Bundesliga winter break does no harm
In a week in which Roberto Mancini has, in his own grammatically peculiar way, fiercely criticised the timetabling of the Premier League, players in Germany have been sinking into their Christmas armchairs, safe in the knowledge that they will not have to start running off the Lebkuchen until at least a few days into the new year.
The winter break in the Bundesliga stretches from the 21st December, when the final matches of the Round of 16 in the Germna Cup were wrapped up, to the 20th January, when all eighteen teams will set foot tentatively into Matchday 18 and the “Rueckrunde”: the business end of the season.
In England, the fixture list woes of Premier League managers are as familiar a soundtrack to Christmas as Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues, and the off key warblings of the given X Factor winner; in Germany, the general public have to do without all three. For four weeks in the winter, football is all but forgotten about, and the League is far better for it.
With only 18 teams, the Bundesliga is able, every year, to arrange a fixture list in which teams play the same games in the same order in each half of the season. So for example, Borussia Mönchengladbach opened their 2011/12 season with a victory in Munich,and on the 20th January, they will host FC Bayern at the Borussia Arena. Aside from the odd dispute over the television rights and the “Friday evening fixture”, this rigidity tends to ensure a relatively peaceful acceptance of whatever timetabling the league throws at its clubs at the start of the year.
While some leading German figures such as Franz Beckenbauer have, in the past, criticised the existence – or at least the length – of the winter break, there seems to be little evidence of it harming Germany’s clubs. While teams like Manchester City and Manchester United will be overloaded with FA Cup, Carling Cup, league and European fixtures over January, most top tier German clubs will be rehabilitating at overseas training camps in preparation for the second half of the season. Next week will see Bayern Munich and Schalke jet off to Qatar, Bayer Leverkusen head to Lagos and champions Borussia Dortmund hit the sunny beaches of La Manga in Spain.
In a tournament year such as 2012, many Premier League players will not, discounting potential injuries, get a full break for recovery until July, and even then, some of them will be expected to represent their country at the Olympics almost immediately. There are many reason why England have failed to win a major tournament for nearly fifty years, and although the lack of a winter break is hardly the outstanding one, it is, along with our mistaken sense of divine right, the only one which is ever-present. Needless to say, Germany’s record in tournaments far surpasses England’s. They have not finished lower than 3rd in a major competition since 2004, and have competed in a total of twelve World Cup semi finals.
For Germany’s clubs, the winter break provides an opportunity for injured players such as Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger to recover properly without any pressure to return as quickly as possible. In an era when the Bundesliga is borrowing more and more players from more distant corners of the globe, it also allows players such as Freiburg’s Papiss Demba Cissé and Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa (pictured) to play in international winter tournaments like the African Cup of Nations or the Asian Cup.
There is much talk of Boxing Day romance and all those other clichés in English football, but if England has learned one thing from its rollercoaster football history, it is that learning from other countries is not a phenomenon to be sneered at. Germany’s current success is built on modernisation and progressive thinking. A winter break might be just what English football needs.
Picture:Getty ImagesTagged in: Bundesliga, football, Franz Beckenbauer, germany, roberto mancini, winter break
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