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“It’s the German word for a ‘person’ or ‘human’; it’s also a word in German that can be used out of aggravation or frustration – you’d say ‘mensch: come on!’,” he replies.
“It can also mean being a ‘good person’. That’s not a German word in that sense, that’s a Yiddish word. So there’s a quite lot of variation behind it and I thought it best summed up what I was trying to do with the book, and ultimately that was to explain or shed some light, through the stories of a number of different coaches, on how coaching needs to return to more human values, particularly in football, because I think we’ve forgotten.”
German-developed coaches are some of the most valued in European football but, if the nation’s production line of coaches, not to mention playing talent, is to continue in the same vein, then the human element cannot be overlooked.
As Harding adds: “Part of all sport is that these are just people, whether they’re coaches, players, members of staff – everybody in the game needs to be viewed and remembered as humans and I think that’s something I was really keen to put across.”
He does so through the eyes of some of Germany’s most respected coaches, who have been part of the overhaul that saw a moribund German football team rise from its inauspicious performance at Euro 2000 to world champions in 2014. Some bold decisions in terms of player and coach development were made along the way and, following the team’s exit at the group stages of the 2018 World Cup, Harding argues that similarly affirmative action is needed once again.
Coming up you’ll also hear Harding, who works as a football correspondent in Germany, discuss: