At the German Football Association, there is a dispute as to whether the claim “The team” still fits the national team. An absurd discussion given the sporting problems of Hansi Flick’s team a few months before the start of the World Cup in Qatar.

A man comes to the doctor. “You’re wearing ugly red pants,” says the doctor. “Thank you very much, you helped me a lot,” the man replies and leaves. Sounds like a bad joke, but a similar pattern is currently being discussed in the management floor of the world’s largest sports association. The German Football Association (DFB) is also dealing with something like the color of the trousers these days. About externals, about superficial things – but no one here makes a diagnosis that really ails the association, which has seven million members.

The DFB is thinking aloud about whether the claim “The team” still fits the men’s national team. Sports director Oliver Bierhoff thinks he’s good, Hans-Joachim Watze, managing director of Borussia Dortmund and member of the DFB executive committee, thinks he’s bad. The brand name would come across as arrogant, says Watzke, who, however, has been trying loudly and not very modestly to become a brand for years.

Current study fuels discussion

The discussion about the claim is now fueled by a current study. According to information from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Nuremberg Institute SLC Management claims to have found out that the population is strangers to the brand name “DieTeam”. Approval has fallen from 55 percent in 2016 to 21 percent in 2022. According to the SLC, 78.4 percent of the 5,300 respondents would like the claim to be abolished. Study director Alfons Madeja comes to the conclusion that the label has failed.

Is this actually true? Is “The Team” just the wrong name for the right product? Or is it not rather the other way around – the label is okay, but the product itself has defects?

The packaging artist Bierhoff imposed the claim on his eleven after they had won the 2014 World Cup. Back then, Bierhoff had every right to call his team “The Team” – because that’s what they were after the triumph in Brazil: The team of the hour that the rest of the football world was looking at. Only after the night of Rio (Schürrle cross, Götze turning shot) things went steadily downhill. The low point was the 2018 World Cup in Russia, when defending champion Germany was eliminated after the preliminary round, bottom of the group behind South Korea.

The national team has not recovered from this tournament to this day. Popularity ratings are falling; the DFB has recently had trouble filling the stadiums at some home games. Sometimes tickets were given away (as in Wolfsburg, in the game against Liechtenstein) so that it didn’t look too much like a witching hour in the stands and stands.

Much mediocrity

In August last year, the leaden time under Joachim Löw was finally over. With Hansi Flick as the new national coach, it was hoped that lost sympathy would be regained. Flick also got off to a good start: qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar was flawless, victory followed victory. Only these days, in the Nations League, Flick’s team is no longer able to inflame the audience. 1-1 v Italy, 1-1 v England, 1-1 v Hungary. Nothing intoxicating, nothing big, just a lot of mediocrity instead.

It is all the more irritating that there is now a dispute about a claim at the top of the DFB. The really urgent questions at the Frankfurt association headquarters are: How does this team get in shape for the World Cup – with only a few days left to prepare together? Where to get a centre-forward? Who plays defensively on the flanks? There are many talented wing runners in Flick’s squad – but who has also mastered the art of defence?

Those are pretty dull, pretty stuffy topics. But you have to answer them first of all if you ever want to win a big title again and bear the title “The Team” with some justification.