End of the Line: Schalke 04

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

How can a professional soccer team go from being in the top 20 of the richest in the world to the one that is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy- all within one year’s time?  This is the question that the soccer team Schalke 04 is trying to answer.  Yet with each answer comes more questions, some of which include the roles of Covid-19, management, the main sponsor GasProm, the hangover after many seasons playing in the UEFA Champions League and lastly, the decline in the number of fans.

All of this came to a head on Tuesday, as the team lost to Arminia Bielefeld 1-0, thus securing their first exit out of the top tier of the German soccer Bundesliga for the first time in three decades. Thanks to FC Cologne’s 2-1 upset of RB Leipzig that same evening, Schalke, with only 13 points in the standings, will spend the remaining four games of the 2020-21 season in last place.  This was enough for fans to attack the players after the game, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The team, located in Gelsenkirchen, accross the River Rhine from Cologne, will definitely be in the top ten of the worst teams in the history of German professional soccer. It will definitely not top Tasmania Berlin, whose disasterous 1965/66 season and the all-time records are well out of reach (see the bottom ten compiled by NDR here), but it is right in range to overtake Wuppertal SV for its poorest showing in 1974/75 on all accounts, which would make them the second worst team in a season on record! . Given their performance this season, that is almost a sure lock.

What will be interesting is the future of Schalke 04 once this season is over. They will have half the revenue for the second league, yet their finances as a whole, especially in light of Covid-19 combined with substantial debt, could make them vulnerable to bankruptcy, which could ultimatively doom them from professional play. And the trend is not on their side, when looking at the Bottom 10 teams and their records, plus the current trends.  The average amount of time needed to return to the top tier has been five years if the finances and sponsors are available, and the team can recover.  Others, like Dynamo Dresden, TeBe Berlin and even though it has avoided any of these records, Hamburger SV, have yet to return to premier play.  There is the danger that if Schalke goes into receivership, it could end up reorganizing and starting from the very bottom of the German soccer chain or in the case of VfL Leipzig, dissolve and reincarnate as other teams. Should this happen, then the soccer team with its 117-year tradition would be the oldest to fall from grace and into Dante’s inferno, this shaking the soccer world beyond Germany’s borders.

Schalke 04’s fall from grace should force the soccer federation DFB and all its members in the top 3 leagues, plus the women’s division to take stock in their liquidity, their players and staff and lastly the fans and consider reforming the system from the bottom up to ensure that what Schalke 04 is facing will not be repeated by the other teams. How this is done should be discussed once the last second of the last game of the season is ticked. With German soccer on the decline, even when looking at the German national team under Joachim Löw, reforms are well past due to ensure that soccer remains part of the country’s culture.

Holstein Kiel sends FC Bayern Munich home in Second Round of German Soccer Cup- Score: 6-5

Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com

KIEL- The soccer players from the second-profi league Holstein Kiel must have watched what the American Football team Cleveland Browns did to the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to last night’s match. The Browns outplayed the AFC North and seven-time Super Bowl champion Steelers from start to finish on Sunday night in Pittsburgh by a score of 48-37, giving the team their first playoff win in 27 years. The Browns had already entered the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season with a victory in the last game of the season a week earlier.

The Storks from Holstein Kiel had a lot of motivation with them as they hosted the 30-time German Bundesliga regular season and 20-time German Cup champions last night. Like the Browns, Kiel took advantages of several flaws that have been exposed in the Munich team during the regular soccer team and played, toe-to-toe throughout the game and in overtime. This includes poor defense and an aging team, another common ground that Munich and Pittsburgh both have.  In the end, it took a series of penalty shoot-outs and Fin Bartels (Kiel) shot into the goal guarded by Manuel Neuner (Munich) to seal the deal.

Here’s the video with some highlights:

Kiel awaits its next opponent in the third round against its second-league opponent, SV Darmstadt 98. That game is to be played on February 2nd or 3rd. The team has yet to win its first ever German Cup in its 118-year history. The team is currently in third place in the regular season standings in the second league and if it plays as successful there as they did against Munich, they could end up in the 1st league for the first time since 1963 next season. The regular season in the second league is expected to end in June. 

