For the German Football Federation and its President Wolfgang Niersbach, it has already been a successful week, even before the major knockout matches are played in the Women’s World Cup and the U21 European Championship this weekend.
It started well with the success of the referendum in Frankfurt on Sunday. The opposition to the construction of the new DFB Academy on the grounds of the racecourse was undone by the lack of participation by those who were against the proposal – the approximately €90 million megaproject can now be implemented as planned by 2018.
The attention then turned to athletic performance and the successful qualification of the mens U21 national team and the women for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio – after both teams did not qualify for the London 2012 games. For the women this has been the great exception, but for the junior men on the other hand it was quite normal to be a spectator.
Many highly talented U21 teams have failed over the past 27 (!) years in their attempts to reach the final rounds of challenging for Olympic gold. Hence more reason to praise successful coach Horst Hrubesch and his team.
Although the German team was with studded with stars like the gifted Marc ter Stegen from Barcelona and Dortmund’s World Champion Mathias Ginter, as well as Liverpool’s Emre Can, they still found life difficult in two of the three group matches and had to hang on until the final whistle of the third match to make the semi-finals, mainly due to the number of missed chances against the Czech Republic.
But the great role models, the U21 European Champions of 2009, had similarly has major problems in qualifying – but those problems were soon forgotten. Nevertheless, the current DFB juniors have to release the handbrake if they want to be at the top of the European podium at the end of the Prague championship.
The Olympics, however, are for almost all the players still a long way away. Firstly because many of the key players will be too old to participate with the rule on age limits. Secondly, because the remaining top talent face the threat of being withheld from the tournament by their clubs as the Olympic competition collides with preparation for the new Bundesliga season.
It is an important, and desirable, that the DFL and DFB send the strongest German U21 team to Rio. An Olympic gold medal on the same ground where Germany triumphed in the World Cup would bring untold benefits for the image of German football.
Martin Volkmar is a member of the Editorial Board of leading German sports channel SPORT1 and Head of the Online Desk (www.sport1.de). He has covered, among others, two World cups, two European Championships and four Champions League finals.