A glance into Germany’s dressing room
By Kai Pfaffenbach
Football, or â€śsoccerâ€ť for our American friends, is the top sport in Europe. With the Euro 2012 tournament in Ukraine and Poland later this year we are expecting another sports highlight just before the Olympics in London. Sixteen teams will fight for the European title and after their good performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Germany is amongst the favorites for this event. Title holder and World Champion Spain, Holland and France are on the bookmakerâ€™s shortlists as well.
With the big tournament to come I had asked the team press spokesman a while back if I could get some behind the scenes access on Germanyâ€™s road to the final in Kiev. It was a big surprise when I finally got the opportunity granted to shoot the set up in the dressing room for an upcoming game. Almost 40,000 spectators in the newly renovated stadium of Bremen were expecting a great test match between Germany and France. By that time I was inside the catacombs of the stadium where even TV is usually banned from. You will never make it past all the security standing around without very special permission.
Entering the dressing room, or should I say â€śdressing hallâ€ť, was really different to any other sport venue I had seen before. Each and every player has his own personal space; one match dress on a hanger, a second one lying on his seat.
The carefully polished boots were lined up under the seats. German defender Dennis Aogo had â€“ beside his individually painted shin pads â€“ three pairs of boots.
Top midfielder Mesut Oezil from Real Madrid only had one purple colored pair of boots ready for the game.
The captainâ€™s armband â€“ this night for Miroslav Klose â€“ was prominently hanging on the locker next to a pennant which the captainâ€™s of both teams traditionally exchange before the game.
The whole set up looked extremely well organized and clinically clean. Two members of Germanyâ€™s soccer association (DFB) need about one hour to carry half a dozen big metal boxes with all the equipment into the dressing room and to set up each playerâ€™s space individually. Boots, shorts, warm-up outfits or the special gloves for the goalkeepers â€“ nothing is missing in this logistical operation.
As some players have the names of their wife, girlfriend or children stitched on their boots, others need a second or third pair of socks to feel comfortable running over a wet and slippery pitch.
Should some of the players get hungry during warm up they can easily make use of a buffet offering bananas, dried fruit, sparkling or still mineral water.
It is really a set-up for Champions and the young players donâ€™t need to worry about anything. When they arrive aboard the team bus about 75 minutes ahead of the match they just have to bring their personal toiletry bag (preferred are posh brands from France and Italy) to get in style after the game.
This time the perfect preparations didnâ€™t help my German team. Even missing some of the key players due to injuries it was no excuse for a poor performance as France took a 2-1 victory in Bremen and left a sadly disappointed German coach Jogi Loew on his bench.
Of course I left a lot less disappointed after catching this rare glance behind the scenes and wish â€śmyâ€ť team (sorry for that patriotic statement) all the best for the upcoming tournament. Maybe there will be a second chance for me to sneak in before the Euro final in Kiev on July 1…