn’t take his A-team players. So whilst it’s right to credit him with winning the tournament, it’s wrong to praise his flexibility on the matter. For the simple reason he was forced into it, he had absolutely no choice in the matter, he had to make those wholesale changes in putting a squad together. But when it came to 2018 and the choice was entirely his, he couldn’t do it, he had the young players there but he stuck with his tried and trusted system and failed with that system. It would be very interesting to learn about the relationship he has with his assistant, how things worked with his previous assistant Schneider, and what the difference is between those two and Hansi. It’s a very intriguing subject to muse over.
The fact he came to that conclusion, how he did so and when he chose to inform the three players in question has come under a lot of criticism. Whether you agree or not with the decision itself, I don’t think there’s a lot to criticise in how it was handled, I mean Jogi went there himself to tell them in person. Doing it over the phone would have been extremely disrespectful on the other hand, as would simply not including them in the squad and not saying exactly why (or not making it clear that they won’t be part of the squad anytime soon) – now that would have been taking the coward’s way out. The timing was criticised because it was the week before Bayern’s big Champions League game with Liverpool, but that doesn’t really wash with me either – one, because Müller was banned for that game anyway and two because you’d have to be absurdly optimistic to believe Bayern ever had a chance in that game. They were going to lose that game regardless of Jogi telling them last week.
That said I do disagree with the timing, I think they took far too long to both reach this conclusion and make it known both to the players and the public. The way some people are acting it’s like this has come out of nowhere, but this has been coming ever since their premature end to their world cup campaign. And just in case that didn’t make it obvious enough the Netherlands game helped to make it that little bit clearer. Now I’m not saying they ended up drawing that game solely because Jogi brought Müller on late in the second half, I mean more on a symbolic level. He took Gnabry off and brought Müller on for his 100th cap, maybe I’m over-thinking this but I wonder if he was brought on then because they knew they wouldn’t be calling him up this year. Either way it pretty much summed up the disaster that 2018 has been for the DFB and for Jogi himself.
On the matter of them taking too long to decide, that has been a frequently reoccurring theme with the team in the past year. And if there’s any reason I doubt Jogi it’s that, simply because they aren’t consistent in the statements they make and their decision making process in general. It was only a few months ago that both Jogi and his assistant Marcus Sorg said that having that “axis of experience” (meaning Neuer, Müller, Kroos, Boateng & Hummels) in the team was necessary. They said that you couldn’t have a squad that consisted solely of young players with little experience, that it was important to have the right mix. Which is funny really, because isn’t that exactly what Jogi did in 2010? He brought together (partly due to injuries and other circumstances) a group of young players and moulded them into a team, playing exciting football in the process. The mainstay of that group then went on to win the world cup in 2014, but that’s history, all in the past. Some people don’t seem to want to accept that, and quite a few of them are Bayern fans who claim “die Mannschaft is nothing without Müller.” And there was me thinking football was a team sport. No one player should be that important to the team, and for what it’s worth for all his past greatness, Müller isn’t that important to the team right now anyway. Change is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.
You can’t ignore the hypocrisy in only leaving those three players out either, Hector as expected was not included this time, ditto for Nils Petersen (as much as I love seeing him in a German shirt, including him would have severely undermined Jogi’s point in focusing on younger players). But for reasons I cannot understand both Neuer and Kroos are still in the squad. How to explain Jogi’s inexplicable attachment to including Neuer in the squad? I suppose it could be stubbornness on his part, as if leaving Neuer out of the squad would be admitting he made a mistake in making him captain (which he did – I like Neuer just fine, but he’s not captain material). And as much as I like Neuer, it can’t be ignored that he’s nowhere near as good as he used to be since he returned from injury, he’s had time to recover and get back to his best, it hasn’t happened. Meanwhile Jogi has ter Stegen waiting in the wings, he’s more than ready now. And still Jogi keeps saying “he’ll get his chance.” Not when Jogi won’t believe in him and drop Neuer he won’t.
