Econo-Champions League: All Germany, No Spain

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 5/26/2013 11:23:00 AM
Yesterday evening the de facto Queen of Europe, Angela Merkel, sat in the VIP section of London's Wembley Stadium as two German teams--perennial European giants Bayern Munich and upstarts Borussia Dortmund--contested the Champions League final. That Bayern Munich finally succeeded in its third attempt at winning the biggest prize in club football in four years was no doubt a relief to their fans after losing the final to Inter Milan in 2010 and Chelsea last year. However, for the rest of Europe, a German champions League lockout is symbolically quite worrisome. As the European debt crisis has firmly revealed who wears the pants in the EU (Mrs. Merkel and company), is it not overwhelming that the Germans dominate sports as well? Just as Bayern Munich annihilated Barcelona FC to reach the final, Borussia Dortmund humiliated the world's largest football club, Real Madrid.

Nobody doubts that Bayern Munich were deserved winners this year given their supreme domination. After two years of losing out on the Bundesliga title to Borussia Dortmund, their offseason rebuilding in the wake of losing the Champions League final at home last year was fruitful. How dominant were Bayern Munich? They had an astounding goal differential of 80, having scored 98 goals to 18 conceded. In ratio form, they scored a scarcely believable 5.44 goals for every one conceded. Truly, it's a team for the ages. Borussia Dortmund aren't slouches, either, and back-to-back titles before this year bear witness to their ability to reconstruct themselves despite high-profile defectors leaving for greener pastures (or so they think). Just as Bayern Munich learned the hard way that winning this European title is no walk in the park, their German counterparts are likely to rebuild and come back stronger enough to win in the near future.

Anyway, back to the worrisome symbolism of all-German domination. It bears remembering that despite hammering Barcelona FC an aggregate 7-0 during the semifinals, the Spanish national team which it largely draws from won the 2010 World Cup as well as Euro 2008 and 2012. Over this entire period, the German system has been as much lauded as the Spanish system--especially in identifying and developing young talent. Having just yesterday (partially) shed the "choker" tag of advancing in tournaments but not winning them, the Bayern-stocked national team must now prove itself on the even bigger stage of World Cup 2014. So, there is a long way for Germany to go before it can be said to dominate football in the same way the Spaniards have in club and international competition in recent crisis-laden years. Worries of Bayern Munich domination to come are likely exaggerated [1, 2].

There is the lack of "consolation prizes" to economic losers to contemplate for Italy (winners of the 2006 World Cup and 2010 Champions League c/o Inter Milan) and Spain (the aforementioned international silverware in addition to Barcelona winning the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011). While Europe seems to have become thoroughly secular in recent years, you can argue that one of today's balms for crisis-hit nations remains sport. Witness F1 driver Fernando Alonso of Ferrari (a Spaniard driving for an Italian team; how appropriate!) constantly referring to his race wins as his consolation for a crisis-hit nation. Have these famous sporting victories not consoled the Italian and Spanish? Having pondered what the psychic boost to economic performance these represent, their unending woes--from towering youth unemployment to an inability to nurture world-class industries as opposed to world-class footballers--the answer is evident to me at least:

None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Getting spanked hard by Germans--heck, I (foolishly) believed Juventus had a chance against Bayern Munich--is not the most edifying spectacle in 21st century, crisis-hit Europe. Given their already unassailable economic dominance, must the Germans lord it over in every other aspect as well? Still, you cannot say that the economic virtues of Germany are not reflected in its teams, too. Despite earning and spending big, Bayern Munich does not throw away money. Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund is the "Moneyball" team of the football (soccer) world in rarely splurging on outside purchases but focusing on player development since their resources are comparatively limited compared to those of European giants (albeit still substantial).

As the final proved, Borussia Dortmund is the only team that could reasonably stand up to the Bayern Munich bully boys circa 2013. Instead of lamenting German domination in sports as well as European political economy, perhaps it's time the others also learned from the German example. Heaven knows, it was not so long ago that the Germans had an inferiority complex in football that they have now surmounted to a certain extent. Persistence, hard work, strength in depth, prudent expenditure...gee, footballing virtues sound an awful lot like German economic ones, don't they?