An insight into playing football in Germany, Part 2.
Although you might think that generally, Germany has a distinct playing style which is harmonious with National, Bundesliga and Academy teams, it’s not necessarily the case. During my time in Germany, I played under coaches with extremely different styles and it surprised me. I had to adapt to different formations and tactics, which were all coached to the finest detail.
Matches felt like a game of chess where I was thinking carefully about my every move in the context of the coaches tactics. Every opponent posed a different yet distinct strategy and games differed massively from the open free-flowing football I was used to in England. Ultimately this experience helped me mature tactically and prepared me for the reality of professional football where you play within the constraints of the coaches strategy. I believe this process is crucial and can be a defining factor between making it in the game and not.
People before Footballers
During my five years in Germany, the importance of my overall growth as a person was very apparent. Education took precedence over football. We were encouraged to take up vocational activities, broaden our skills and be a positive part of the wider community. Above all, the club was ensuring we had a pathway beyond football.
What impressed me the most was the way the club facilitated and tailored each players development outside of football to their unique skill set. There wasn’t one generic plan that every player followed and I wasn’t restricted to Coaching Badges, to an A level or to a Sports Science BTEC. With the clubs support, I choose to complete an International Baccalaureate, allowing me to complete a university degree sometime in the future.
Whatever educational path we chose for our Scholar years, it formed the basis of our week. 8am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. The football was scheduled around our personal development. It wasn’t until I reached the U23s and secured a pathway beyond football that I became a full-time footballer.
Attention to Detail
What struck me during my first training sessions in Germany was the attention to detail. Every little detail mattered. Passing drills offer a good comparison and perspective. In England speed takes priority, reinforced by coaches and players shouting, “wrap it in”, “test his touch” or conversely “take the safety belt off”.
Where this approach has its merits, its relevance to game scenarios can be lost. No longer are you thinking about the weight of pass; what foot to pass with or too; your movement relative to your opponent or teammate, but rather how strong of a pass you can play. There is little appreciation given to the intention of your teammate.
In Germany, I was often told to pass with more care, use the appropriate foot and wait for the perfect moment. There was always a clear thought process as to how the drill would be applied to a game. This characteristic extended to possession drills, games, and with practice, there was no longer a need to be physical because all the hard work was done mentally. The ball movement was just a byproduct. Passes were thought through and constructed 3 or 4 steps before receiving the ball.
A great illustration of this was when Germany beat Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 world cup. However, whilst this attention to detail has helped me tremendously, I find too much discipline can compromise creativity and make you predictable