Football: 'Germany will stay on top'

Football: 'Germany will stay on top'
Lars Ricken (right) taking part in a football clinic with 30 youths from Home United Youth Football Academy and Home’s community partner, Darul Ishan Orphanage on 11 Nov 2014.

The only thing that can knock world champions Germany off the top of their perch is the loss of hunger on their part.

So said former Borussia Dortmund and Germany international midfielder Lars Ricken, who now oversees his former club's youth academy.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday at Dortmund's Singapore office at the International Business Park in Jurong East, the 38-year-old said:

"After the World Cup, only Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose retired. Reus and (Ilkay) Gundogan, two great players, didn't even play (because of injury).

"Our national team are still very young, and we have a lot of great talents in the younger teams. For example, our Under-19 team won the U19 European Championship in July.

"We have big talents and all these talents get opportunities to play in the Bundesliga, which is something young players in England or Spain may not get because clubs pay so much money to buy superstars, one after another."

He added that the youth development structure at Bundesliga clubs, which was "renovated" after Germany's failure at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship, ensures Germany's production line of talented players.

Said Ricken: "At Dortmund today, for example, not only the youth coaches are permanent staff, but so are the assistant coaches, goalkeeper coaches, athletic coaches, social workers, physiotherapists, psychologists.

"We spent a lot of money but it was worth it."

So what could derail the Die Mannschaft Express?

"If the players are satisfied and not hungry to win any more," said Ricken.

"I remember, after winning the World Cup in 1990, Franz Beckenbauer said we would not lose a game for many years, but nobody in Germany talks about that any more.

"It (success) is not a guarantee. The players have to be hungry."

He added that the youth development system in place at Bundesliga club is "perfect" for the country to keep producing world-beaters like Mario Goetze and Marco Reus.

It was thought Spain, with their brand of tiki taka football, would rule world football for years following back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012, and a World Cup triumph squeezed in between in 2010.

But an ageing La Furia Roja - only two of their 23-man squad were below the age of 24 - were dumped out of June's World Cup in Brazil at the group stage.

Ricken, who scored a goal in Dortmund's triumphant 1997 Champions League final just 16 seconds after coming on as a substitute, says Germany, the world's best team following Spain's descent, will not suffer the same fate.

It was Germany's rise as a world force that saw Dortmund setting up an office in Singapore - their first in Asia.

Dortmund's director of sales and marketing Carsten Cramer said: "The general target is to build Dortmund as an international brand.

"Singapore is a very attractive hub... (and) is like what Switzerland is to Europe. It's more or less neutral, and it's close to other countries - we know about the awareness of our brand in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand - plus a lot of German companies have offices here to, so in our mind, this is the place to be."

This article was first published on Nov 12, 2014.
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