A director that despises the fan culture, a commercialised team with more appeal in foreign lands than in its own and stories of institutional racism and xenophobia – the DFB is not feeling well at the moment. Has the German association even acknowledged the mistakes they’ve made? Are they even aware of the crisis they’ve created? Axel Falk will explore the world of DFB under Reinhard Grindel and will try to distinguish a few major problems within the German institution, an association that seems responsible for the sudden downfall of domestic football in Germany and internationally.
It’s international break, the major European leagues have stopped and fans are left wishing for more. International football takes its place on the throne and gives us some minor kind of joy until we can enjoy some more good club football. This is a new chance for Germany, an opportunity to start fresh after a shambolic summer, during which they were eliminated in the group stage and managed to disgrace themselves with a xenophobic scandal. The director Reinhard Grindel’s summer has been as insane. He has had to deal with questions regarding Mesut Özil, questions about Joachim Löw and his future as well as regarding his own future within the association. He’s been firm so far and has stood his ground, but not without criticism and not without heavy scrutiny. Grindel has become one of the most disliked men within German football and that hasn’t changed since.
In fact, it’s only gotten worse. When Germany played France in the UEFA Nations League, the next game against Peru was set to be played at Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt am Main, a symbolic castle of prosperity for the German fan culture. But when Grindel then moved the game to a soulless concrete complex in Sinsheim, most started to genuinely question what he had been smoking or/and drinking. His reasoning was even more absurd- he didn’t want Frankfurt’s ultras to destroy Germany’s chances of getting Euro 2024.
Through this action, his role has become even more questioned. The hashtag #ausgegrindelt spread from Frankfurt to other parts of the German football sphere and the action has not seldom been an attack on German fan culture. However, let’s have some empathy, let’s try to understand his reasoning. Grindel seems to think that commercial success is what drives German football forward, that German football is something special without its one-of-a-kind fan culture. This assumption goes quite well in hand with his other actions as boss of the DFB.
The German association has managed to alienate itself with the German public through an extensive marketing campaign abroad. Why is it important to spread “die Mannschaft” to India or the US? Excuse the cultural chauvinism, but it’s just unfathomable. A national team should not need marketing, it should be loved and cherished no matter what. These campaigns have only made the gap between the public and the national team even greater and many Germans feel little to nothing for their own national team, something that has probably never happened before in the history of German football.
Commercialism and greed once again seem to be the factors behind the rapture we’ve seen and experienced. Money talks, in football more than anywhere else and this has become too palpable in the German football. However, if we try to contextualise the greed, we’ll see that football and DFB is no different from the rest of mankind. Greed seems to be one of few actual lasting trends in human history, as long as we’ve known the concept of possession we’ve wanted to have more, we’ve wanted to crave more, and we’ve never become full. Grindel and the DFB is thus a great example of human greed, a good example of what happens when money becomes more important than people. They’ve alienated themselves from their own public, created a closed culture within the footballing sphere of the land and has failed to deal with institutionalised xenophobia- the DFB is in free fall and only one thing can save it.
Many have called for the resignation of Grindel and perhaps that’s not a bad thing. The DFB has become his propaganda and the flags we see are his. Once upon a time, Germany had an army of passionate football fans behind it- people that would die to see the national team win a World Cup. Those times have passed and we’ve been left in a soulless desert where only club football can provide some joy ad excitement. DFB need to move on. It might just be enough to save the national team from drowning in the deep sea and it might just be the only way to do it.
By Axel Falk.