Boys will be boys. With an average age of 24.5, Germany have the youngest squad at UEFA EURO 2012, and this is the most youthful side the German Football Association (DFB) has ever sent to a major tournament. Sometimes it shows, but in a good way.
Before UEFA EURO 2012 kicked off, we were given access to the team hotel for a pre-tournament film shoot, where the players pose in front of a green screen for the images that appear on the giant video screens inside the stadiums and the accompanying TV graphics. It is a compulsory task for the players, but those 90 minutes with the team offered some insight into their dynamic.
Lining up one after one, they tried to ruin each other's serious poses for the camera, horsing around with their mobile phones and trying to wind each other up. For long periods, it was like watching a bunch of 13-year-olds fooling around. That glimpse of the Nationalmannschaft enjoying themselves got me thinking of the links between the youngsters I coach back at home and Germany's finest.
Much has been said of football's role as a powerful tool for integration in Germany, and the national team have become a shining example of that. Later, thinking about what I had witnessed, it hit me: this team really mirror social reality in Germany.
The Under-14 side I coach in a town north of Frankfurt includes Granit from Kosovo, English Eddy, Raphael whose father is American, Mario with a Thai mother, three Turkish players, Batuhan, Oguzhan and Taha – for whom Mesut Özil is a personal hero – and the Portuguese Fabio. The best thing is that these lads get along as well as the national team did in that filming session, cultural roots never being an issue.
They share a passion for football and that is all they need to get along – most of the time at least. There is some good-natured ribbing when Germany play Turkey or Portugal, like they did on Satuday, but that's it. It seems to be the same for the national team.
I cannot stress enough how much fun I had experiencing that same great atmosphere within the Germany team, with several players who were old enough to know better among the main instigators. The hard-fought win against Portugal will have further improved the mood. If that's anything to go by, they can go a long way here in Poland and Ukraine.
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