As for Munich, despite currently sitting in first place in the regular season standings in the 1st league, the team will have to deal with several issues within the team to ensure they can fend off Dortmund, Leverkusen, Leipzig and even Union Berlin for their 31st regular season title. Unlike the Steelers, who are seeing some of their players consider retirement already in the infancy of the 8-month offseason and perhaps may have seen Ben Rothlisberger play for the last time in his career, Munich will have to adjust on the fly as their season ends in June, but have international competition, like the Champions League to contend with. It’s a question of how much is too much- something head coach Hansi Flick will have to answer and quickly.

But for now, people in Kiel and the rest of Schleswig-Holstein are celebrating. No more will they have to endure Munich’s jinx laden with beer, white sausage and pretzels. They are now celebrating the upset with their own delicacies- namely, Matjes filet sandwich, fried potatoes with bacon, a good bottle of Flensburger beer and some Danish licorice from Tom’s- all a cornerstone of Schleswig-Holstein’s delicious meal.

The Flensburg Files would like to congratulate both Kiel and Cleveland for their David-versus-Goliath upsets. This is definitely one for the books, especially if you are a sportsfan. 🙂

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VfB Lübeck Returns to National Stage

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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As the Corona-shortened season in Germany comes to end, here are some interesting highlights you will be seeing in the coming weeks this month. We’ll start with the rebirth of one of the more traditional soccer teams in Germany, the VfB Lübeck

LÜBECK- Established in 1919, the 100 year old soccer team once had a tradition of national football, competing in the first and second tiers of the German Soccer Bundesliga through the 1970s. The last time the soccer team competed in the Second League was in 2005. It faced two bankruptcies, one of which (in 2014) sent them to the fifth-class Schleswig-Holstein League. Now, after five years of climbing, the soccer team of VfB Lübeck has returned to the national stage in men’s soccer. The team of green and white won the Regional League North title in a Corona-shortened 2019/20 season, beating out the 2nd Team of VfL Wolfsburg and State Rival Weiche Flensburg 08 to finish with a record of 20 wins, four losses and one tie, with 61 points and outscoring opponents 64-24. Because there was no relegation game between them and the winner of another division of the Regional League, it has advanced outright.

The team will compete in the third tier of the Bundesliga, facing old rivals, like Waldhof Mannheim, FC Kaiserslautern and MSV Duisburg, but also other teams, such as Dresden, Munich (two teams), Rostock and Cologne. It is one of four newcomers that will be entering the national stage, joining FC Saarbrücken (Southwest), FC Verl (West), and Türkgücü Munich (Bavaria). Verl won the relegation round against FC Lok Leipzig from the Northeast League yesterday despite finishing tied in both games. Interestingly enough will be how Lübeck will fare out in the next season and beyond. With ist top Performance this past Season, it is one that others will have to watch out for. 

Lübeck is the second team from Schleswig-Holstein to compete on the national stage alongside Holstein Kiel in the Second League. This leaves us with Weiche Flensburg and VfL Oldenburg that are waiting in line to enter the stage. While Flensburg has established an international reputation in handball through SG Flensburg-Handewitt, the soccer team has come close to making it to the national level, having lost to Energie Cottbus in the relegation round in 2018. Still, the team has a clear shot chance to finally making it when the 20/21 season starts in August.

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German Handball Ends Season Early

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THW Kiel wins the regular season title; SG Flensburg-Handewitt second place.  20 teams expected for 20/21 Premier League season

KIEL- After ice hockey and basketball is the 1999/20 season for the professional German Handball League (DHL) officially over. All 36 teams in the premier and second leagues voted unanimously to discontinue the season instead of playing in empty stadiums (Geisterspiele) through June, the month when the season would’ve ended. The decision to end the season early is the first ever in the history of the DHL and it comes in response to the Corona epidemic and the lack of measures needed to contain the spread of the virus.  To add to the misery, all large-scale events including sports matches have been banned in Germany through 31 August.

The decision to end the season comes less than eight hours after the decision was announced to cancel the Oktoberfest in Munich by the Bavarian government and Munich’s city mayor (see here for article).

