– How German Football Reinvented Itself and Conquered The World
By Raphael Honigstein
Yellow Jersey Press – £18.99
Footballers are naurally superstitious.They tend to believe in the power of routine, in repetitiveness. It’s how they’ve played their entire professional lives. You do the things that work and discard those that don’t
Upon reading the 274 pages of Das Reboot, it’s easy to understand why Raphael Honigstein is the UK’s top expert on German football. Apart from being a regular columnist for The Guardian and ESPN, he’s also a writer with the Suddeutsche Zeitung. As such, he most certainly knows his stuff. So much so, I’m inclined to admit that these nineteen chapters will undoubtedly appeal a whole lot more to the initiated, than those for whom the countless trials and tribulations of The Bundesliga are not quite so apparent.
For instance, in the very first chapter (‘Angst 2014’) he already writes: ”Incessant tactical drills had them playing with the cohesion of a club team, a rare quality in international football where many of Low’s peers still believed that simply lining up the country’s best eleven players was all that was needed.”
In a round-a-bout kind of way, Honigstein does fundamentally write with an almost effortless tactical suave; which, along with an ultimately informed manner, somehow suggests he believes his readers are fantastically in the know. And hopefully they are! Of his first book, Englischer Fussball, The Times resoundingly wrote: ”[…] Honigstein explores, with erudition, originality and wit, the difference between what the English are and how others see them. This book ought to be widely read. I’d put it in schools.”
Might this be because there’s an openess amid the author’s writing? An endearing quality, that, by the time of ‘Two Thousand Zero Four,’ is recurringly aligned with that of a political peruasion. Two overtly potent examples being: ”The nation was running out of players, and casting envious glances at the multi-cultural make-up of World Cup 98 and Euro 2000 winners, France. Mayer-Vorfelder bemoaned the fact that Germany had lost her colonies after the First World War and thus couldn’t cope with the athletic style of her neighbour […]. Netzer famously wrote in 2003 that Ballack was ‘not predestined for the leadership role of days gone by,’ because the socialist GDR had been a country where ‘the collective counted’ and ‘the path for geniuses was blocked.”
Or better still, aligned with philosophical nuance: ”[…] in football, as in life, the most powerful lies are always the ones you tell yourselves.”
Das Reboot is an easy, as well as very enlightening, albeit idiosyncratic read. It’ll no doubt make for a very worthy companion to the aforementioned book about English football, whilst simultaneously retaining a haughty substance and quality of its own.
Unsurprisingly, the final chapter, ‘The Longest Goal,’ concludes on an almighty positive note – having interestingly regaled the reader with Germany’s World Cup Triumph against Argentina in 2014. According to Oliver Bierhoff: ”My worry was that they were subconsciously underestimating the game. We had had one more day to rest than Argentina. We had only played ninety minutes, and forty-five of that without expending much energy, whereas they had had to go a hundred and twenty minutes and to penalties against the Netherlands. Angel Di Marta, one of their most important players, was injured. We had everyone available. You can tell yourself that these things don’t matter, but in your heart of hearts you probably believe that they do. You might not even be aware that you’re feeling that way.”
Moreover, Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira (who didn’t play in the final due to an injured calf muscle) almost substantiates as much: ”I remembered to give the team some encouragement from the side of the pitch. Players feel it when the bench is alive.”
There really is no denying that; and perhaps Raphael Honigstin realises this more than most (of which this book is published proof).