“Das Reboot,” a new book from Raphael Honingstein which hits book stores and online retailers on Tuesday, is a masterful look at how German soccer broke out of its conservative traditions to create a world champion. While Germany has always from the view of outsiders been a world powerhouse, having never fallen short of the World Cup quarterfinals in its post-World War II history, failures at the 2000 and 2004 European Championships exposed the Germans as caught and passed by several European rivals.
This story is interesting to read for any soccer fan, but it is even more interesting for United States-based fans of the beautiful game for the leading role current US men’s national team technical director and head coach Jürgen Klinsmann plays in Germany’s revival.
After the disastrous Euro 2004, where Germany bombed out in the group stage, changes had to be made. Adding insult to injury, the competition was won by Greece, which was managed by a German, Otto Rehhagel. While the DFB (German Football Federation) was fumbling about, a long-time Bundesliga manager who had won three German titles, including one in 1997 with unfancied provincial side FC Kaiserslautern, took Greece to a continental title.
When Rudi Voller was sacked following the Euro disaster, the first choice for Germany was Ottmar Hitzfeld, the FC Bayern manager who wanted a break from the game. Hitzfeld had won the 1997 and 2001 UEFA Champions League titles with Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern, respectively, a disappointing decision made worse by his willingness to accept the Switzerland job three years later (he’d take that nation to two World Cups before retiring in 2014). Attention turned to Rehhagel, but on July 10, 2004, with the nation firmly behind the potential appointment, he turned down the Germany job to remain with Greece. The decisions of Hitzfeld and Rehagal to manage other European nations reflected the amount of pressure associated with the German post, as well as the circumstances around the DFB when these decisions had to be made.
Fumbling and stumbling, Germany approached Klinsmann, then living in California. Klinsmann found the national team setup to be a mess and felt the leading clubs in Germany, particularly FC Bayern, had backward practices in terms of medicine, training and other attributes. Klinsmann was appointed after a round-about political battle within the DFB and the DFL – the German league. His new age practices became revolutionary for Germany, as did his decisions about squad selection.