If they weren't obsessed with instant profits, England could have a team as good as Germany’s

A bit of forward thinking can go a long way

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The Independent Online

You’re not supposed to like Germany. I felt the power of this rule, when drawing Germany in a World Cup sweepstake, so I’ve been instinctively wanting to lose my money, much as if I’d drawn “Innocent” in a sweepstake on Rebekah Brooks’s trial.

Traditionally, we complain about its football team being successful by putting it down to Germanic “efficiency”, as if this is cheating. If the English took charge of Fifa, we’d bring in a rule that players get a yellow card for being efficient. “Oh dear, Ozil’s in trouble there,” the commentator would say. “That pass went cynically and efficiently into the vicinity he was aiming for. He’s going to have be much more shambolic than that or next time he’ll be sent off, and quite right too.”

But now we have to accept that the clinical Germans are flamboyantly artistic, and that this hasn’t come about by chance. It’s occurred because in 2001 they set up a national development scheme, training a thousand professional coaches, with an academy attached to every club, with central long-term planning that in Britain would be dismissed as a plot to turn us into anarchist communists.

Because a nation’s football team is a reflection of its state of mind, and for 30 years we’ve been ruled by the idea that it’s a crime against humanity for anything to exist that isn’t making an instant profit. Soon there’ll be announcements on trains that go: “If you see an object that isn’t sponsored or making a profit, please report it to a member of staff immediately so the Army can destroy it in a controlled explosion.”

So our ticket prices for football matches, like our transport and energy bills, are the highest in Europe. Only a few clubs run youth academies. Within a couple of seasons the fans will be sponsored, and have to sing chants such as, “You’re SHIT if you don’t use Direct Line Insurance and you know you are”.

Each area of the pitch will be franchised out, with a Costa Coffee in the centre circle. Owners of clubs will insist they can no longer accept substitutes being paid, as this is an insult to hard-working players who run around all afternoon, and look across to see these lazy bastards taking money for nothing. So from now on they’ll only receive a small Gameseekers Allowance, as long as they can prove they’ve been to three interviews to get a game of some sort, such as a place in the starting grid of a Grand Prix.


Goalkeepers will no longer be allowed to spend long periods of each match lazing about in their penalty area doing nothing. They’ll be put on zero-hours contracts, given a call when the ball comes near their goal and then run on to make a save. Eventually they’ll be phased out altogether, as one of the midfielders can cover for them just as well, making teams more efficient with less waste.

So the idea of a German-style national academy would make British business stare into the distance with bemusement, like a Victorian gentleman told that someone had invented a helicopter. “A scheme paid for collectively? With no immediate profit or boost in share prices whose rewards would only be tangible a decade hence? I contend, sir, that such an institution would constitute a threat to all that makes us civilised and leave us as little more than earthworms.”

This is a major part of our attitude towards the German football team. “They may well operate as a cohesive unit in attack and defence, their quick passing humiliating the Brazilians to the point of national tragedy, but let us not forget this is the Hun, and to copy their methods would be to surrender our heritage and defecate upon my grandma.”

This German team is entirely a product of the new Germany. It includes players whose backgrounds are Polish, Turkish and African. Mesut Ozil said: “My feeling for the ball comes from my Turkish side.”

If an English player said anything similar, five million people would call a phone-in screaming “This country’s full up as it is without letting in this bloke’s Turkish side. I bet his Turkish side gets a council house while his English side is left on the waiting list.” And, “If he’s going to play for England he should feel for the ball with his English side and boot it into the stands like a proper Englishman.”

German clubs allocate half their shares to the fans, and famously when Borussia Dortmund played Arsenal, they were so shocked at the ticket prices the Gunners were charging, the club bought the tickets and sold them to their fans at half-price. No one can be sure, but maybe there’s a connection between that attitude and the fact that they’ve just beaten Brazil 7-1, whereas our best hope of being in a World Cup in the later stages is if we end up playing Zimbabwe in the play-off for 123rd and 124th place.

So now I’m hoping Germany win Sunday’s final, for reasons way beyond football, because it will be a victory for planning ahead and encouraging youth and collective thinking and seeing the world in terms deeper than simply what can yield a short-term profit, and also because as holder of the Germany ticket I’ll be up by a 100 quid.