Raphael Honigstein’s Das Reboot: How German Football Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World sets out to explain how German football recovered from its (relative) failures at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European championships.
There is lots of good material in here, often well told and packed full of weird and wonderful personalities brought skilfully to life.
Two important caveats apply, however.
First, if you’re not already familiar with the topic the book can be hard to follow as, rather than being written chronologically, it is an account of Germany’s matches in the last World Cup, interspersed by different leaps back in time to explain themes related to each match. It’s a neat idea for structuring the book and makes for better analysis, but it also results in a lot of doubling back and forth over time which can be confusing if you don’t already know the basic story and facts such as the order in which German managers came and went.
Second, the book at times falls prey to the widespread trap of ‘if X won then what X did must have been right, and if Y lost then what Y did must have been wrong’. Yet with many key Word Cup matches turning on just one goal – a point Honigstein himself makes well – that doesn’t necessarily follow. Good luck can rescue the people doing the wrong thing, just as bad luck can sink those doing the right thing.
That said, it is a great read and certainly the contrast between the German old guard and the new wave of doing things is a very plausible explanation for Germany’s returning to winning ways. For English readers the contrast with domestic football is notable, especially the huge emphasis in the German recovery on teamwork, lack of ego and youth development feeding into the top German football clubs. Notable too is how little smart use of data plays in the story. It’s not absent but far from the dominating factor that it is in other sports stories such as Moneyball.
If you like this, you might also be interested in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.
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