The week in review for Die Mannschaft could not have gone much worse. Germany coach Joachim Löw’s botched handling of his decision to cut a trio of national team stalwarts headlined what was an all-around awful week for the Die Mannschaft.
Once considered a delightfully quirky guy, Löw was hailed as Germany’s flighty footballing mastermind since he took the reins of the national team from Jürgen Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup.
My how things have changed.
Today, five years removed from the ultimate success — winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil — Löw’s profile has shifted from on-the-field expertise to off-the-field sniper jobs. His unannounced storming of the gates at Säbener Strasse this week left a trail of bodies that saw the international careers of Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels, and Jerome Boateng all pronounced dead.
Each of the three players has now taken a turn at hitting back at the unprofessional manner in which the situation was handled. Boateng took to social media, while Muller used a video post to express his anger and disappointment. Hummels also hit back. The German stars are not happy and rightfully so, but — aside of fan outrage — Löw has skated through this latest debacle utterly unscathed.
While supporters may question Löw’s standing and even infer that Löw has now left himself no room for error, has he really? No matter the poor decision, public relations nightmare (aside of this debacle, see Özil, Mesut, and Sané, Leroy), or flawed game strategy, Löw just has shrugged off repeated failures without facing any consequences.
But it is not as if Löw acted on his own in the latest scandal. The sudden announcement that Müller, Hummels, and Boateng had been dropped was a premeditated strike coordinated with the leadership of the German soccer federation itself. As Müller said in his public statement:
We have gone a long, intensive, and mostly successful way with the DFB in the past years; and when then, shortly after we learned about the decision of the national coach, pre-prepared statements are published for the press on the pages of the DFB and the president of the DFB, then that is simply in my view not good style and has absolutely nothing to do with appreciation (Wertschätzung).
The DFB was prepared and wasted no time in launching its own version of damage control. By backing Löw and not holding him accountable for his own failures, DBF president Reinhard Grindel and team manager Oliver Bierhoff have empowered the German coach to keep the squad spiraling downward. It is a recurrent pattern.
It also raises a bigger question: if no one is really holding Löw accountable, who exactly will be grading the performance of Grindel and Bierhoff? Who is holding those two men to a higher standard?
As The Washington Post pointed out:
Grindel said the changes come at “the right time (for personnel changes)” and Bierhoff hailed “a new beginning for the squad.” Grindel himself has also weathered the post-World Cup fallout, despite being heavily criticized for his handling of the media storm that was caused by midfielders Mesut Özil and Ilkay Gündogan posing for photos in London with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the tournament.
If now is the right time for personnel changes, when oh when will it be the right time for a coaching or leadership change? When does the focus shift from the players on the pitch to the suits in the front office? It is fair and timely for Germany’s supporters to demand answers to those questions.
With that, the rest of us will have to sit back and wonder when Löw, Grindel, and Bierhoff will be held accountable for their leadership. Until that day, it seems we are all doomed to observe just how much more damage will be done.