According to German public radio station NDR Info, the teams that started the 19/20 season will remain in their respective leagues for the coming season, however the top two teams will be promoted, thus having a total of 40 teams in two leagues when handball resumes play in the fall.  In the elite league, the newcomers for the upcoming season will be HSC Coburg and TuSEM Essen. The last two teams in the league, Nordhorn-Lingen and Ludwigshafen will remain in the top league for the upcoming season.  The plan is to have four teams demoted to the second league by the end of the upcoming season.

With the season being over, the zebras of THW Kiel have been crowned season champions, with second place finisher going to its archrival, SG Flensburg-Handewitt. Both teams will play in the Champions League this fall. SC Magdeburg, TSV Hanover-Burgdorf and Rhein-Neckar Lions will play in the Euro League.  Due to the Corona Virus, it is uncertain when league play will continue on both the national and international levels. There is a possibility of starting the season later than usual. League play usually starts in September.  At the same time, Geistespiele for at least part of the season may have to be introduced- a concept that is rejected due to the fact that a fair share of the revenue comes from the fans.

After the announcement to cancel the season, all eyes are now focusing on the German soccer league and its three tiers. There the debate over if and when to continue the season is fanning the flames both within the league but also with the local and national governments and health experts. This includes the continuation of the season through Geisterspiele versus cancelling the season. Already there is a sharp divide between those who favor the former and those for the latter.  And the question of the financial status among all the teams in the three leagues is the fuel for the firey debate.  With the DHL canceling the season, chances are likely that the fire will be extinguished through a concerted decision from the Bundesliga and the public officials that will satisfy the teams, fans and the cities that have the profi-teams.

FlFi10

 

RWE Out of Profi German Soccer

Ariel view of Steigerwald Stadium, home of Rot-Weiss Erfurt. Photo taken in 2007 by Tom Kidd for WikiCommons

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Professional Soccer Team shuts down after failure to find Investor to save the Team.

ERFURT, GERMANY- “I died twice this week. This is especially hard. We’ll Need everything to cope with this.” These were the comments from Robin Krüger in an interview with the Thüringen Allgemein Newspaper after learning the fate of the traditional soccer team in the capital of Thuringia on Tuesday.  After struggling to find an investor to  keep the team running, since filing for bankruptcy in 2018, and failing even with the last-minute attempt to find a solution, the profi-soccer team Rot-Weiss-Erfurt is officially no more. The announcement to de-register the team from the Regionalliga Nord was made by the insolvency administer Volker Reinhardt yesterday afternoon at 3:00pm and was made official shortly afterwards. As a consequence, all games played by the team to date have been annulled and Erfurt is the first team to be demoted down to the Oberliga, the fifth league in the German soccer league food chain. That league features mainly teams from Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, in comparison to the other league, which features teams from the whole northeastern corner of Germany- which used to be East Germany.

The team’s misfortunes began in March 2018, when the team filed for receivership due to a lack of funding and investors. At that time, Erfurt was in the 3rd National League of the German Football Federation (DFB) and as a consequence, it was relegated to the Regionalliga Nord, effectively ending a 10-year run on the national level. It was hoped that with the new start in the league and with the creation of a limited corporation run by an investor found at that time, the team could return to national prominence. Unfortunately, towards the end of last year, the investor was unable to pay the players and head coach, resulting in them pulling out. Reinhardt attempted to look for help through other investors and even the City of Erfurt, neither of them were successful.

With the folding of the profi-soccer team, the remaining soccer players would have a chance to find another soccer team to play the remaining 2019/20 season. At the same time, the Rot-Weiss Erfurt organization can work on a new concept to eliminate a deficit of over 1 million Euros they are facing at present without being liquidated. The last team that was liquidated was Sachsen Leipzig, which happened in 2012. It also had played in the Regionalliga but never had the taste of national football as Erfurt had, during its 55-year history, which includes two seasons in the second tier of the German soccer league since 1990. Furthermore, Rot-Weiss Erfurt had one stint in the UEFA in 1991. On the state level, it had been on par with FC Carl Zeiss Jena in the Thuringia Cup for over a decade, playing for the cup. Prior to that, it had played in the East German Oberliga, having won two seasonal championships and finishing second in the East German Cup in 1980, losing to its cross-state rival, Carl Zeiss Jena.

