The catalyst for success: the DFB-Academy attended a media workshop on Monday which helped with topics surrounding sporting content. Oliver Bierhoff, director of the national teams and academy, spoke in an interview with Tobias Bach about the role the academy plays in the national teams, “Project Zukunft”, trainer coaching and how people work together within German football.
DFB.de: Mr Bierhoff, you set the target of returning to the very summit of world football for your German national side. What sort of role does the academy play within that? What meaning does the academy have for the national sides?
Oliver Bierhoff:We, as a footballing side in Germany, have to take the next step together with the league and national associations. I spoke about this at the DFB-Bundestag. I want everybody associated with all national teams to work with urgency to return to the top – it’s a necessity for us. We want to take that last step to ensure it happens and the academy helps us enormously with that. The academy is the catalyst for our success and it provides us with the necessary means to compete – it’s an essential institution in our Project Zukunft. It provides us with concrete evidence of how we have developed and improved as a unit and it gives us new players to work with from the German pool of talent so that we can continue to be successful in the future. But of course we know it doesn’t happen overnight, we have to be realistic.
DFB.de: What timescale are you aiming for?
Bierhoff: In the year 2000, German football underwent a massive change as much more focus was put on the performances of the youngsters. It was ten years before we saw the first real success, and then four years after that we finally won the World Cup in Brazil. Some things are easy to implement and take shape quickly, such as training of the coaches. Others, however, such as the structure of both competitions and funding of teams, brings about a few more questions and so takes longer. It’s the job of everyone associated with German football to help implement these measures and ensure that the “champions of tomorrow” are Germany. We have to create the right conditions to ensure this process takes shape and so we have to identify any problems and find the solutions to them as soon as possible.
DFB.de: The football coach training course at the DFB academy has already been structurally and substantively reformed. In addition, a mentoring program for former players has been introduced. What’s it all about?
Bierhoff: They are part of our overall strategy to become the best in the world again. We want to further develop German football, so we have critically examined what we can do better in our coaching education. Our football coaches are now being trained in a more hands-on, individual and location-dependent way, using the possibilities of digitisation to set up a “digital campus”. Our coaches are critical to us and our players. We generally have to give them more opportunities in education and training and we must also succeed in keeping the wealth of knowledge of ex-players in the system – be it as a coach, sporting director, or subject matter expert. But the name alone is not enough; we have to coach them so they build up some amount of competence. That’s why we initiated the mentoring program in our academy.
DFB.de: As a provider of these services, the DFB has its ears to the ground in terms of new innovations, looks to think outside the box and acts as a networker for German football. How important is this role?
Bierhoff: Internationally, there is no institution comparable to the DFB Academy, which is why we are also looking forward to the new building, which is being headed by our secretary general Friedrich Curtius. We will get a sporting home. With our academy, we are a small, compact centre of excellence, in which we are constantly improving in both theory and practice. We already do this in our current projects. Again and again we want to bring together the various experts and players, generate knowledge and apply this back to our system in an application-oriented way.