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German lesson to Irish

AHHHH the Germans.

People we will never really understand but have come to admire, particularly when they come to Ireland, scratch their heads and laugh at the good of it while spending freely.

At the moment, because of Angela Merkel and sharp lads in suits who robbed us blind and continue to rob us blind, we're not too happy with them but we do like their football team.

This half-hearted regard we retain for the German nation is also because we are jealous of their ability to do hard things well and in this country, people find thousands of ways to do things badly.

That's why Ireland's senior football team is being run by a man who would rather be somewhere else but has an iron will when it comes to cash and will not budge until his contract is paid up. Of course, they know Trapattoni in Germany and smile at how appropriate it is that one of football's great eccentrics is managing the pixie-headed Irish. But it's not funny any more and maybe it will be Joachim Loew who delivers the blow which will force Abbotstown to make some hard choices.

Germany made some hard decisions 12 years ago and have since created an efficient and purposeful system of development for football. They did it because they were awful during Euro 2000 and went home humiliated after the first round.

By 2002, they had implemented a blueprint and now, 10 years later, they are enjoying the benefits of a stable management environment based on apprenticeship. They would never need to look outside for help.

A self-perpetuating system of recruiting a manager from a successful base is always good and Bill Shankly's Liverpool is probably the best example how the torch was handed down through the years to men who learned how to do it on site.

But finding decent managers was only a by-product of the German FA's decision to restructure. Players were the prime target and when the first batch was delivered to Jurgen Klinsmann in 2006, he was ready to lift German football out of the doldrums.

A flood of gifted young footballers have reshaped the perception of German teams as physically robust, disciplined technically and supremely functional.

Now, they are all of the above but with the addition of great flair and imagination. It makes them formidable but not, it must be said, yet as formidable as the great German teams of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

A smooth qualification run and victory in Brazil 2014 would be confirmation that the plan is working for the international team, but it has already been remarkably successful in revitalising the Bundesliga.

The building blocks are academies, made mandatory in 2002 for all 36 Bundesliga clubs and with conditions attached.

They are run by the German FA and must recruit 12 players eligible to play for Germany for every age group.

The entire squad for South Africa 2010 and the same again for Euro 2012 came from the academies and talented young Germans and seasoned local pros now make up almost two thirds of the playing staff in the two top divisions.

Here, the League of Ireland pay scant lip service to the development of 12-year-olds, the age at which recruitment starts in Germany, where clubs will not get a licence if their academy fails to meet German FA criteria.

Schoolboy clubs try to do the job as well as they can and the best of them are often accused by those who know no better of being too powerful in the game.

The reality is that if schoolboy clubs weren't developing kids, there's nobody else to do it and they help fund the work by sending the cream to England.

So our best young footballers have to make it through one dysfunctional system to reach another even more discredited structure in England where many disappear without a trace.

This is an old, old subject and nothing much has ever been done to address it. Even less these days when so many sports are fighting over scraps. The heavy burden of the massive Aviva debt is now impacting negatively on every aspect of the FAI's functions and there is no end to that in sight despite the imminent payment of €8million by UEFA -- the bare minimum available from participation in the Euro 2012 finals.

There was envy among the Irish party in Astana when they told us that they had hired the Germans to come in and clone their system to work in Kazakhstan.

It will cost them to do it but they have plenty. So keep an eye on Kazakhstan in about five years time and pray Ireland don't end up in a qualifying group with them.

As one cynic observed, if the talent decline continues, Ireland could be in the same pot as Kazakhstan, never mind the same group.


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