The loss of Rot Weiss Erfurt is a bitter one for those who have followed the team through the years and watched the rivalry with Jena, the lone Thuringian team still playing on the national level in the 3rd league as of present. Every Saturday, the city center would be plastered with red and white banners, the main colors of the soccer team, with loyal supporters of the team flocking to Steigerwald Stadium, located on the south end of the city in the Governmental District (Regierungsviertel). This will be missed, along with the games that made the crowd scream and the city heard.

With the folding of the soccer team, there is a glimmer of hope for RWE as it starts at the very bottom. The organization can build a new team to play in the Oberliga come next season, assuming there is enough capital. They can still play in the Steigerwald Stadium, which will be a blessing. The youth club (Nachwuchszentrum) will remain for now, as the youth can learn to play soccer. It will be the same youth that will carry the name Rot Weiss Erfurt if they survive the worst of times as they are doing right now. For the city set to host the German Garden Show (BUGA) in 2021, Erfurt and soccer go together like bread and butter. It’s just not the same without RWE, let alone profi-soccer, something we will not see for a while.

 

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Erfurt has not been the lone city suffering from soccer misfortunes. Another Regionalliga rival, Wacker Nordhausen, filed for insolvency in November after carrying a massive debt the Team could not handle. It received a nine-point penalty and could also face a demotion if there is no plan to save the team. FC Carl Zeiss Jena is on the brink of going down to the Regionalliga after a very poor performance during the soccer season. It currently is in last place.

LINKS:

Information on Rot-Weiss-Erfurt can be found here:

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/FC_Rot-Wei%C3%9F_Erfurt

As well as the folding of the club:

https://www.mdr.de/sport/fussball_rl/rot-weiss-erfurt-muss-spielbetrieb-einstellen-100.html

 

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American Football: History, Facts and Anything Passive about it.

Photo by Torsten Bolten [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
American Football: a national past time. Every year in the Fall, we would flock to the football stadiums and watch the two teams, each consisting of 11 men, dressed up in football uniforms and helmets, move the ball to each other’s end zone to score. There are spectacular catches by the wide receivers; just as many deep throws by the quarterbacks or pushing the linemen back by the running backs; just as many as clean tackles by the defensive linemen; but also just as many boos and cussing by penalties that are debateable, just to name a few. 2019 marked the 150th anniversary of the first game of the sport of football. As it developed over the years, rules and regulations were refined and equipment was reshaped to make the game safer for everyone to play. The most popular foot league in the world is the National Football League, which celebrates its 100th year in the 2019/20 football season. The most popular game in the US celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017- the Super Bowl.

Despite all these facts, what do we know about the sport? This is where the Files has a cool activity series  for you to try out. Consisting of a guessing quiz and some exercises in connection with English grammar, this guide will give you a chance to test your history of the sport. At the same time, it will also test your skills involving active and passive verb forms in English.

To better understand how they work, a table below shows you how they function:

Passive voice Table

A more detailed version can be found with some activities involving the history of street lamps, which you can click  here.

So without further ado, have a seat and try these exercises out. Good luck! 🙂

EXERCISE 1: Use the verbs in parenthesis and complete the sentence in the lined blank. In the dotted blank, choose the correct answer in the multiple choice below.

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EXERCISE 2: Look at the following sentences below and determine whether they are active or passive. Mark with an A or a P, respectively. The verbs have been marked in bold print.

  1. In today’s game of football, only 11 players per team are allowed on the football field.
  2. The team that has the ball is given four chances (downs) to gain 10 yards.
  3. The offense (team that has the ball) gets another set of downs if they get 10 or more yards.
  4. The defense tries to stop the offense from getting the downs.
  5. If the offense fails to get 10 yards or more, they are forced to turn the ball over to the opponents. !: Two answers here.
  6. If the offense gets the ball into the end zone of the opponent, it’s a touchdown and they are awarded six points.
  7. Points can also be scored by a field goal (3 points), two-point conversion or an extra point kick after the touchdown, or when the defense stops the offense in their own end zone for a safety (2 points) !: Two answers here.
  8. The team with the most points after four quarters wins the game.

