In the absence of anything else negative to report following the two successful World Cup qualifiers and two clean sheets, the main talking point in the press on German national team matters this week has been Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp’s ‘attack’ on Joachim Löw. The Bundestrainer has, in his opinion, ‘singled out’ his Dortmund players for criticism. This ‘singling out’ appears to originate from just two incidents, the dropping of Hummels, going through a run of poor form, from said qualifiers, and criticism of Schmelzer a year ago.
Yes, just two incidents. In twelve months.
Conveniently forgotten appear to be the numerous times Löw has praised Dortmund players, such as Ilkay Gündogan: and indeed Klopp and the club themselves, in addition to his stressing Hummels’ ‘important role’ within the national team as recent as last week.
I hope the supporters of Klopp will not mind if I feel the action of making unsubstantiated allegations of favouritism against a colleague direct to a media always eager to exaggerate a story, well aware of the effect they would have in undermining his fellow professional in the run-up to what will be a very challenging year in his career, not a particularly admirable trait. Far better surely, the behaviour of Freiburg’s Christian Streich who recently refused to take the bait of a media desperate for another “XYZ kritisiert Jogi” headline, refusing to comment on the usual loaded questions against the Bundestrainer.
If the day ever comes when a coach cannot drop and select players as he feels fit, and is not allowed to comment on a poor performance or respond to a lack of form for fear of accusations from others within his profession, I seriously fear for the future of football.
I have found in my experience that all those allied to any particular club adopt an approach best suited to the most neurotic of soap opera teenagers, feeling that their club is somehow being ‘picked on’ if the left out player comes from within their ranks. They remain, of course, conveniently silent on the matter of bias when one of their players is the one to benefit on another occasion.
As someone who sees the whole picture from another viewpoint, I see absolutely no favouritism whatsoever towards or against any club from Jogi. Any coach has the right to pick the players he wants, those he feels are in form, and those who best suit what he requires on any particular match occasion. To structure his team, and to replace and call-up as he sees fit. And that is the way it should stay. For any sport. At any level.
And those who provide the media with ammunition to fire at others should be careful. One day the tables may be turned and that metaphoric gun might just be pointing at them.
At the press conference after the Austria game, Jogi explained his reason for selecting Boateng over Hummels were purely down to the form both has exhibited in the early Bundesliga games. While match reports and player ratings don’t always tell the full story, reading them makes it very hard to counter his opinion.
Every week throughout every land, coaches in schools and in youth sport make difficult decisions that involve selecting ‘a’ over ‘b’. For someone in such a prominent position as Klopp to accuse Löw of “favouritism” gives every schoolkid the chance to do likewise.
I have a talented 14-year-old daughter who has competed in youth sport at a national level. She was recently ‘dropped’ from her school’s ‘A’ hockey team, by a new coach who wanted to try out different defensive formations and rotate his squad. So what did I do? Did I go running and screaming into the school and accuse him of ‘singling out’ my family’? No, I told my daughter to play her best-ever game for the B’s, and make herself invaluable for the A team when she was re-instated the next week.
Guess what? She did, she was and she has.
Perhaps those at grass roots level can sometimes teach the ones higher up the sporting ladder how to behave.
As for the resurrected comments about Schmelzer, those of us with good memories might just recall that in the days immediately following the criticism he appeared to up his game threefold, so much so that he won two man-of-the-match awards for his club within the following ten days and universal praise for his rejuvenated performances. The predictable yellow-and-black wall of smug self-satisfaction cried out: “Jogi is being proved wrong”.
Oh no he wasn’t. Jogi was being proved right.
Revised 19 September 2013
As it is not possible to subscribe to German Sky TV in the UK and such interviews are not available online, I am only able to refer to what Klopp is quoted as saying in the press. It is believed a later interview with ZDF, he appeared to back away from any criticism.
However the reported critical comments from Klopp’s Sky interview have been repeated in the media, with numerous discussions on social networks, particularly from Dortmund fans supporting the alleged claims. I therefore feel I have every right and make no apology for giving my opinion and defending Jogi and his management team against what is being reported and subsquently discussed.