Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hot Seat

In the rest of the world, soccer is a passion. Can you imagine national angst over a national team coach in the USA, in any sport?

BBC: Klinsmann under pressure

Less than three months remain until the start of the World Cup in Germany - and the host nation is worried.


Paul Chapman, a journalist who has covered German football for 30 years, told the BBC: "If it goes wrong against the USA, the whole country will be up in arms.

"People are still ready to give him a chance, up to and including this match against the USA.

"He has still has got credit. He was a very popular player, he always played with a smile on his face, he was good for an interview and I think he's still got some credit left over.

"But time is running out."

NYTimes: German Coach and American Ways Are a Tough Match

Those unhappy with Klinsmann were surely unmoved by the latest rankings from FIFA, soccer's world governing body, which put the United States fifth, the highest it has ever been, and Germany 22nd, the lowest it has been.


Criticism grew so intense by last week that Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, felt it necessary to deflate mounting pressure on Klinsmann. She declared that he was "on the right track" and urged him to ignore his critics.


Stefan Effenberg, a former teammate of Klinsmann's, urged that he be fired immediately, saying, "The rest of the world is laughing at us."

Some politicians even wanted Klinsmann censured before a sports subcommittee of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament
, according to Markovits, the Michigan professor. "That's like Larry Brown being cited before Congress for only bringing home a bronze from the Athens Olympics," Markovits said, referring to the Knicks' coach. "Absurd."


Germany's recent exhibition loss to Italy unleashed an angry response. "Disaster," proclaimed the soccer magazine Kicker. The Bild tabloid, Germany's largest daily and one that has been highly critical of Klinsmann, wrote, "Mama Mia We Are Bad." The tabloid showed a picture of a grinning Klinsmann ("Grinsi Klinsi") and added, "With you, one can only cry about our national team."

Die Tageszeitung wrote that Klinsmann threatened the expected $9.5 billion economic windfall from the World Cup and sapped Germany of its anticipation and general optimism. "Euphoria has been replaced by depression," the paper said, adding, "At most, the gastronomy branch can hope that, out of desperation, the masses grab for the bottle."


If Germany wins the World Cup on July 9, Klinsmann will again be a national icon. If things go badly, Markovits said a German journalist recently suggested to him that Klinsmann would become persona non grata in his home country.

"Maybe he could visit his parents, but he would be completely vilified," Markovits said. "I would seriously worry about his safety if the Germans lose in the quarterfinals."

I only got to see Klinsmann play live once, at a charity exhibition at RFK Stadium in DC. Klinsmann was retired, and was subbed in during the second half. He was electric. Every time he touched the ball, the game slowed down, and you just waited to see what he would do next. Unfortunately, I was at the game with my sister, who doesn't really care that much about soccer, and she insisted on leaving before the game was over to watch the Yankees in the baseball playoffs. Aargh.

That said, I look forward to Germany going down in a heap in the World Cup, after they stole a game from us during the 2002 World Cup on a Thorsten Frings handball in the penalty area (not called by the moronic Scottish referee Hugh Dallas).

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