The Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick has apologised for saying his players would need steel helmets for protection against Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kicks.The comment made earlier on Friday before the team's departure for Lviv caused a stir in Germany due to its military connotations.[...]Flick had replied "I think just steel helmets and to make themselves big" when asked how Germany planned to deal with free-kicks from Portugal's Ronaldo in their opening Group B game in Lviv on Saturday.
Ugh, and this year's championships are held in Poland and Ukraine. Yeah, I know, the German army ran riot almost everywhere you could hold a European championship, but I guess in Poland and Ukraine such a statement is a little trickier than in, say, France or Belgium.
So, why? One answer is that, yes, that Ronaldo guy has an eminently hard shot and you might wish for a helmet should the ball come your way. Couple that with the fact that this whole fashion of being sensitive towards other people's feelings never really caught on in football - a dressing room's not a sociology seminar - and you can see how Flick might spontaneously come up with a wording that turns out to be not all that wise. (As you might have guessed, he has already apologized.)
On the other hand, the way the role is interpreted in the current German national team setup, talking to the press is one of the main responsibilities of the "assistant coach". And Flick, while not a major player in German intellectual life, doesn't strike me as an idiot. Are we really supposed to believe that was a gaffe?
Here's a more interesting theory. Ever since 2006, everybody's been saying what a likable, multicultural, attractively playing team Germany are. Also, Germany have won absolutely nothing since 1996, despite being among the favourites due to the quality of the players in recent years. There's a feeling that it's about time.
What to do? Look to the past! Between 1980 and 1996, everybody in world football associated the following terms with the German national team: great stamina, ruthless, never-say-die, efficient, destructive, The Tanks. They won two European and on World Cup.
Which is better, being liked and losing or being hated and winning? Decisions, decisions!
So I say Flick's comment is an attempt to use Mourniho's favourite public relations tactic: conjure up some hatred for the team, which, in turn, may be expected to cause the players to circle the wagons and put in that extra little bit of nitty-gritty which comes in handy when the other side are also excellent in terms of technical abilities and tactics.
Will it work? In a few hours, we'll know a little more.