No slouching in front of Qatar and FIFA, firm belief in the title dream: Thomas Müller and Antonio Rüdiger had just provided a sporting glimmer of hope with an early return to the training ground, when DFB boss Bernd Neuendorf followed up with a courageous requirement for Hansi Flick .
A World Cup opening victory for the national soccer team is practically a matter of course for the president of the association. The mood is so good just one day after moving into the exclusive Zulal Wellness Resort on the northern tip of the host country.
"A real unit"
"The squad we have there is a real unit. That applies to the coaches and players. I'm firmly convinced that we'll make a positive impression and win the game against Japan," said the 61-year-old. Germany has “really good kickers at the start” in Qatar, emphasized Neuendorf at the DFB opening press conference in the media center right next to the Al-Shamal SC training ground, which is shaped like a red fortress and which the DFB team is using for the World Cup.
Shortly before, Müller and Rüdiger, who had been ailing for weeks and were also rested for the World Cup due to hip and muscle problems at their clubs in Munich and Madrid, had brought their comeback forward by 24 hours on the national team’s day off. Together with national coach Flick and a handful of other colleagues, they trained for more than an hour. The rest of the squad relaxed again by the pool under the palm trees - or, like Jamal Musiala, Leroy Sané and Thilo Kehrer, played basketball in the gym on the site.
problem children back
The DFB said that Flick's sporting problem children, Müller and Rüdiger, had returned safely and without any apparent malaise. However, it remains to be seen whether driving force Müller and defense chief Rüdiger, who is needed for defensive stability against Japan, can keep up with the high training load announced by Flick in the next four days.
Before the first full team training session at Al-Shamal this Saturday, the stage initially belonged to the Neuendorf delegation leader. And the DFB boss, even as a World Cup newcomer, had many messages on the big official floor that one will not hear with pleasure from FIFA and its boss Gianni Infantino, nor from the tournament host Qatar.
Neuendorf explicitly did not rule out that the DFB stars would also appear publicly with campaigns for human rights and freedom of expression - beyond Manuel Neuer's one-love captain's armband. "It is discussed in the team that we reserve the right to do so, we have become very clear through the positions," said Neuendorf, who has been leading the DFB with a steady hand for eight months.
National players support SOS Children's Villages
The national team's first charity campaign presented by Neuendorf goes beyond Qatar. In the next five years, 200,000 euros from the national team's foundation and thus directly from the DFB stars will benefit an SOS children's village in Nepal. Many migrant workers come to Qatar from the Asian country. Many of them worked under internationally criticized conditions on the World Cup construction sites.
"We believe that this is a measure that sets a real sign that is sustainable," said Neuendorf about the million-dollar donation. It is about preventing a new generation of migrant workers. Therefore, the conditions of the people in the country of origin should be improved.
In Qatar, Neuendorf does not want to duck away. If the world association sanctions the DFB and other big football nations like the English, who are also critical, for the colorful captain's armband, "I would be willing to accept a fine," he assured on the DFB podium. In March, the former journalist is to succeed Peter Peters on the FIFA Council - he's definitely not making any friends there these days.
Incomprehension for FIFA ban
The politician expressed a lack of understanding for the FIFA ban on the Danish t-shirt embassy with the words "Human rights for all". Neuendorf is just as critical of the fact that FIFA is silent on the violent suppression of the protests for equal rights in the World Cup participant country Iran.
"In general, one should take a stand on this. The very courageous women in Iran deserve every attention and support," said Neuendorf. That is also a clear message to FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, whom the DFB does not want to unconditionally promise his vote for the almost certain re-election in March.