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Das Reboot, redux: the DFB’s new youth movement

The DFB is changing youth football to help the national sides compete.

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U16 Germany National Team Visits Base Camp Oyten Photo by Cathrin Mueller/Getty Images for DFB

The DFB, after serious internal debate, and not a little strife, has decided it needs to revolutionize youth football to remain competitive internationally.

Following a two-year pilot project the DFB will now be revising the programs for all youth football across the country to increase skills, decrease drop-out rates and turn up the fun. There’s also a stylistic component to this: an emphasis on enhancing the touches on the ball while decreasing the tendency to head it.

But like any change at the DFB, a certain amount of blood was spilt along the way.

The most significant changes will occur at the U11, U9 and U7 levels. Regional associations will now have to have clubs offer the FUNiño concept in a phased-in fashion so it is available to all players within the next three years. This youth training concept was developed by German coach Horst Wein and is built around games played on small fields with smaller numbers of players attacking and defending two widely place “mini-goals” at each end of the pitch, rather than one centrally placed large goal. Thus each side must attack and defend two small goals rather than one regular-sized one.

Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland embraced this concept some time ago and many experts have been harsh in their criticism that Germany have been late to bring their youth training standards up to the modern cutting edge.

Matthias Lochmann, a coach and professor from the department of sports science at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, has been particularly critical of the DFB’s plodding rate of change. Lochmann had worked with the DFB in this area until he was unceremoniously dropped in 2019. It now seems that the governing body has come around to his way of thinking. This has not stopped the professor from speaking out on the issue, saying to The Athletic, “Austria is now further ahead than Germany. Germany is doing all it can to be slow and is making too many mistakes.”

The new program also faces logistical and cultural obstacles. The format requires more coaches and new training for older coaches to get up to speed on the new concepts. The DFB hopes however that these changes will produce more competitive professional and national team players in the next six to ten years.

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