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DFB-Elf a passenger without stopping: Driverless football train races towards ominous World Cup

DFB-Elf a passenger without stopping
Driverless football train races towards ominous World Cup

By Stephan Uersfeld, Leipzig

A disappointing 0-1 draw against Hungary in their last home game before the World Cup. Two months before the start of the desert tournament, the DFB-Elf drives around coach Flick on sight. She is not alone in this. A whole country is racing towards a potentially fatal winter. Football is no longer suitable for escapism.

The Winter World Cup in Qatar is just a rumble of thunder in the din of these days. The world has more important things to take care of. There is war in Europe and soon winter will come, soon the cold will open new wounds in society. And Qatar? This is football! The tournament is to be rejected. At least until it starts. That has long been decided. “Boycott! Boycott! Boycott!” is shouted from all corners and this time it will be the same. The tournament will not get everyone. Escapism does not outshine every injustice.

Ever since the unworthy award in December 2010, new abysses have opened up. Everything has been worked up, just not by those responsible, little has changed. More and more new abysses opened up – and more and more new abysses will open up.

Nobody likes Qatar. At least among the football fans in the corners of the league.

(Photo: IMAGO/Team 2)

The world tournament has long since become a symbol of football’s alienation from those who, as is customary in the industry, are no longer even referred to as stakeholders: the fans, who over the years have been retrained to become consumers. But consumers no longer follow unconditionally. Consumers look for new products when the old one no longer suits them. Gone stupid. The accusations of the former fans, the new consumers are brutal and they are hard to refute.

What Qatar is and what the DFB is doing

Qatar, this is greed. Qatar, these are allegations of corruption. Qatar, there are human rights violations, there are deaths on the construction sites. Qatar, this is homophobia. Qatar, that is sports washing in its purest form. Qatar, these are air-conditioned stadiums. Qatar, this is a calculated assault on the mind. Qatar is the Mount Everest of the dirty power machine FIFA.

Football was silent for almost a decade and with it the DFB, shaken by so many scandals, only close to the tournament, and with the new DFB President Bernd Neuendorf, that changed in the past few months. But all of this takes time, doesn’t happen quickly enough, comes far too late, should enable the DFB team to focus purely on sport. The critics are loud and they have many arguments.

But the DFB is doing something. More than most football associations from the participating countries. Workshops follow workshops. Human rights activists confront the association and national players with reality. Rainbow pads become “One Love” pads, provoke even more excitement. National players become “rainbow cowards” on the boulevard that was still shooting at refugees the day before. The second name of the DFB is still trouble. He always makes one more outrage offer. Even if he only meant it well and seriously well.

They just wanted to play football

Corona is not over yet either. As the national team only found out this week. Captain Manuel Neuer and midfielder Leon Goretzka left the DFB-Elf for Munich after a positive test without having achieved anything. “It was good preparation. We don’t know what’s going to happen in Qatar. It can also happen to us there. We have to react to it, we have to deal with the situation in the best possible way,” said Hansi Flick, who likes to see positive things out of negative moments sucks.

Everything is a test for the World Cup these days. All day-to-day business and all the pressure on the national players, who are supposed to get rid of the Qatar problem and with it the football system in 2022 in just a few words. They won’t succeed. Because just a boycott would trigger something. would trigger something. Only what?

Corona as a side topic, Qatar and all the injustices related to the tournament as the main topic. The DFB cannot avoid it. The association and therefore the players are now under pressure from the noisy public, who no longer want to take part in all of this. Not in football, which has been showing them the middle finger for far too long and in which you can no longer lose yourself. Even though that was the promise. Back when the pandemic started and humility returned for a short time.

Suddenly, but not so suddenly, the national players are confronted with the simultaneity of the crises. They no longer surpass football, they are omnipresent. They just wanted to play football, make money, do Instagram stories and maybe even win the title in the end. But with the huge amounts, the responsibility increases. Football is no longer fun. Flat jokes remain flat jokes. There’s less laughter now.

The train rushes unstoppable

And from a sporting point of view, Qatar 2022 is not that easy. The external factors are compounded by the insanity of the game calendar. To get to Qatar, the internationals have to jump out of the fast-moving club football bandwagon and grow into a unit within a few days. There has never been a last home game before a World Cup so late in the year and yet so far away from the tournament. In almost exactly two months, on November 23, 2022, the DFB team against Japan will begin their journey into the unknown. Just under a week before, Flick pulls together his 26 for Qatar.

Another friendly in Dubai, against Oman, and off to Qatar on November 17th. No training camp in South Tyrol, no opportunities for team building. That was always the great strength until Joachim Löw’s last world tournament failed in 2018. This time it doesn’t. Straight in. The players bring the club ballast of the last few months unfiltered. Frightening prospects at the moment.

As Thomas Müller noted after the defeat in Leipzig. The crisis in the clubs, he said and probably meant the crisis in Bavaria, puts a strain on the team. In addition to Bayern’s crisis of the century, Leipzig’s fall into midfield and the general indisposition of Dortmund’s players. The scaffolding is shaking. Kai Havertz, İlkay Gündoğan, Antonio Rüdiger and Thilo Kehrer are all struggling at their club.

“Those who aren’t there have their chances,” said Flick after the defeat against Hungary, in which those who were there weren’t convincing: “We’re taking a close look and seeing how each individual player is developing.”

Nobody knows anything

Which means: The door is open for Mario Götze, whose passes in the penalty area could break up a game – if the 2014 World Cup hero plays them. The door is also open for Youssoufa Moukoko, who has proven his joker and header qualities at BVB. The door is also open for Niclas Füllkrug, who likes to score late for Werder Bremen. And of course the door is also open for Mats Hummels, Julian Draxler or Karim Adeyemi. And for Armel Bella-Kotchap, the pride of everyone in Bochum. Who is light-hearted enough to just play soccer? Who brings the form? Who gets injured and who suddenly can’t hit the ball anymore?

The club football fast train will continue to race on from next week. He will find answers to these questions. He races without a break. Until almost the World Cup. Winter is coming to Germany. The people of the country are restless and terribly nervous. The thunder of the World Cup has so far been nothing more than a roar in the roar of these days. There is war outside, on the battlefields in Ukraine and in people’s minds. Outside is inflation and energy crisis. It’s not so nice outside anymore and football, with its World Cup, can no longer even contribute its part to the “bread and circuses” formula. If you don’t get bread, you don’t care about games.

Two months before the desert tournament, we don’t know anything. Two months before the World Cup, national coach Hansi Flick doesn’t know anything either. The train is going somewhere. Everything is daily business.

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