Where were you on July 26, 2004, the day Jürgen Klinsmann was signed as the head coach of the German national team and changed the course of German football and maybe of Germany in general? Klinsmann traveled a lot during his career, he saw places, mainly culturally important metropolitan cities, he was open to changes, new thinking, alternative treatments, zen conversation. In short, he was the ultimate non-German, and he had it with the image of German football, the same image that won him the World Cup in 1990, the image of „you play football for 90 minutes and at the end Germany wins“.
Klinsmann didn’t want his team to be attached to the image of the boring Bavarian industrial efficiency, he didn’t want his team to be isolationist, proud of itself. He wanted a team that is multi-cultural, daring, full of flash, rich but the sexy. Klinsmann wanted to have Berlin as the image of his football.
In 2006, Klinsmann and his team hosted the World Cup. They lost in the semi-final to Italy in overtime („you play football 120 minutes and at the end Germany loses“), but the result was an afterthought. Thousands came to Berlin that summer, fell in love with the team, with the spirit of the country. Shortly after, Berlin became the third most visited city in Europe. The German football entered a period of renaissance. Even the most cynical people couldn’t stop rooting for it. The only people who were not happy about it were the far right, who couldn’t bare Turkish, Tunisian and African players tainting the national uniform. And even that was a testimony to Klinsmann success.
As usually is the case, Bayern Munich saw something works and decided to make it hers. Klinsmann’s tenure in Munich was a continuous catastrophe. The conservative club and its players didn’t have a clue what was he talking about („Zen? How do I get there on the Autobahn?“) and why he didn’t give them specific orders how to play. Klinsmann was fired eight months into his job. If there is something that they really don’t like in Munich is anything that smells of Berlin.
I was in Munich on the weekend when the team won the Champions League title last month. I was in shock of how Corona orders were being enforced in the city. I had to register myself where ever I was sitting, policemen were everywhere enforcing the mask wearing. None of this I encountered in Berlin. There were very little celebration after the win and at midnight the police asked every one to leave Marienplatz. No one argued. It was Sunday and in a few hours almost everyone was supposed to go to work. I tried to imagine what would happen if Hertha would have won. Berlin would have celebrate for a week and the alcohol would have scare away Corona. Actually, this is what happens every weekend, without football. Bayern Munich is a picture perfect football club, half of Hertha’s players had the Corona. Poor but sexy.
Bayern’s triple is heading football back south. It was a disciplined, effective with not much of a creative (with the exception of the 8:2 over Barcelona) championship. Local players were the majority and they were the backbone of the team. Many foreigners left or were delegated to the bench. There were no second generation immigrants from Tunisia or Turkey. Bayern and its coach won all their titles by enforcing their brand of football. They would have live or died playing this style and not bending to the opponent. Bayern’s triple was the triumph of arrogant and separatist Bayern, the state the declares everywhere how much it wants to isolate itself from the other 15 states. It will be interesting to see what effect Bayern dominance will have over Germany.