Continual controversy has circulated over the past 18 months, with much criticism directed at Joachim Löw for his non-selection of Stefan Kiessling for Germany and much sympathy for Kiessling’s predicament. Hardly a month went by, it would seem, without Kiessling feeling the need to turn to the tabloid press, his favourite mode of communication, to speak of his non-selection for the German team.
Now, despite protesting that he no longer wanted to talk about it, Kiessling has appeared again, this time in the world of advertising, smiling down on everyone from billboards in Germany, seemingly causing much amusement by telling everyone that it is in fact “better at home” in the week the German team jet off to Brazil.
While the line “Methinks [s]he doth protest too much” instantly springs to my mind as yet again we witness the spectacle of this man appearing in the media telling us all that he ‘frankly doesn’t give a damn’ and thus eliciting both compliments and sympathy, perhaps we should ask one question – Is Stefan Kiessling really deserving of this sympathy?
Ultimately it is a coach’s decision to pick who he wants, allied to how he sees the formation of the team he is sending out, and previously Löw had commented on Kiessling not fitting in with his team’s philosophy. Having been a top scorer in the Bundesliga, however, I would have agreed with his right to rue his luck in this respect in the past and feel he deserved a chance to show what he was made of at international level.
However any such sympathy should disappear when we look at events during 2013.
The German squad had a tour for the US scheduled in May/June 2013, and with both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund players (a great majority of the potential squad) involved in the Champions League final, this was the perfect opportunity for any players on the periphery of the team to state their case. So what did Kiessling do? Make a public announcement that he that he was not available for selection., four days before Joachim Löw was due to announce his squad.
After the Euro 2012 dismissal, there was much talk in Germany of the need to show pride in playing for your country, the non-singing of the national anthem by some players apparently epitomising this ‘lack of pride – an opinion I happen to completely disagree with but nevetheless one that was certainly present in Germany after their exit (I was in the country at the time). So where does this place a player who actually turns his back on the possible chance of representation, however aggrieved he might feel about the past?
Some might say Kiessling would have been in a win/win situation. Having shown his eagerness to take part, he would have had full sympathy had he not been chosen. Had he been selected, it would have been the perfect opportunity to prove his coach wrong for not having selected him earlier.
Meaningless though the US tour might have appeared to be to some, such tours are an integral build-up to any major tournament. Not only do players participate in the whole touring experience and living together as a unit, they are given the chance to impress both on the pitch as a player and off the pitch as an individual and team member. Any player turning his back on any such chance is hardly likely to endear himself to either his management team or his potential future team-mates, who themselves have made such a commitment after having an equally hard season.
Needless to say many criticised Löw for not taking Kiessling on this tour, apparently completely unaware that the striker had made the decision to withdraw himself.
So we now turn to the 2013/14 season. In a press conference in August 2013 Joachim Löw spoke of the forward role and said that while Gomez and Klose were his first options, he also mentioned Kiessling as being in contention.
What was Kiessling’s reaction? A mere two days later, he announced to the media that he would never play for Germany under Löw insulting not only the national set up but also, in an act of supreme childishness, one of the world’s great sporting events, by saying he had as much interest in playing in the World Cup as mouldy cheese!
Let’s clarify that. After your coach has told you that you are in consideration for a place, you sarcastically dismiss a tournament as prestigious as the World Cup, an event which should be the pinnacle of any international career and the aim of any player, in such a manner. Sympathy? I don’t think so.
This was followed up by a ‘statement’ on his Facebook page, inviting of course his ‘followers’ to ‘Like’, the number of “Likes” gleefully recorded and growing by the hour.
There was of course a media frenzy and the obvious inference that if Löw was not coach, then he would play, provided the desired fodder for a media determined to create and cause controversy. If Kiessling was indeed tired of the subject as he so insisted and wanted to end talk of a national team place and concentrate on his club career, this seemed a very strange way to go about it.
He added the priviso that he might be happy to play for Germany in an ’emergency’ and if an overture was made that he was really required and then he could be asked. How generous of him!
Sadly, social media being what it is, Stefan Kiessling’s comment on his facebook page was accompanied by the inevitable remarks in the ‘Comments’ section. While I am defending everyone’s right to free speech, the remarks towards Joachim Löw were of the most offensive and personal nature. No-one of course can actually confirm whether Kiessling approved or condoned these most unpleasant and unnecessary of comments, but the fact that he was similtaneously posting personal photographs of family barbecues and his latest culinary creations alongside them means he could not have been unaware of their existence.
Kiessling was later to delete his facebook page completely after the Phantom-Tor episode, fans of opposing team Hoffenheim then turning the tables and directing abuse at him. In an act of complete hypocrisy, he was to comment in the media how upsetting he found the whole experience. Personal abuse on social media, it seems he believes, is unacceptable and to be condemned only if you yourself are the victim.
Following the injury to Mario Gomez last autumn, many questioned whether Joachim Löw should approach the man who has been so dismissive of the honour of representing his country in the past few months. Yet again the sympathy appeared to be flowing for Kiessling.
So what happened? While his supporters were mounting a campaign for him to be selected, and throwing whatever abuse they thought fit at Joachim Löw, it seemed Mr Kiessling had other ideas. He was not available for selection, having a family event, his daughter’s christening, arranged for the day of the Ireland qualifier, and did, for the third time that year, albeit for the happiest of reasons, make himself unavailable for selection. Perhaps more importantly he had again ensured that the coach would get flak for his name not being on that squad sheet from those unwilling to seek out or unaware of the full story.
So perhaps the one question all supporters should be asking is not why hasn’t Löw selected Kiessling, but has Kiessling actually ever wanted to play in the first place?
“Better at home” with a certain DIY chain it may just be, but what a shame that more of those constantly bringing up his name don’t realise that Stefan Kiessling has been responsible for that situation himself a lot more than he would like you to believe.