How German Football is Setting Itself Up for Success

NEW-2014-Germany-DFB-Team-4-Stars-Logo-vector-imageUlf Schott, Director of the German Football Association (DFB) gave the keys of success of German Football. One of them being that DFB develops not only players but people with personality and character.

I arrived in Germany in April 2000 and saw first hand the pityful outcome of the German team after Euro 2000. Working for adidas, where Germany is one of the company crown jewels, it was a big thing. 

Erich Ribbeck, the National headcoach apologized on national TV, DFB lifted up their sleeves and put a long term plan together to ensure German Football success in the upcoming years. 

Runner up in World Cups 2002, 3rd in 2006, 2010 and Champions in 2014, German football is more than ever a benchmark in youth development and ultimately, how to set a Football FA for success. 

Speaking about the restructuring of German youth football in the last 15 years, Schott revealed the reasons why German football is flourishing today, and why they develop world class football players almost on a yearly basis.

It all started after Euro 2000 when Germany left the tournament in the Group Stage, with a squad consisting of only two players who were 23 years of age or younger (Sebastian Deisler, 20 and Michael Ballack, 23), and only 3 players were 25 or younger, whereas 9 players in total were 30 or older, the oldest being 39 (Lothar Matthäus).

To put that into context, the World Cup winning squad of 2014 had in total 7 players who were 23 or younger, and 14 players of the squad were 25 or younger. Only 3 players were 30 or older, the oldest being 36 (Miroslav Klose).

Euro 2000 was the wake-up call that led to the developed what they call a “youth development pyramid”.

The Grassroots level is the kids that play football everyday across the country in their teams and clubs, the same as it is in many other countries.

The second step, the Training Base Programs was to introduce 366 regional bases, serving 50-70 clubs each. This requires 1,300 part-time coaches and it usually serves around 14,000 players between ages 11-15 on a regular basis. At these regional bases, the players will go through systematic training and motorcar tests.

What’s interesting at this stage, is that 600,000 youth players are scouted at these bases every year.

The third step, is the Youth academies and elite schools. There are a total of 54 youth academies and 35 elite schools around the country. At the youth academies there are full-time coaches working, a medical department and a tight cooperation with school for their education. 22 of these 54 youth academies are certified 3* academies, the highest certification possible.

Since 2006, the German Football Federation also started to open Elite Schools. At these schools, there is additional training. There is a coordination of academic and athletic concerns and standardised practice plans. These schools aim develop not only players but people, personality and character of the players too.

After this stage, you reach the top of the pyramid, which would be to be part of the youth national-teams. Ulf Schott gave the examples of Thomas Müller, André Schürrle and Ilkay Gündogan as three players who have gone through all parts of this development pyramid.

Next, Schott presented more interesting statistics showing how impressive their youth development is. 100% of U21 National-Team players have played in the Bundesliga. For the U20 team, it’s 89%. For U19 it’s 78% and U18, 71%.

This clearly shows that there is a huge amount of talented players coming through the national-teams who get to develop by playing on the highest level of German league football.

Schott also explained that the development of coaches has been important. There are 856 holders of the DFB pro licence – the highest level licence. After this, there are 4,566 A Licence holders and 4,378 Elite Youth Licence holders. Another interesting part of this is that youth academies must employ at least 2 pro licence holders, ensuring that the youth players gets the best coaching possible to aid their development.

The Youth League system has also been set up for optimal player development. There are organized leagues and cups with finals being played in big venues with numerous fans. Furthermore, the youth national-team set up has been developed to be extremely professional – an initiative by Matthias Sammer.

Even the youth teams have video analysts, medics, pitmen, chefs, and much more. There is an annual €135 million investment into youth football every year. There is also a rule in place to make sure youth clubs get compensation for developing talented players when they leave.

And lastly, the DFB Academy has been built, covering a 15 ha area in which they have all the necessary amenities to produce top talent. [Source:]

I have become a big fan of German Football. Not only the Bundesliga is the most financially sustainable league, the National Team also provides significant results. A long term plan involving several parties, but at the end of the day, the only winner is German football.

Karl Lusbec