German football is centralized in Frankfurt

The footballers’ cleats will wait a bit. For now, please bring a helmet and safety shoes instead to walk around the site. For residents of the residential district of Frankfurt am Main, a sign indicates the construction of the future headquarters of the German Football Association; the Deutscher Fussball-Bund (DFB), in the language – and hometown – of Goethe. Opening scheduled for 2022, three years after the laying of the foundation stone in the presence of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German players – who meet England on Tuesday June 29 in London in the round of 16 of Euro 2021 – will have to wait a few more months.

If the institution plans to move 3 kilometers from its current offices, it is because it needs space, sufficient space to finally equip itself with a national training center. Three and a half open-air plots are to adjoin the future administrative building. As well as thirty double rooms to accommodate visiting teams, when the sheep have finished grazing the grass of the old municipal racecourse.

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German football is centralized. Almost a shame, in the Federal Republic, so much the regional Länder can still seem jealous of their autonomy. “It took a lot of work to convince our regional structures of the value of building a central ‘academy'”, explains Winfried Nass, responsible for the technical management of the project for the federation, in the bungalow serving as his office. It will also take a lot of money. Estimated cost – already up compared to the initial set-up – for the imposing federation: 150 million euros.

Inspiration from the FFF

Here there will be a foosball table or a pool table. There, a television screen. Fluorescent jacket on the back for the visit, Martin Spitzl can already be seen there: “We will make sure that the players want to stay together after practices and form a team, not to go directly to their rooms”, specifies this other “site manager” of the DFB. Before a match, a competition or for an internship … the complex will be aimed at all German national teams. Both male and female, from the categories of young people under 15 to adults.

Perhaps by Jacobin reflex, the French visitor will think of the town of Clairefontaine (Yvelines) and the National Football Institute, a structure created in 1988. Pre-teens train there all year round, and the various French teams gather there before the big deadlines. “Other national federations, such as the French Football Federation, for example, naturally inspired us”, recognizes, in a written response, Panagiotis Chatzialexiou, sports director in charge of youth for the DFB. The leader insists on the specificity of the future “campus” including the headquarters and the “academy” of training, according to official anglicisms. It will reunite ” under the same roof “ passing players and administrative staff. Not like in France, England or Italy, where offices and land are in separate cities.

German football is centralized. Almost a shame, in the Federal Republic, as the regional Länder remain jealous of their autonomy

Two decades ago, Germany had already been able to draw inspiration from abroad to take into account the vastness of its territory: 7 million licenses, players, coaches and managers included, for 83 million inhabitants. When the Mannschaft left Euro 2000 in the first round, German leaders decided to observe elsewhere: in France, the Netherlands and even Spain.

The federation now links the territory through 366 bases (Stützpunkte) distributed and funded across the country. Workshops are offered every Monday to a few young people, in addition to training with their clubs. The best of them have a dream: to attract the attention of a training center of a professional team. Or, for a tiny minority, later play for the national team, imitating the course of six of the 2014 world champions, including Toni Kroos and André Schürrle.

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Rail and air service

The windows of the future campus offer a view of the towers of Bankfurt: the business district of Frankfurt am Main, across the river. The federation has been in the metropolis since 1951, two years after the partition of Germany, and despite its foundation in Leipzig in 1900.

Why Frankfurt? Response from Mr. Nass: “Because I was born here! “ More seriously: without going back to the Paulskirche (Saint-Paul church) and the Parliament of 1848, the importance of the site is mainly due to its rail and air service. In fact, the DFB site is located less than ten minutes by car from the busiest airport in the country.

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It also runs along a national road, the Kennedyallee, named after the former American head of state. The future address of the federation will be there at number 274: reference to the 1974 World Cup, the second of the four world titles won by the Mannschaft players. Precision of Martin Spitzl: “As it is a national road, we will use this entrance only for VIPs, but, on a daily basis, we will go through another street. “

Serial resignations

At the sporting level, these days make a little less proud, between setbacks on the ground and institutional crisis. On Russian soil, the Germans left the 2018 World Cup in the first round, although title holders; as fast as at Euro 2000. Outside the field, the DFB is continuing its work today without a president. Fritz Keller resigned in May for comparing one of his vice presidents to a former Nazi judge. This would almost become a habit, since the two predecessors of Mr. Keller had also had to give up their functions. First Wolfgang Niersbach, in 2015, after the alleged corruption scandal around the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Then Reinhard Grindel, in April 2019, for accepting a luxury watch.

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As it stands, the important discussions are taking place with the general treasurer. And sometimes, decisions for the site are improvised. As for “The color of the carpet” part of the building, says Martin Spitzl. He announces it: it will be a variant of beige.