 

EXERCISE 3: HYBRID This task has a combination multiple choice and verb formation. Complete the sentence by: A. choosing the correct word from the multiple choice and B. Formulating the sentence using passive or active. !: Please pay attention to the verb tense that is expected per task.

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EXERCISE 4: GUESSING QUIZ

 

How many states did the original teams represent when the NFL was created in 1920?  a. Four               b. Six              c. Eight

 

 

Which of the cities were NOT the founding fathers of the NFL?

a. Canton, OH        b. Chicago              c. Green Bay            d. Cleveland     e. Pittsburgh

 

Which NFL Team in the present-day is the oldest?

a. Arizona Cardinals      b. Green Bay Packers       

c. Cleveland Browns    d. Chicago Bears               

e. New York Giants             f. Detroit Lions

 

Prior to the first Super Bowl, which NFL team won the most number of championships?  

a. Cleveland Browns        b. Green Bay Packers       

c. New York Giants          d. Chicago Bears             

e. Minnesota Vikings       f. Detroit Lions

 

Between 1920 and 1969, which NFL team did NOT relocate or fold? 

a. Akron Bulldogs             b. Buffalo All-Stars        

c. Green Bay Packers       d. Pittsburgh Steelers      

e. Chicago Bears                f. Cleveland Browns

 

What was the highest number of points scored ever in an NFL championship prior to the first Super Bowl?

 

And since the Super Bowl started?

 

Which NFL Team(s) has made the Super Bowl the most number of times? 

Which NFL Team(s) has won the most number of Super Bowl Championships? 

 

Which NFL Team(s) has attended the Super Bowl the most but has yet to win one?

 

The answer sheet can be found here. Have fun! 🙂

 

Fl Fi USA

Berlin Writes History in Soccer

The Stadium Altere Försterei, where FC Union Berlin plays at home. Photo taken by Christian Liebscher via wiki-Commons 

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FC Union Berlin advances to the German Bundesliga for the first time ever after ousting VFB Stuttgart in the Relegation Round.

BERLIN- In the end, only the strongest survived. The strongest in terms of nerves but also in coherency. The strongest is the one that makes history. This was done last night with FC Union Berlin. After a 2-2 draw against VFB Stuttgart, who had been sitting in 16th place during almost the entire 2018/19 Bundesliga season, all the iron men could have done is put the iron curtain in place- literally in front of goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz  and let Stuttgart fire their shots- to the left, to the right and right into the goalie’s hands. And while the offense was on autopilot, a 0-0 tie was enough for Berlin to make history.

For the first time ever FC Union will play in the premier league this upcoming season, competing with the likes of Bayern Munich- fresh off its seventh consecutive title but poised to lose its top two players in Frank Ribery and Ariel Robben- the Robbery Duo- similar to the Killer Bs of the Pittsburgh Steelers in American football before Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown left the team after the 2018/19 season and its lone B- the quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger. It will be facing other teams with multiple years of experience and armed with deep pockets for 1st class players, such as Frankfurt, Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Bremen. And while Freiburg, Cologne and Augsburg may be push-overs, like it was with Hamburg SV during its time in the second tier (winning 2-0 and tying 2-2), Union Berlin will have two rivalries to contend with:

  1. Inner-City Rivalry: FC Union Berlin will have to contend with Hertha BSC Berlin, which has been in the premier league for all but two seasons since 1997. While FC Union Berlin has had many soccer rivalries in the German capital, even during the Cold War era, this one will be the battle of the iron fists that will attract tens of thousands, and whose victories will be very close. While FC Union lost a close one 2-1 on 3rd September, 2012, the two teams finished tied at 2-2 on 11 February, 2013, the last time the two played. When the rivalry continues this upcoming season, it will be the first inner-city derby in the Bundesliga since the 2010/11 season with Hamburg vs St. Pauli.
  2. East German Rivalry: Apart from its western city rival, FC Union will have to contend with Leipzig. But not the Leipzig that many soccer historians are accustomed to. While Union and VfB Leipzig’s rivalry attracted thousands of fans during the 1980s and 90s, the Leipzig they will be facing is one that will have a new (and fiery) head coach and a talented group that is regrouping after losing the 2019 German Cup to Munich and finished third in the regular season- meaning RB Leipzig. Even they have played three games, FC Union has yet to beat Leipzig, having lost two and tied one- but all in 2015 and 2016.

