11 March 2004
HAMBURG – Given the quality of the opponents Real Madrid and Chelsea it was no outright shame that Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart crashed out of the European Champions league.
But there was nonetheless concern about the state of German club football on Thursday as the proud football nation has no team left in the quarter-final stage of the Champions League and UEFA Cup for the second straight year.
However, football officials quickly pointed out that the club showing was no indication for a possible Euro 2004 disaster of the national team in June.
“The situation is embarrassing, but the Euro is another matter. No one made much of German football ahead of the 2002 World Cup and then we finished runners-up,” said national football icon Franz Beckenbauer.
National team coach Rudi Voeller agreed: “The exit of Munich and Stuttgart is a shame, but nothing dramatic.
“I am rather dismayed that we didn’t make more of our potential in the UEFA Cup. That needs to be reviewed.”
The UEFA Cup was in fact a disaster as none of the teams the Germans lost to came even close to the calibre of Real and Chelsea.
Bundesliga leaders Werder Bremen lost in the Intertoto cup to Austrian minnows Parsching.
In the first round of the UEFA Cup, Kaiserslautern went out against Teplice, Hamburg against Dnjepropetrovsk and Hertha Berlin against Groclin Grodzisk. Schalke and Dortmund followed in the second round, losing to Brondby and Sochaux, respectively.
“The UEFA Cup turned into a rare show of embarrassment,” said Kicker sports magazine on Thursday.
Things looked better a few years ago with Dortmund and Schalke winning the Champions League and UEFA Cup, respectively, in 1997. Munich won the Champions League in 2001 and in 2002 Bayer Leverkusen and Dortmund were runners-up in the Champions League and UEFA Cup.
This success could not be repeated in 2003 and 2004.
“That is no coincidence. One must look carefully which direction German club football is taking. The lights are slowly going out,” warned Beckenbauer, who won three Champions Cup titles with Bayern.
Coaches such as Felix Magath, Christoph Daum and Winfried Schaefer called for an improved talent scouting system to change the negative trend.
But others said the crisis was not as big as it appeared.
Bremen’s French playmaker Johan Micoud said that all big nations have been through such slumps.
“The Italians have been through it and the Spaniards as well. Now its the Germans,” said Micoud.
Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge even said that German football was on the right track because it didn’t engage in huge financial risks.
“The southern European and English clubs won’t have a lot of money next season. I am curious which club can afford a big transfer in summer. As a result the chances of the German clubs will improve again,” said Rummenigge.
Subject: German news