When you look at the country of the world champion, the makers of German football should be jealous.
The sometimes chaotic, but extremely euphoric triumph parade by Lionel Messi and Co. on the streets of Buenos Aires, accompanied by around five million blissful Argentines, was the emotional climax of a noticeable bond between fans and team during the World Cup in Qatar. The contrasting program could be seen in Germany two and a half weeks earlier, when the national team quickly and wordlessly fled almost unmolested after the World Cup return.
If the second World Cup preliminary round in a row doesn't even cause outrage, then the alienation between fans and the national team is far advanced. According to a survey by the opinion research institute Yougov on behalf of the German Press Agency, 46 percent of those surveyed have recently lost interest in the DFB-Elf. Poor conditions for a new summer fairy tale at the home EM in a year and a half.
Exhilaration long gone
The exhilaration of the 2006 World Cup and the World Cup triumph eight years later has long since given way to sadness. And the recently founded expert council, which is to determine the realignment, wants to tackle this first. "How do we regain enthusiasm and love for the national team, for our country's most important team?" - according to Rudi Völler, this is a crucial question for the seven-strong committee, to which the former team boss himself belongs.
The crack does not seem to be repaired with success alone. In the months leading up to the World Cup, he felt "that something had been lost," Völler told "Sport Bild". This picture was confirmed in Qatar. He felt "massive support" from other teams, and "the spark jumped over there," said DFB President Bernd Neuendorf.
And Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who also sits on the expert council, reported almost enviously from on site: "Thousands of Argentinians are walking through Doha with the Messi jersey." German fans were almost only seen on match days, and even then they were rather subtle. And at home, the viewers voted with the remote control: the weak ratings not only worry ARD and ZDF.
Players feel the rejection
The players felt the rejection of the controversial organizer, but also of the team itself. "It's frightening how much resentment the national team was shown by the public in Germany," said Niklas Füllkrug of "Sport Bild". Even as a spectator after the 2018 World Cup, he had the feeling that the DFB selection "is sometimes more likely to want failure than success".
Coach Steffen Baumgart from 1. FC Köln was also "very sad" about the lack of support: "I've never seen a country stand behind its national team as little as we do."
Neuendorf doesn't see it that negatively. Identification with the national team has not been lost, but the "fire" needs to be reignited. But how? "We have to play football with humility. And we have to put our heart and soul back into it," demanded Rummenigge, citing Morocco's World Cup surprise as a role model. National coach Hansi Flick assured: "We got it."
But even more successful and passionate football will not automatically win back the hearts of supporters, Helen Breit believes. The spokeswoman for the "Unsere KURK" fan alliance called on the German Football Association (DFB) to include the "few loyal and at the same time critical fans" in the design process.
The self-organization of the fans in connection with the national team must be strengthened again, "instead of forcing them into membership systems and only breeding event fans," said Breit of the dpa.
According to Breit, the DFB is now reaping what it has sown since the 2006 World Cup with the increasing commercialization of the national team. Unlike the stronger identification in club football, event fans stay away "if the event no longer meets the requirements. In other words: there is no sporting success," argued Breit.
A point that Rummenigge recognizes. It's now "not about marketing, not about merchandising. It's about cohesion". Oliver Bierhof once had that in the slogan "
Bierhoff's idea of developing the term "The Team" into a brand was a permanent annoyance for many fans. The DFB director resigned his post after the World Cup, the nickname has since been removed - but what does the national team stand for now?
"We have to find a root and core that is clear to everyone in Germany. That's extremely important, it gives stability and identification," said former world champion Philipp Lahm. That is "the be-all and end-all when I look at the EM 2024 in my own country," said the organizer of the home tournament to the editorial network Germany.
Werder Bremen's head of professional football, Clemens Fritz, also called for a clear profile that would appeal to the fans: "It's important for the whole nation to identify again."