Sometimes, writing is hard and reading (about all things Bayern Munich) is much easier. So, I have spent my time reading countless articles about the World Cup, including about Germany’s exit, South Korea’s last minute win in the group stages and so much more. And yet, I am still struggling to write about it.
This is hard for me. I grew up at a time when a girl loving the beautiful game wasn’t deemed as normal as it is now. I was an outlier. FIFA (the barebones version) at the time didn’t obviously have the women’s game; so, my Dad made a version of me as a man with a long ponytail. I never saw myself as an outlier; I come from a soccer family. The world never stopped reminding me that I didn’t, couldn’t, know as much about the game as a man would.
Qatar reminds me of that world. Qatar reminds me of internalized misogyny that I still have to fight against from time to time. Qatar reminds me that two wrongs don’t make a right. Qatar reminds me that there are many out there who conflate politics with human rights. Qatar reminds me of PSG.
Qatar, importantly, also reminds me that free speech and politics (I really mean human rights) is part of soccer — it is the beautiful game and it is the people’s game; it is impossible to discern human rights and this game. It is not just a game — it is a voice for many. Once upon a time, Bayern Munich was the target of a derogatory term because of its Jewish heritage. Kurt Landauer, the former president of Bayern Munich, knew what a concentration camp looked like — from the inside.
The LA Times once covered the club’s Jewish history in great detail. This bit stood out to me:
When the team — now cleansed of Jews — traveled to Zurich to play a Swiss club, Hitler’s state police banned the delegation from meeting with Landauer. But it couldn’t ban him from attending the game, and when the players spotted him in the stands, they lined up and applauded their former president.
If you support Bayern Munich, it becomes nearly impossible to separate sport from the world it is a part of. Amnesia about the world’s events, as painful and as hard as they can be, is not something soccer can achieve. If I don’t remind you, Bayern’s Ultras will, loud and clear, from their place at the Allianz Arena.
Germany’s Exit — My Two Cents
I am going to do this as a list; it will prevent this from becoming an incoherent mass of words, confused and irritated at the same time. I have a large soft spot for this team, as Bayern makes up its core.
- Hansi Flick got caught in between: He wanted to play conservatively sometimes; but he left tough midfielders like Maxi Arnold and Rani Khedira back home. That left him with the not-very-press-resistant Joshua Kimmich as an option; that is a very good option if you pair Leon Goretzka with him. That didn’t work for Flick; he went with Ilkay Gündogan instead. This led to an open defense being very unprotected at times. When he wanted his team to be on the front foot, he played a striker-less formation, something he rarely ever did at Bayern. Managing Germany is harder than managing Bayern. Flick will figure things out — but, this did not resemble a Flick side to me.
- Niklas Füllkrug is the gift that keeps on giving: He reminds me of a former Werder Bremen man who did not really get into top level soccer until later on in his career and who wasn’t really a record breaker at club level but who knew how to find the back of the net. Miroslav Klose was a starter for incredibly talented German sides; Füllkrug, if he keeps this up, can be a front-man at the Euros. It is unlikely that this pans out — yet, his story was an endearing one. Robert Lewandowski only has one World Cup goal to his name from open play; Niclas Füllkrug has two.
- Japan’s progress was a proud moment for the Bundesliga; It hurt Germany but it showed that the Bundesliga has some real gems. We all know about Ritsu Doan; we all (kind of) know about Takuma Asano. We all obviously know Daichi Kamada. The World didn’t necessarily know them. But, Doan atleast, will be a more well known name now.
- The road for Germany isn’t really bleak moving forward: The team needs to find balance; a quality right back not named Joshua Kimmich and a quality left back will not emerge out of the blue but there are options. Ridle Baku was left at home for example. Meanwhile, David Raum is still very young and will improve. In the center of defense, Nico Schlotterbeck can only improve while Niklas Süle will find his form again. It is a matter of getting the recipe right. Germany won’t necessarily win the Euros. But they can do better than they did this World Cup.
- What it means for Bayern: There is enough time for the players to sleep on it and move forward. This can now go one of two ways — the boys may be more determined than ever to play brilliantly and win whatever they can at club level to get over this heartache; or, they may hit a slump because of the disappointment this World Cup exit carries with it. Either way, Julian Nagelsmann has a tough job on his hands.
It is rare to suggest books on BFW. But things are set to be slow as Bayern Munich does not return to action till January. So, here are a few:
- Soccernomics: For all stat nerds out there, this book is a really good read. They might have to change the bit about Germany in the title although the bit about Japan is ringing true now more than ever, as long as we are not talking penalties.
- Das Reboot: Rapha Honigstein does a great job of looking at youth development in Germany. It is a timely reminder that not all things are rotten with the DFB.
- 1984: Yes, George Orwell’s 1984. I love this book. Many of our younger readers might not know about it. Try it out.
That’s it from me! I hope you enjoyed the read, and, as always, I would love to hear your thoughts!