FC Union Berlin will be the sixth East German team to be in the top league in almost three decades- the others were Dynamo Dresden, Hansa Rostock, VfB Leipzig (now FC Lok), Energie Cottbus and Hertha. It is the 56th team in history to reach the top tier. And after years of toil and disappointment, the team has entered chartered waters bound to make history. The team has the largest fan club in German soccer and its culture is implanted in Berlin soccer, with a stadium that has hosted soccer games, Christmas events and concerts and crowds that come to enjoy the game and not rampage it, like in some cities. This was noticeable with last night’s relegation game with Stuttgart- it ended in celebration and with no incidences! One could blame Stuttgart for its shortcomings, which will land them in the second league for the first time in three seasons, but the timing of FC Union Berlin’s rise to the top could not have come at a better time. All it needed was unity and the team got it.

And should this unity continue in the upcoming Bundesliga season, then FC Union Berlin will be making even more history as it climbs in the rankings at the expense of those who have been there for years. Seven years ago, one wondered whether professional soccer will return to the east. With first Leipzig and now Berlin, that question has been answered.

 

Congratulations to FC Union Berlin on making it to the big leagues! 🙂

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FC Union Berlin won the relegation based on the “Goal Away from Home” rule. This means the team that has scored more goals “away from home” wins, if the total goals scored by each team are otherwise equal. This is sometimes expressed by saying that away goals “count double” in the event of a tie. In this case, Berlin won against Stuttgart based on that rule by a score of 2-0 because of the 2-2 draw in Stuttgart. 

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Photo Flick 13

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This photo flick gives us a true meaning of the classroom learning exercise known as “Think, Pair and Share.”  All you need are two chairs, a table, a notebook with pen and a good environment to brainstorm and exchange ideas, like this art exhibition room in a district in Dresden’s Neustadt, taken in April 2019. 🙂

 

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Aus! Vorbei! Und Tschüss, Jogi und Co!

 

German Soccer Team sets all time lows in their earliest exit from the 2018 World Soccer Cup in Russia in history.

There is a quote to start off this column about the defeat of the defending World Cup Champions of 2014 Germany, and it is a very simple one to swallow: Glauben und Sagen sind Gut; Kontrolle und Beweise sind besser. In English, it goes along the lines of Belief and Talk are good; Proof and Evidence are better. Germany was suppoosed to defend their 2014 World Cup title in the way it performed four years ago. However, a 2-0 pasting by South Korea in the last game of the first round of the 2018 World Cup in Russia sealed the deal in setting all new lows for the German soccer team in history.  To start off with, it was the first time in 80 years that Germany was eliminated after the first round in the World Cup. The last time it happened, it was after the Anschluss with Austria, which had been the better team before HItler took over.  It was also the first time in 18 years that the national soccer team was eliminated after the first round in an international tournament. The last time it happened was in the Euro-Cup in 2000. And like in this tournament, it featured a very lackluster performance that consisted of a tie and two defeats- a 1-0 shutout to England, its first in 32 years, and a 3-0 freightliner to Portugal.

While the German national coach  Erich Ribbeck eventually resigned after the early exit in 2000, the question is whether Joachim Loewe (Jogi, for short), Germany’s present national coach will do the same after this disastrous outing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  After all, the ball started rolling after the team suffered its first World Cup defeat in the opener of the first round since the 1982 tournament as West Germany. And like the upset to Algeria, the German soccer team of 2018 appeared clueless and defenseless against Mexico, having been upset in the first game 1-0.  After redeeming themselves in game two with a 2-1 win against Sweden, they needed their third win against South Korea, which not only did not happen, but they were humbled, spanked, annihilated, and embarassed. The last 10 minutes of that match summarized their latest outing in the tournament.