With all this negativity one might conclude I’m not looking forward to the upcoming games, or that there’s no reason to look forward to them. But there is, and I am, for whilst Julian Draxler is out injured, Matze Ginter has been named in the squad. Whether he’ll actually get any significant playing time or not remains to be seen, but I’m just pleased he’s in the squad. He didn’t actually play on Friday night against Freiburg, which means it’s the second game in a row he’s missed for Gladbach. However despite his slight muscle problem he’s supposed to be fit to play for next week. Good thing too, he’s kind of the last man standing as far as my favourite players go.
Now it’s been decided I can enjoy the rest of the summer break and pre-season. And now I can finally get on with making the video from the last game. It wasn’t so much knowing if he was leaving or not. It was just the uncertainty of it. Whether it was the last video ever or just the last of this tournament, that I needed to know before putting to together. This time I have to admit I did doubt if he would stay, depending on which news sources you listen to however there may be other changes in the offing. What exactly that means (if it’s even true) who knows. There’s really no point in speculating. I know exactly the change I would like to see but I doubt that’ll happen. And I doubt even less that I would get my actual dream come true and Hansi would come back. That would be way too perfect, which is precisely why it’s never going to happen. But there’s no need to get greedy, Jogi is staying, that’s the main thing.
Little update – upon catching up with the latest news it seems I’m not the only one with the idea of Hansi returning. Oh that would be too awesome to even contemplate.
I was going to write something last night, but had I done so that would have been a very stupid idea. Not that it mattered anyway since when I sat down to write the words just weren’t there. All of my angry ranting disappeared which isn’t such a bad thing. I could rant about the absurd Erdogan-gate situation, the fact they picked Neuer over ter Stegen, their conservative team selection in contrast to the Confed Cup last summer, youth not being given enough of a chance, Nils Petersen being dropped before he really had a chance to make an impression yet the useless Mario Gomez getting picked (again). And there’s much more to rant about too, not least the way the press and people are attacking Jogi. It seems people have very short memories, a genius one summer, then the next a stupid weirdo who should be sacked. It didn’t take long for the insults to start flying or for them to get personal. Nor did it take long for the tabloids to start speculating about a possible successor, before they had even landed in Frankfurt. And what a strange little list they’ve cooked up; Jurgen Klopp, Julian Nagelsmann, Stefan Kuntz, Jupp Heynckes (just what are these people smoking I’d like to know), Arsene Wenger, Matthias Sammer and last but not least Hansi Flick. It seems like the so called journalists are just as bad as the crazies on the internet. But I’m not getting involved with that, not this time, I’m not wasting my time arguing with randoms on the internet. Not because Jogi isn’t worth defending, more that they aren’t worth the energy.
Though there is one very important point I have to mention, they are not as some tabloids have taken to saying “Ex world champions.” Not yet they aren’t, until the next team wins that trophy they are still world champions. And the players who won in 2014 (and Jogi too) will always be champions. They won the world cup, they won the confed cup – nothing can ever change that, no matter what happens next.
And it’s for a similar reason that I’m not going to write out the little rant about the Erdogan situation, or anything else. There’s enough negativity and criticism going around, there’s no need to add to it. Getting angry won’t change what happened. As for being upset I think I’m pretty much done with that now, actually I was done with the tears by the end of the post-match show. Done with being upset but not the disappointment, that will take a lot longer to go away. Whilst the anger is disappearing the sense of a stunned silence and a “I can’t believe that really happened” feeling is still there. The anxiety over waiting for Jogi’s decision does not make it any easier. Not that I plan on sitting around waiting to see what happens. Germany are out of the world cup but the summer is not over, there’s still the rest of the world cup to watch and I hate to admit it but it hasn’t disappointed. And more importantly I have the Jogi highlights to put together from the last game. I’ve been putting it off, waiting for it all to sink in properly, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen anytime soon.
On the subject of obsessions this would logically speaking be the perfect time to walk away from all of this, to make a clean break and move onto something new. It has after all been four years and it’s been quite a while since I’ve had an obsession that has lasted that long. Logical it may be, but I can’t, not like this. Besides I don’t think you get to choose when an obsession is over and done with, at least I never have, they tend to have a life of their own. And I’m just not done with this one yet.
