Ahead of Ireland’s clash with Germany in Cologne, Ron Ullrich of the cult German football magazine 11freunde.de examines Giovanni Trapattoni’s impact in Munich and the far from unanimous support for current national team coach Joachim Löw.
Are there achievements a team manager could strive for during his engagement in a foreign country besides trophies and titles? Yes, indeed he might change the language of that country and establish new phrases. As did Giovanni Trapattoni when he was team manager of Bayern Munich in the 90s. His eruption during a press conference in April 1998 is legendary. Trap’s dictum of ‘Flasche leer’ (empty bottle) and ‘Ich habe fertig’ (maybe I have finished) or the pronunciation of then-midfielder Thomas Strunz as ‘Struuuunz’ are common in nowadays linguistic usage and are even being transferred into other fields like politics. The socialist Democratic Party used his quotes in the election campaign. There was also a TV show on a German news channel entitled with Trap’s quote ‘Was erlaube Strunz’ for the presenter had the same surname.
The German’s view on Trapattoni is shaped rather by admiration than mockery, though. So German fans were reminded of his time at Bayern when they heard about his new catch phrases (“The cat is in the sack”) but also of his success leading Ireland to Euro 2012. A true perfectionist in tactics and a proponent of discipline, he had won the German championship in 1997 and cup in 1998, and had proven his master class in coaching. Especially after listening to the chant of the Irish supporters praising Trap (“He used to be Italian, but he’s Irish now”), the combination of the wise old manager and the passionate Irish football fans seemed like the perfect combination.
“For us, it was only a matter of time before Trap would be named as a new member of The Dubliners.”
But judging by the Euro games and the first leg against Germany, the performances of the Irish team gave us the impression that he remains unimaginative. Since that result, a lot of German supporters have envisaged Trap’s sacking, without a cat, for almost a year. And because it has now come about, the interest in the Irish team has admittedly declined.
The Germans are simply too busy discussing the role of their own team manager, Joachim Löw. Since they lost the semi-final against Italy last year, he has been heavily criticised by both media and supporters. Löw is characterized as the bohemian team manager, wearing the trendiest suits and scarves, promoting hand cream in TV ads, and defending the beauty of attacking football. Whereas some Germans consider him as off-hook, some dislike the Löwian football for its ineffectiveness and wish for grass-eating characters in the squad. When Löw was recently pictured eating ice-cream while attending a football match, some of his detractors went through the roof as they did when Germany gave away a 4-0-lead against Sweden. It is said that Löw’s contract will be extended for two more years once the team achieve the missing point to secure World Cup qualification. But the babbling will go on one way or another.
So during this week the papers were full of stories questioning Löw’s call-ups for the game against Ireland. He once again left out Stefan Kießling, the top-class striker of Bayer Leverkusen, and Roman Weidenfeller, goalkeeper of Borussia Dortmund. A cartoonist summed it up in a drawing that shows Kießling juggling and Weidenfeller swallowing a sword – while Löw walks past ignoring both of them. Kießling and Weidenfeller won’t get a chance, no matter what they do – this is the public opinion. Both cases are quite strange: Weidenfeller was one of the key figures of the success of Dortmund during the past three years. And after injuries to Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez the team lacks forwards. True forwards, to be more specific. Because Löw now intends to put a midfielder up front and calls it a ‘false nine’ (Number nine on the shirt). It is the Pep Guardiola style that Löw, the admirer of the Barcelona way, now adopts for Germany.
But pictures last Sunday showed how awkward it can end up when a German robe is imposed on the spirit of Barcelona. At the Oktoberfest festival, Pep Guardiola was forced to wear Bavarian costumes and a Seppl hat. It looked like a hostage-taking. Löw never took part in the disguise of Munich (Trap did) but one thing is for sure, if he is not successful next summer, his situation might be as uncomfortable as Pep felt in the Wiesn tent. The majority of the demanding German public expects nothing less than the title in Brazil.