Klinsi: The Great Philosopher
There certainly has been many opinions made of Herr Klinsmann, and the choices he has made with the United States Men's National Team. Some see him as a subtle genius working out the kinks in a long outdated system, while others see him as completely delusional and out of touch with American football. It seems that wherever Klinsmann goes, there seems to be some type of resistance to his philosophy and decision making.
That will not be a new phenomenon for him.
Enter the 2006 World Cup. Klinsmann, much like his role today with the USMNT, was a reformer for German football. Not surprisingly, he was also called delusional by many who would rather see the status quo in German Football continue. The likes of Uli Hoeness and Franz Beckenbauer openly chastised his decision making, and even questioned if he was German enough for the job because he lived in California.
One thing that continually fails to get examined, however, is who Klinsmann is as a trainer and what makes his brain tick.
In a recent article for TIME Magazine that Klinsmann wrote on German Chancellor Merkel, he had some interesting insight into the beliefs that make him tick as a trainer.
"We had assembled a young, hungry, decidedly “un-German” team. A team that historically was disciplined, organized and physical — which perfectly fit the image of our culture — became one that was free-flowing, creative and energetic. There were growing pains, and the criticism was harsh."Go to source
The quote is very telling, one that seems to ooze the ethos of the trainer he is today. What we often seem to forget, is that Klinsmann isn't worried about how "traditional" a squad is, or frankly worried about journalists and fans quibbling about who should or shouldn't be playing for the country. Klinsmann sees himself as a reformer and philosopher of the game, instilling a new culture and image to what are tired and broken footballing systems.
Much of the decision making that Klinsmann and now current Germany trainer Löw implemented in 2006, is a model many Bundesliga clubs have continued to follow with much success.
This leads us to Klinsmann and his goal with the United States. It seems US fans and US Soccer were eager to welcome a reformer with open arms, someone who would catapult the country into the echelons of greatness in World Football. This, too, hasn't gone exactly without opposition.
Even as jubilant as Klinsmann was to accept the job, he was still full of caution to try and let fans know the type of change he was trying to implement. At his press conference after being hired, Klinsmann continued to think deeply about the role of US Soccer in American culture.
"I’VE PLAYED IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, AND THEY ALL HAVE THEIR OWN IDENTITIES AND STYLE,” HE SAID. “I BELIEVE THAT SOCCER HAS TO REFLECT THE CULTURE OF THE COUNTRY. I’VE STUDIED THE U.S. THE LAST 13 YEARS, AND IT’S GOING TO BE QUITE A CHALLENGE. THERE ARE A LOT OF OPINIONS, A LOT OF IDEAS FROM YOUTH SOCCER TO COLLEGE, WHICH IS A MODEL DIFFERENT FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD."
Whether you agree or disagree with individual decisions that the USA coach makes, you cannot say he made it without thought. However is it not just on matters sporting that Klinsmann is an agent for change.
In the same TIME article, he wrote about things far greater than a mere sporting revolution. Were you to question the depth of Klinsmann's weltanschauung, and conclude that he is only a football dreamer, you would be underestimating the man.
TIME Magazine featured the article in its annual chronicle of the great and the good, and regrettably often the evil but powerful, individuals on the planet.
Needless to say, the often underrated German Chancellor Angela Merkel was included. Think of her as the kind alternative aunt to the strident hectoring Aunty Margaret Thatcher of the 1980s, and you might be close to how she is perceived, at least outside Greece and the other economic basket cases of Europe who focused on her when protesting the authority measures, enacted to save the Euro
It is indicative in some ways that TIME turned to none other than Klinsmann to write the Op-Ed about Merkel, when they could have played save and invited an obvious option like German born diplomat Henry Kissinger.
Klinsmann does not duck the obvious and confronts Germany's history straight away, juxtaposing how soccer helped Germany move on from politics, and politics helped soccer do that. As much as many of the global media did indeed credit Klinsmann with updating the global image of Germany by being vivacious and joyful players, as well as gracious losers, he was quick to give credit to the subject of his piece.
"NOTHING EPITOMIZES ANGELA MERKEL’S LEADERSHIP MORE THAN HER ROLE IN THE 2006 WORLD CUP. AS HOSTS, WE GERMANS WERE CONCERNED ABOUT HOW WE WOULD BE PERCEIVED — THE DARK SHADOW OF HISTORY STILL LOOMED. "
Klinsmann could have ducked that, trivilaized it - even refused the assignment. But he is a man as conscious of the place of Germany in world history, as he is of soccer in US history. Put another way, just because he may not see things the way of others, he does not exist in a bubble. Maybe it is his detractors who do.
2006 wasn't all plain sailing. His squad had Ghanaian born Gerald Asamoah, David Odonkor whose father was Ghanaian, and Polish born Miroslav Klose but it would be misleading to suggest that the multi-culturalism of his side had anything like the impact of Joachim Löw's in 2010.
However the way that Klinsmann's side played may be said to have paved the way to the young and vibrant and excessively multi-cultured Löw side of 2010.
His task in the USA now extends beyond 2010. He has been handed 'the vision thing' in his extended role as Technical Director at US Soccer.
At the time of that appointment, Klinsmann observed:
"This shows the players and everybody involved that there is a plan in place. It takes time to develop, to educate, it is not just a process that depends purely on the World Cup. It’s easier to get everybody pulling in the same direction if you show long term commitment," adding "I want to be part of taking soccer to another level in this country."
That journey does not depend on 270 minutes of football in Brazil. But you can be sure Klinsmann has some idea of the final destination.
Christian Grieb is Soccerly's Bundesliga and Germany Correspondent