Before going further, let’s have a look at the highlights of the three matches:

Game 1:  1-0 for Mexico

Game 2: 2-1 victory over Sweden

Game 3: 2-0 loss to South Korea.

 

Surely the pressure is on Jogi to resign, yet when asked if he was going to do so, the response was simple: “It’s too early. I’m deeply disappointed. I never thought we would lose to South Korea.”

Those were his words. The head coach, who has led the team since 2006, with two second place finishes in the Euro-Cup (2016) and the World Cup (2010) and the World Cup Championship in 2014, plus the 2017 Confederations Cup title, is considering stepping down.  My advice to Jogi is: Don’t do it.

Why take this bold approach?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nicht leichter als das  (Not easier than this.)

Germany has a long tradition of producing the finest soccer players as much as the finest coaches. In fact, some of the best players have become even better coaches, be it Rudi Voeller, Franz Beckenbauer or even Jogi himself. Each coach has had their own way of training their players to become the best in them.  Even players like Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller or even Manuel Neubert would be potential coaches for local soccer teams or even a national team if they wanted to take that path because of their experience. However, Jogi’s  time has not come to step down just yet.

It has nothing to do with the contract that takes him through 2023. It has more to do with the coach with his character versus the personalities of the players.  That has to do with how he and the German team have projected themselves so far. One doesn’t need to go further than listening to some of the parodies many German radio stations  have produced, looking at the German soccer team in general: a coach who is cool under pressure, trying to keep the team together, despite all the minor personal issues each player and personnel had up until the most recent game with South Korea. The best parody so far has been with Jogis Eleven, a comedy produced by central German radio station Jump Radio (powered by MDR Radio).  If one has a team that is coherent like a family, on the same page and have the same values and goals, then one can go far.

However, if one has a team where one promises to win it all but loses it all because of the lack of will to pull it all off, then it is very obvious that a disaster like this would happen. Already the team struggled to win even one game in 2018, having won only one game in the friendly matches prior to the opening game of the World Cup- a 2-1 squeaker against Saudi Arabia, the same team that they had spanked 8-0 in the opening round of the 2002 World Cup. Otherwise, they had two additional losses and one tie. Very atypical for the 2014 Champions. There, the red flags were going up. Then came the arrogance of the team, which revealed its ugly face after Tony’s Kroos’ last second win against Sweden in game 2 of the first round.  This altercation came after the game was over:

This is just as poor sportsmanship as a man slapping a woman, invoking spousal abuse. Even as a husband of a wonderful German wife and proud parent of a German-American daughter, this act of cockiness is an act of cowardness revealing the biggest weakness of the German soccer team, which is they were just not good enough- physically but especially mentally. It would be a matter of time until this disasterous third game that exposed everything and scared every naked woman taking a shower by a peeping tomcat.

In simpler languages, the performance by the team was just not cool, and Loewe as a coach only has part of the blame.  The players themselves have at least half the blame, if not the majority. But to be diplomatic, there is enough blame to go around because of the lack of attention to the other teams and how they have improved in comparision to how Germany has improved, making their shortest showing on record look like round one of the Rocky Balboa- Clubber Lang boxing match in Rocky III:

And even that defeat presents a good quote by Robert Collier: In every defeat is a lesson showing you home to win the victory the next time.

And so, we are going home, starting over from scratch. The poor performance shows that the team is in dire need of a change. Most of the players on the roster are past their prime, beset by injuries and a change of attitude since the 2014 Cup. The gap between the has-beens and the rookies is as wide as ever before, with the latter not undertanding the importance of  representing Germany and the world on the international stage. The personnel on the team is ready to step aside from their duties in soccer, especially the ones involved with the altercation with the Swedish soccer team after the second game. And basically, the team is in total disarray- in need of a total makeover. Yet it does not require the change in guard as the coach of the German national team.

