rightkerfuffle (rightkerfuffle) wrote in loewsmiserables,

Joachim Löw must fulfil the promise of Germany’s golden generation

The German coach has been keeping a diary to help him focus on the ‘tiny details’ needed for his side to win the World Cup

Throughout his eight years in charge, Joachim Löw has carefully dressed like a man who would rather not be mistaken for a football manager, let alone the Bundestrainer (Germany coach).

Last Friday night in Rio de Janeiro, the 54-year-old went one step further: Löw walked into the press room of the Maracanã in a white T-shirt, looking every inch an Ipanema tourist who had been dropped off in the wrong spot by his taxi driver.

German TV viewers had seen him in the same top before, on his long, solitary jogs along the Santo André beach next to the idyllic German base camp in Bahia. Occasionally, his morning routine has been interrupted by two women reporters from the two national broadcasters, who have asked questions such as “How are you feeling today, Mr Löw?” before sending him on his way along the Atlantic coast with a couple of air-kisses.

Print journalists have criticised the coverage as the output of “the German FA’s covert PR department” (11 Freunde editor Philipp Köster) but maybe the endless array of beautiful, sunshine-kissed shots has accidentally come closer to the truth than four weeks of articles dissecting the manager’s many predicaments and quandaries. Löw has been happily living in his own bubble in Brazil, oblivious to the doubts and demands at home.

“I’m in a state of deep relaxation,” he had told the world’s media on the night before the quarter-final v France. It had sounded like bravado but the white T-shirt after the 1-0 win proved the point. It’s what you wear when you have gone past caring what people think of you and your outfit.

The whole of Germany, including those who had never heard of Philipp Lahm before this month, had criticised him for not playing the captain at right-back. Löw discussed the issue dispassionately with his staff and some key players, then serenely decided that against France, Lahm would play right-back again. The danger of being seen as an Umfaller, a weak manager bowing to public pressure, did not concern him, he explained convincingly. This was not about him, only about the right tactics for the game. “Löw is somebody who will listen to arguments internally but he always decides by himself,” said Harald Stenger, the former Germany press officer who is in Brazil as a columnist.

Making it past France would also have helped “Jogi” feel so at ease, of course. The quarter-finals are the World Cup’s bottleneck: they separate the quite good, the lucky, the over-hill and the building-for-the-future teams from the four genuine contenders. A defeat at that stage would have amounted to a disgraceful early departure; the win has brought two more games, the semi-final against Brazil and then either a date with destiny or the dreaded play-off game. Either way, Germany will get to stay until the end of the competition for the fourth time in a row. That is something, the pressure to deliver the trophy notwithstanding. “This World Cup is already a success,” said the head of the German FA, Wolfgang Niersbach. It is firmly committed to keeping Löw in charge for Euro 2016, irrespective of results in the coming days.

Whether Löw feels the same way is another matter. Speculation has been rife that he could walk away from the job, that he has had enough, trophy or no trophy. Maybe his mind is made up and that is why he has looked so pressure-resistant. The cover of Monday’s Der Spiegel magazine called Löw “The Gambler” and promised to detail his “bold strategies” but inside, the piece is titled Der fremde Deutsche (“fremd” translates as foreign, strange or alien), and it tries to elucidate why the unashamedly urbane thrill-seeker (he climbed Kilimanjaro) and irresponsibly fast driver (he lost his driver’s licence in March) just does not connect with his German public.

It is true that he has remained resolutely private, aloof even. Unlike his predecessors Jürgen Klinsmann, Rudi Völler, Berti Vogts and Franz Beckenbauer, he has got no gleaming past as a World Cup winner to fill the void that he so deliberately cultivates. Löw is the record scorer of (then) second division SC Freiburg, a club near the Schwarzwald. He never wore the national shirt.

With his airs of a successful architect or entertainment executive, he’s also been a natural target for all those who have been unsettled by German football becoming a modern, globally agreeable product and hark back to the days when the German FA were a bastion of social conservatism, with a whiff of deep heat muscle cream, supermarket shower gel and freshly mowed lawn.

But a look back at the same stage of the tournament four years ago offers a more banal explanation for the disquiet at home. After making it to a semi-final against Spain in Durban, the whole of Germany was celebrating, and Löw was widely feted as the spiritus rector (guiding spirit) of a “boy band” (Bild) that played wonderful football. His popularity had reached “Lena Meyer-Landrut levels,” Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote at the time. Meyer-Landrut had just won the Eurovision Song Contest. Pop stars do not come any bigger in Germany.

South Africa amounted to a promise that Löw’s Euro 2012 team failed to fulfil, and Germany fans felt deeply let down. Löw suddenly became the man who was holding back a golden generation. At this World Cup, millions of supporters and just as many part-timers who revel in the Red, Black and Gold carnival every two years were primarily unhappy because they could not bear the thought that the party might end too soon. Now that Löw has allayed those fears, the mood is swinging back in his favour. That is the fickle nature of international football, and Löw has been determined to block it all out.

He has been keeping a diary, he told Welt am Sonntag, in order to collect his thoughts and concentrate on “the tiny details” that need to be right to push Germany over the line. He is there, he has got the T-shirt. All he needs to do now is go on and win the World Cup.

Tags: article, jogi + hans = coordi - nation, world cup 2014!
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