June 28, 2012Football reflects economics for Germany
The economic and the football nadir arrived almost simultaneously. In 1997, for the first time, Germany had fewer wage earners than people on state benefits. An overpaid workforce had shed jobs to cheaper countries. The model that created Germany’s postwar "economic miracle" had stopped working.
In football as in economics, Germany turned to two core strengths: co-operation between social partners, and learning from abroad. Almost everyone in German football, led by the national football association, agreed change was necessary. Even after an old-style physical German team somehow got to the World Cup final of 2002, they stuck with reform.
Germany is plugged into the constant exchanges of knowhow in densely populated western Europe. Germans began visiting the neighbours to understand how the Dutch, French and even the Swiss produced creative footballers. Germany’s chief scout, the Swiss Urs Siegenthaler, says: "It’s hard for a big football country if somebody comes from a little football country and indicates that he knows a bit more." Yet the Germans accepted it.
From the stands in Gdansk at the quarter final, Angela Merkel, chancellor, watched in delight as her boys taught Greece lessons on the field much as she had off it. No wonder she is telling southern European countries to restructure their economies. Germany’s reforms this decade - including better vocational training and lower wages - have paid off. The country’s unemployment rate recently hit a two-decade low of 6.7 per cent, lower than before the economic crisis.
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