The title could refer to the last world cup, but it actually has another meaning. It’s been four years since I started posting on here and I honestly never thought I’d stick with it that long. In those four years it somehow feels like a lot has happened and yet nothing at the same time. In the last year in particular things happened that I never imagined would actually happen. I think about death quite a lot, write about it and spend way more time than I should planning the perfect death. Yet I never imagined I’d actually try to do it. Obviously I didn’t succeed, and I’m still not really sure if that’s a good thing or not.
The point is I didn’t and all this stuff about getting knocked out of the world cup being the worst thing to happen ever and the end of the world got me thinking about the matter. It got me thinking about Robert Enke, even if ARD hadn’t aired that documentary a few weeks ago my thoughts would have gone to him. If I could remember the quote I’m thinking of I’d quote Jogi on the matter, I’m sure he said something about how losing a match or getting knocked out of a tournament isn’t the worst feeling in the world/the worst that can happen, things like Enke dying, that’s the worst thing. I think I might finally be mature enough to see things that way. I wasn’t a few years ago, back then I thought Freiburg getting relegated was the end of the world. Now this hurts a lot more than relegation ever could, but the principle is the same. I’m not going to lie and say football is just a game because it’s not, it means so much more than that. But I know life goes on after this, I’m not spending days moping around because of it.
There’s a picture from tonight’s after show which can sum up my ramblings better than I ever could. Translated it means “Success makes it easy to be proud.” It’s easy to support a team when they’re winning and doing great, like it was easy to support Freiburg in the 2016/17 season when they were having one of their best seasons ever. The season that followed it was a lot more difficult to endure, but it never crossed my mind to abandon them. And the same goes for Jogi and die Mannschaft. There’s no earthly reason I can see to do that. When this obsession is done (if it ever is) I’ll know it, and now is not the time.
At this rate I wasn’t sure there was going to be a first post of the year, let alone need to worry what it would end up being about. I would have said that Hansi won the day but with Hoffenheim losing 4-1 to Leverkusen that’s not strictly true. It’s Freiburg who are the real winners of the day, beating Leipzig 2-1. As happy as I am about that victory (not so much because of the three points but more getting to beat Leipzig) I wasn’t even sure my first post would be football related. The past week I’ve thought more about handball than football and it’s the other Bundestrainer that’s been the focus of my attention, it’s not a Jogi week but a Prokop week. And funnily enough before becoming the coach of the national handball team Christian Prokop coached none other than Leipzig. I didn’t really get handball before but I have to admit it’s exciting to watch. And interesting in the sense that it too uses VAR though it seems to be used a little quicker and more effectively than in football. Despite the time it’s been taking up it’s not a new obsession exactly, well maybe it is, but it’s not one to compete with the ones I already have. If it were then I wouldn’t have cared about Hansi’s interview today or the fact the presenter was Peter who’s one of my favorites.
Whatever the last post of the year was about I wanted it to be Jogi related in some way. I should have written this post after I got back but somehow never found the time, and with today being the 31st I guess it’s the perfect time. I still can’t believe that it actually happened, that instead of being in my room watching that stuff on TV I was actually there. I just wish I could have gotten more pictures and video. Unsurprisingly I’m not too good with a camera, turns out twitchy people and cameras don’t mix. The cold didn’t help either, nor did the fact I was trying to keep hold of so many things at once. Should I go autograph hunting again I will definitely be better prepared next time. Still I did at least manage to get some good pictures of Jogi and video too. Unfortunately I didn’t get one of Matze, he was standing right in front of me. Whilst he was signing the shirt I could easily have snapped a picture right then but I guess I wasn’t even thinking . I was a little awed by the fact he was right in front of me and he was so much taller than I expected.
