Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at PostGlobal

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit. Close.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. more »

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Soccer Explains Germany

Germany--I have no idea whether soccer explains the whole world, as Franklin Foer argues in a recent book, but it certainly explains my own country.

In 1954, a rag-tag German team went to the World Cup in Switzerland. It was a national rehabilitation mission. Nine years after the War, this was the first major sports event that Germany was permitted to join. Well, the rag-tag team won the Cup and it symbolized Germany's return to the international stage. The team was always seen as highlighting Germany' virtues and vices at the time: never technically brilliant, never overly inventive, never outside the box. It was a workhorse that was well coached, good at team play, and refused to give up. In 1974, when the team won again, a changed country was on display: cheerful, individualistic, with brilliant and imaginative star midfielders. They symbolized a relaxed, matured democracy.

Then the third championship was celebrated in 1990, shortly after the fall of the Wall. It stood for newfound unity and national pride. With the addition of the East German players, the coach opined, it would be hard to beat Germany in the next decade. Well, German soccer has been in crisis for the last decade - just like the country. Germany's demographic problem was evident on the field -- old players that coaches were too timid to replace, who lacked energy and self-confidence and clinged to the old ways.

Now, a new young team is representing the country. The coach is heavily criticized for his bold reforms. He uses American methodology. He happens to live in Southern California. How terrible! The man favors risky play. He wants to get ahead and score goals, not just defend the status quo. The style of play is attractive, but prone to crises in defense. This is Germany's reform team: on the right track, but not yet ready for prime time.

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