Sow well to Harvest Well: A Primer on Talent Development Program of German Football

In EURO 2000, defending champion Germany crashed out of the tournament in first round with just one goal from 3 games. This performance wasn’t rare but a follow-up of their humiliating 3-0 thrashing by first-timers Croatians, such loss not felt by any German team since 1954.

Currently, in 2014 FIFA World Cup, Germany is set to play its third consecutive semi-final, topping their group on way to semi-finals. In FIFA WC 2010 and EURO 2013 German team finished third. In 2013, for the first time, an all-German final was played between Bayern Munich, who lost 2012 final to Chelsea, and Borussia Dortmund, for UEFA Champions League.

During these 14 years things changed, fundamentally in German football to take them from dying football nation to a football powerhouse, especially of young talents. At EURO 2012, Germany had 9 players, younger than 23, compared to 1 in EURO 2000.

After their exit from EURO 2000, Germany changed its football management fundamentally. With a new football board, DFB, focus changed completely to talent development at younger levels, led by high number of professional coaches. Every club playing in Bundesliga, Germany’s football league, division 1 and 2 needs to maintain a youth academy audited regularly by DFB. Investment in youth programs, between 2002 & 2010 nearly doubled from 47.85 million euros to 85.70 million euros. Over the same period, average age of players in Bundesliga decreased from 27.09 to 25.77, with more than 50% players coming from youth academies.

Apart from investment, young players need opportunity to play at competitive level. Not only in National team, but also at club levels, younger players are given chances to play at highest level of competition. In an interview Frank Wormuth, Head Coach of Germany U20 National team, stressed on the philosophy “sow well, harvest well”. In his opinion, younger players should be given opportunity to play at competitive level along with training with senior teams. Besides football training, all players under 17 years go through mandatory schooling, 35 hours per week, so that those who can’t make it to professional football can pursue higher education and explore other avenues.

Developing younger talent and giving them opportunity to excel requires large population as an input. The recruitment process must have a wider reach to find prospective talent from a larger pool. Dr. Reinhard Rauball, President of the League Association, in a 2011 report stressed on the seriousness of player education by the selection of qualified management staff which can provide training to thousands of children across hundreds of schools. FA, England’s football association, in its review of Germany’s youth program success, identified providing increased opportunity to all German players as a significant factor.

This investment, seeds of which were sown in 2000, is reaping big rewards for not only Germany’s national football team but also for their football league, that has become Europe’s most profitable football league in 2012-13, with ever increasing turnovers. This profitability stems from continuous stream of home-grown talent that costs much less, as German clubs spend much less on player’s salary compared to European counterparts. Clearly, this is a smart investment with wider benefits accrued to every stakeholder including football fans.

Author: Gaurav Tiwari, Program Owner, HiSpark (