Source: Youth Football Scotland
Youth Football Worldwide: Germany
In this section of Youth Football Scotland, we will look at how nations from around the footballing world, both major and minor, have approached the development of their youth systems. We will see how different countries put a different emphasis on their youth set ups and how they relate to the countries game in general.
Series editor Alan Evans and his team of writers looks at the ideas and strategies implemented throughout the world on how best to develop young footballers at all levels of the game. This should not be seen as a critique on the Scottish system, nor a way of suggesting how things should be done differently by the SFA. This is simply about exploring the different ideas that suit each nation individually.
Ross Dunbar reports…
German football has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the past decade and the Bundesliga can, arguably, claim to be the best football league in the world. The Bundesliga’s rise to success can be largely put down to the 2000 Bundesliga report which analysed the major problems within German football at the time. However, unlike the Henry McLeish review, it was carried out by people with huge experience in the game from professional to grassroots level and it was approved across the board with no hint of political instability.
Since then, the DFB (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) and the league governing bodies have worked very closely at improving the German game overall. In Germany, you will not find much conflict between governing bodies and in the past decade there has been significant changes in the structure of the game.
There has been huge investment into German football over the past 10 years with a number of new stadiums and facilities constructed across the country. From the 18 current Bundesliga clubs, 11 stadiums have seen major renovation with a combined cost of over €1bn and 5 other new stadiums have been constructed worth over €750m (the state of the art Allianz Arena in Munich is pictured).
It is now a requirement for all Bundesliga and Bundesliga.2 clubs to have Youth Academies which meet certain criteria. In the top league, these academies must have development groups at all ages and a written development programme. In the 2008/2009 season, 91 players from academies in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga.2 managed to get on to the field for the first time. Professional clubs in Germany maintained over 270 youth teams with over 5,000 players and there are 121 national football centres in the country. As of 2007/2008, over €70m was being spent into Youth Development per year, that figure will have increased due to the thriving economy of the Bundesliga.
After a run to the World Cup final in 2002, the Germans fell out of the European Championships in 2004 and that proved to be a step too far for the experienced players who were inches away from success just 2 years earlier. Major questions were asked of the German national team and a number of the regulars like Kahn, Bierhoff, Bobic, Hamman, Schneider and Nowotny ended their international careers on a sour note. Jurgen Klinsmann was in the dugout for the 2006 World Cup held in Germany and the new-look hosts finished 3rd in the competition. Joachim Löew (pictured, left) took over for Euro 2008 in Austria/Switzerland and took the Germans one step further than 2006 to the final losing out to Spain.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a milestone in the development of the German game. Joachim Löew continued in the role and his side were one of the most impressive teams of the competition. A number of new faces made their World Cup debuts like Manuel Neuer, Holger Badstuber, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Marko Marin. Muller, in particular, was was one of the standout performers of the tournament and was the top goalscorer with 5 goals. Muller had an outstanding year in the Bundesliga under Louis Van Gaal and only a year before that was playing in the third-tier of German football. The young striker became a regular in the title-winning side with 14 goals in 34 league games and also played a huge part in leading FC Bayern to the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid. His FC Bayern team-mate, HolgerBadstuber, was a surprise call-up to the World Cup squad and came from nowhere to feature in 33 Bundesliga games in his debut season.
The average age of that stunning German squad was just 24 and 19 of the 23-man squad graduating from Bundesliga academies with the other 4 coming from Bundesliga.2 academies. The German systems focus on small-sided games and emphasizing touch and technique. Thomas Albeck, head of youth development at VFB Stuttgart said: “We start with the U-9s. They play four-a-side, on small pitches, to encourage individual skills,”
The small-sided games format is now being replicated across youth systems in Germany following a study by the University of Cologne in 1996. In the study, three games were tried and compared: 11-a-side, 7-a-side and small games such as 5v5 or 4v4. The study was carried out 6-10 year-olds and they found that when they played 11-a-side games on full pitches the youngsters were getting less touches, especially in the midfield area. The 7-a-side game had a similar outcome with hardly any build-up in midfield and less creativity was being used because all the goals were coming from long passes out of defence. The 4-a-side game was the best outcome and it allowed more technical training rather than a focus on tactics and positions. There were far more shots, far more touches and a number of one-on-one situations, but more importantly, less ground was being covered and it allowed the players to concentrate on what they were doing with the ball.
It is clearly a simple study which has revolutionised the German youth system as we used to know it. The FC Koln youth academy make players focus on technique 75% of the time they are on the training field which is normally around 4 or 5 days a week.
One of the new faces within German Football is TSG Hoffenheim (right) who only won promotion to the top-flight 2 years ago. Their owner DietmarHopp has invested heavily in infrastructure and has refrained from spending big on individuals stars. Hoffenheim now have one of the most recognised youth programmes in German football and have 3 basic stages of training. The youngest are encouraged to have fun in football and the club invest £3m a year into community coaching. The basic level is based on small-sided games from the Cologne study which allows fun, competitive and technical games to be carried out. In the ‘intermediate’ section, players are organised into tactical positions and that is taught along with the technical skills which they want to ‘groove into the player’. Only when players reach 15-16 do they look at 11-a-side games with tactics and some clubs in Germany have actually began looking at 9-a-side and 10-a-side games before making the step-up to the 11s.
Germany is beginning to exert itself as the superpower of world football. Their domestic league is thriving with a huge core coming from the German youth system which have enjoyed serious financial investment and the new development programmes are flourishing with more and more talented youngsters emerging in the top leagues in Europe.