As important as getting a Jogi autograph was getting one from Matze was definitely the best part of the whole experience. That’s probably the one moment of the trip I’m actually quite proud about. It’s not a word I use often, not a word I like either. But that’s how I feel about that moment. The reason being it’s one of those rare moments in my life when I spoke up for myself and it paid off. Had I not called out Matze’s name as he walked to the bus he would have carried on walking and I never would have gotten his signature, never would have got to see him standing right in front of me.I got quite a few signatures in total, Mario Götze, Julian Draxler, Lars Stindl, Per Mertesacker and a few others I can neither remember nor identify. And not forgetting one from the DFB president and Oliver Bierhoff. As for Jogi I didn’t get one signature, I got three separate ones. One on the very special piece of paper I wanted signed (a list of every Freiburg game I’ve seen going back to September 2014), another in my book and this is the best one of all, my match ticket.
Despite not getting off to a very good start overall I think the trip went well, there’s definitely room for improvement and a few parts of it I wouldn’t want to repeat under any circumstances but the positives outweigh the negatives. Getting lost in London wasn’t fun at all, it was scary enough the first day in daylight when I had a vague idea where I was, the second time was terrifying. Yet it has it’s good points, I was alone and had no-one to rely on. So if I was going to find my way I had to ask for directions and figure it out. How I managed to do that I still don’t know.
The second day went better than the first, I spent the afternoon before the game waiting outside the team’s hotel and it paid off. I got a few autographs before the bus left (though not Jogi, he went straight to the bus) and watched the bus leave. I almost missed kick off because of having to rush back to the stadium but it was so worth it. Now on that point I had planned ahead, my hotel was close to the stadium so I had just enough time to drop off my stuff and get to the game. The part I was most anxious about turned out to be not so good. I was anxious enough about the prospect of queuing to get inside, I could have done without getting spat at by a no doubt drunk England fan who mistakenly thought I was a German. Same as I could have done without the Auschwitz chants on the underground on the way there. But they were the exception to the rule, almost everyone else I encountered was nothing like that.
On the subject of meeting people that was one of the big surprises of the whole experience for me. Now the social side of things didn’t go so well in one regard, but there were enough unplanned encounters to make up for it. Whilst waiting outside the hotel I got to meet and talk with several different people. It was cool being just a fan among other fans, not being the “weird” one for a change. And I even got to meet a few Germans, though some of them curiously enough seem to be baffled why I’m a fan of Jogi. Being the only fan of his there after the game certainly worked in my favour though. Then all the attention was on the players but I was waiting for Jogi, convinced that I wasn’t going to miss out this time around. Normally in social situations all I do is watch, this time I was able to make that ability work for me. I watched and waited, and finally got my chance. For once in my life hyper-awareness worked in my favour and did something other than make me anxious.
The day after the game I was meant to go on a pre-booked tour of Wembley Stadium. I didn’t end up doing that, having decided the night before there was something much more fun to do. And that was going back to the hotel in search of more autographs and pictures. I am so glad I did go back because that was when I hit the jackpot, getting the cutest pictures of Jogi ever. Getting an autograph from Lars Stindl made it worth it too. And the best part of all, I got to meet Uli the Sky reporter and get an autograph, that was unbelievably cool. I got to talk to him about a few things and one very important subject in particular. The night before I managed to catch up on some of the news online, seeing his report on TV I heard him mention Hansi. As it turned out Hansi was actually there, Uli confirmed that part. But he wasn’t staying at their hotel and I didn’t get to see him. Still it was cool just knowing he’d been there.
Many things didn’t go as planned and a lot of things could have gone better, but none of that matters. There will always be things that go wrong or don’t go exactly to plan, this trip was proof that things can still go right afterwards. This trip cost me a lot and I don’t mean financially speaking, it really wiped me out in terms of energy but it was worth it. Even the delayed meltdown/stress reaction when I got home was worth it. I’m already thinking about another trip, about going to Germany next time. Before that seemed the very definition of impossible, I’m not going to lie, it still feels a little daunting now. But less so, the prospect of it no longer seems quite so terrifying. And even if it is scary, the rewards are worth it.
They definitely kept the best till last as far as the stickers are concerned, Toni Kroos is a pretty damn good Christmas present to get. Though I’m plenty happy with my real life gifts too. That’s one of the best things about a German Christmas (other than Bratwurst at the Christmas market that is), getting your presents a day early. It means I get a head start on playing my new PC games, at least I’ll have plenty to occupy myself with whilst the Bundesliga takes it’s winter break.