In fact, keeping Jogi would represent continuity for Germany, for he can form the next set of soccer players who are ready to redeem themselves and prepare for a shot at the Euro-Cup in 2020. For himself, staying on would provide him with a chance to achieve the impossible, which is winning of Euro-Cup. The last time Germany won that was in 1996, the only time the team won since West and East Germany reunited in 1990. If he was to keep a couple members from the 2014 team, it would be the first for them as well.  Yet one thing is  certain, the team that showed up for  the 2018 World Cup will have all but maybe one or two  players disappear come 2020. Jogi will definitely look for ways to bring the next generation onto the international stage, while looking at ways of saying good-bye to the older generation, who is ripe to move on.

Yet Jogi must be aware that in the event that he stays on as coach for the German national soccer team, it will be his last chance to redeem himself, both for the Euro-Cup and for the 2022 World Cup. He must make it count but he must have the support of his personnel to make it happen. And it is very obvious that there must not be a repeat of what happened in the 2018 World Cup. The revival and return to relevance will be long, hard and bloody, like in the second boxing match between Rocky and Lang (see below). But with the right coach, like Jogi, and a set of players with as big of an appetite for an international title, the quest for success will be well worth it.

So without further ado, get back to work and look ahead to 2020. Go get ’em, Coach!

 

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FINALLY! SG Flensburg-Handewitt Wins German Premere League Handball Championship

SG Flensburg-Handewitt wins German League Title for the second time in 14 years; its first title since 2015. 

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FLENSBURG- Schleswig-Holstein has had some interesting times lately as three teams tried to advance onto the (inter)national scene after finishing in the top three. Holstein Kiel tried to break the 36-year Bundesliga drought in soccer. But the fighting storks finished third in the Second League standings and lucked out in the relegation playoffs against VFL Wolfsburg 4-1 in two games.  SC Weiche Flensburg won the Regionalliga North title in its inaugural season after the merger between two teams in Flensburg. They came one goal and a possible shootout short against Energie Cottbus in the playoffs to become the second team from Flensburg to enter the national scene in Third League German Soccer.  The score in two games: 3-2.

While the two teams are licking their chops and reloading their manpower for another run in the 2018/19 season, one team finally broke the drought and put the northernmost sea-locked state in Germany back on the map; and that was the Albatrosses of SG Flensburg-Handewitt (FH)!  😀

After finishing in fifth during mid-season, FH capped off its comeback of the season under first-year coach Maik Machulla by holding off Göppingen (in Baden-Wurttemberg) 22-21 in the last game of the season. FH needed an outright win in order to seal the deal, for a tie would have meant a heartbreaking loss, and a third, second place finish in a row, two of which would have been behind the Lions of Rhein Neckar. The Lions defeated Leipzig 28-25 thus closing the door on the opportunity of a tie between Flensburg and Göppingen. Both teams were tied at half-time at 12-12 before FH started an offensive to take a three-goal lead with six minutes left in the game. A furious comeback was stuffed by FH’s defense despite cutting the lead to one before the buzzard. Once the game ended, it was pandemonium in Flensburg!

In its 28th season, this is only the second German Premere League Handball title ever, the team’s first since 2004. As far as (inter) national titles are concerned, while the team has yet to win the triple crown like its rival in Kiel, this is Flensburg’s first title since winning the German Cup (DHB Pokal) in 2015. In this decade alone, FH has won each of its international and national titles once: The Champions League in 2014, The Super Cup in 2013 and the European Cup in 2012, the same year Kiel won the Triple Crown (German League, Champions League and German Cup).

With the monkey off its back, Flensburg will be focusing on bigger goals as it enters uncharted territory. It will compete in the Champions League together with Rhein Neckar, Berlin Foxes and SC Magdeburg in Germany. The European competitors will be tougher to beat. Yet even though it will defend its German League title, it may face an old nemesis when in the German Cup: HSV Hamburg. The team reemerged from bankruptcy with winning the Third League title this season and will be in the Second League. Hamburg and Flensburg had battled back and forth before the team went into administration after the 2016 season. Hamburg’s last title before that was in 2011.

But in the meantime, let’s celebrate this victory and rearm for the next season. You guys deserve this title! 🙂

Highlights of the game can be found here.

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