Criticism of DFB reform: Children’s football without results – what’s behind it

Sport inside

As of: September 27, 2023 8:33 a.m

Rangnick, Baumgart, Watzke: Football celebrities criticize the fact that results and tables are being abolished in children’s games. Time for a closer look at the ongoing reform.

There is a need for clarification about the game operations in Germany’s children’s football. That’s why the German Football Association (DFB) is holding a press conference this Wednesday at 11 a.m. He sent out the invitation after multi-football official Hans-Joachim Watzke described the current reforms as “unbelievable” and “incomprehensible” at the beginning of September.

The BVB managing director and DFB vice-president complained above all that children will no longer learn to lose in the future. He was in the same vein as some football celebrities before him.

Steffen Baumgart in his element

That’s about what happened Steffen Baumgart on the podcast “Simply Football” with WDR presenter Sven Pistor in front of a live audience. In August, the coach of 1. FC Cologne spoke humorously and freely about many topics, including the reform of children’s football. “Nothing at all” He believes that results and tables will no longer be available for the G, F and E juniors.

What followed was an all-round blow (from min. 26:10): “We are a generation that only takes the soft and shallow path. That can’t be true. It’s not a bad thing if a child loses. He has to learn to deal with defeat. I have to learn, fun to be involved in the sport, not just when I score ten goals.”

Children’s football: festivals instead of club duels

The background: After several years of pilot projects, the state and district associations are gradually converting the children’s league operations. According to a requirement from the DFB, the so-called new forms of play are to be introduced across Germany from the 2024/25 season, from the U6 (Bambinis) to the U11 (E-Youth).

The classic league operation with club duels, usually 7 against 7, is replaced by so-called festivals with smaller teams and several fields. The youngest players mainly play on four mini goals, and as they get older they increasingly also play on two youth goals.

The number of players also grows over time, from 2 on 2 for the little ones to 5 on 5 or 7 on 7 in the E-youth. In this way, the children should grow into the demands of large-field football and league operations from the D-youth level onwards.

Criticism also from Rangnick and Hamann

So far, tables and results have been available online in many places, sometimes with devastating results such as 1:18 or 0:22. The new festivals end without results and the results of the individual games are not officially recorded.

Austria’s national coach Ralf Rangnick also takes issue with this. He said the result, winning, must always be the priority. Ex-national player Dietmar Hamann even said that the performance principle was being trained out of the children, “The fun will suffer as a result.”

Victory and defeat still exist

These statements give the impression that the outcome of a game will no longer play a role in children’s football in the future. Markus Hirte strongly contradicts this. The head of talent development at the DFB points this out Champions League-Principle of the game festivals: The winning team rotates one field forward, the losing team one field back. “This provokes even more competition and results,” Shepherd told Sport in August inside. “It’s very intense.”

Intrinsic motivation, i.e. that which comes from within, is important, says Joti Chatzialexiou, the sporting director of the DFB national teams. “Even with regard to the national teams and the professional sector, we want to have footballers who are intrinsically motivated and want to win and not because there is a table.”

Result and winning, but less pressure from outside

U15 national coach Christian Wück also emphasizes the natural ambition. “For the children it’s always about the result, they always want to win, they always want to play well.“What needs to be reduced, however, is the pressure from outside. “It’s important that the coaches, parents and relatives don’t care about the result.”

Proponents of the reform argue that in classic game operations, coaches would be tempted to train during the week in such a way that the result would be the same on the weekend. In the game of 7 against 7, this means: tactical guidelines, fixed positions and more shares in the game for the more developed children.

New gaming operations are already mandatory in many places

While the public discussion revolves around tables being eliminated, the ongoing reform is much more complex. The DFB recognized weaknesses in the old game operation: rigid team sizes meant that some children received little or no playing time. And in 7-on-7, the two best players on a team take control of the game while the others only have a few actions.

Even though Baumgart said on “Simply Football,” “No child in the world doesn’t enjoy football”, the DFB found something different: Many children experienced frustration in the previous playing system, and too many turned their backs on football at a young age. The new forms of play with smaller teams are intended to increase the fun factor and offer more experiences of success and development opportunities for all children. Both professional and popular sports should benefit.

Already this season, a year before the nationwide introduction in 2024, Many state and district associations are making mandatory changes to game operations. This leads to resentment in some places because the details of the organization are often not yet fully developed and are already more complex than before.

Because of DFB plans: protest league in Breisgau

In addition, some older teams who have already experienced classic games now have to switch to festivals. Children, coaches and parents can see this as a step backwards. In the Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald district, an alternative e-youth league has even been formed outside of the DFB.

The German Football Association is betting that the excitement will subside once the first generation of children has grown up with the system. Chatzialexiou also points out that other countries changed children’s play operations years ago: Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and also England.

National player Musiala: “Much less pressure”

Germany national player Jamal Musiala learned to play football there; he only played between the ages of seven and 16 Southampton and then for a long time at FC Chelsea. In the BBC Musiala made a comparison in June 2022: “In Germany there is a league system for under ten-year-olds, whereas in England it is not common up to the U18 level. There you have a lot less pressure and more time to develop, you can play a lot more freely.”

At least the lack of tables doesn’t seem to have hurt Musiala.