“The ball is round and the game lasts ninety minutes.”- Sepp Herberger
On 5th April 1908, an amateur German team dressed in white shirts and black shorts walked out onto the field for the first time in the Swiss city of Basel: over the course of the following century, that team would become one of international football’s leading superpowers.
The first century of German football was to see many highs and lows: it was to witness the listlessness of the early days, the political controversies of the 1930s, the Miracle of Bern in 1954 and the country’s first World Cup victory, the advent of the professional era in the 1960s, the glorious world-beaters of the 1970s, the scandal of Gijón in 1982, the trauma of the early twenty-first century and subsequent resurgence of a cosmopolitan, dynamic and highly motivated young side.
Over the years – particularly in the British media – the German national team have managed to acquire a number of characteristics: tenacity, discipline, order, thoroughness, efficiency, good at penalty shoot-outs. In fact, not one tournament goes by without “efficiency” being mentioned dozens of times by either newspaper journalists or television analysts and commentators.
Like any set of stereotypes, there is more than a grain of truth: German teams have indeed over the years proved to be tenacious, disciplined, ordered – and at times highly efficient in grinding out results when they really matter. However this is just part of the picture: From the likes of Fritz Szepan, Fritz Walter, Franz Beckenbauer, Günter Netzer and Gerd Müller through to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Lothar Matthäus, Michael Ballack and the current crop of young stars such as Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Mesut Özil, German football has also gifted the world with some of the most stylish and graceful exponents of the beautiful game.
They do also happen to be particularly good at penalty shoot-outs.
While the tenacity and tactical awareness of the German team has over the years been acknowledged and – often through gritted teeth – admired, the skill, grace and dynamism of many who have worn the famous Schwarz und Weiß has more often than not been overlooked. Football is after all much more than simply being able to hold one’s nerve during a penalty shootout or remain standing after almost two hours in the energy-sapping, baking heat of a rarefied Mexican cauldron.
This part of the website consists of three main sections – a brief history of the team from the foundation of the DFB in 1908, biographies of the ten Nationaltrainers who have led the team, and a series of potted pen-portraits of some of the leading players – and some less-heralded heroes – who over the years have graced the field in the Schwarz und Weiß.
In Germany itself, the team is usually known as Die Nationalmannschaft (“the national team”), but is also referred to as Die deutsche Elf (“the German eleven”), Die Nationalelf (“the national eleven”) and variations thereof. Also popular are less formal nicknames, such as Jogi’s Jungs (“Jogi’s boys”). In the foreign media, the team are often referred to as Die Mannschaft – simply, “the team”. I have used many of these terms interchangably in this website.