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Youth, better coaching, transparency: What Indian football can learn from Bundesliga

Ownership structure, consistent ticket prices, quality infrastructure and community engagement all contribute to the Bundesliga's popularity.
Ownership structure, consistent ticket prices, quality infrastructure and community engagement all contribute to the Bundesliga's popularity.

The Bundesliga recently announced a long-term strategic partnership with IMG Reliance to popularise the German league in India and help the growth of football in the region. While the Premier League and La Liga still rule the roost in India, Indian football can still learn a lot from one of the most successful and best-run leagues in the world.

Complete overhaul of the youth system

German football underwent a radical transformation in the early 2000s. Humiliated by poor showings in the 1998 World Cup and the Euro 2000, the national federation set about building a youth-driven system that would ensure the national team and the professional clubs would reach every corner of the country.

And it wasn't just inspirational commercials and MoUs. Since 2002-03, running an academy has been a condition for obtaining a license to play professional football in Germany's top two divisions. A couple of years later, the German FA introduced the U-19 Bundesliga.

It took time, and the dedication of committed individuals like Dietrich Weise and Jürgen Klinsmann, but the results of this concentrated approach are there for all to see - whether it be with the national team, or with the clubs who have earned great success with talented, young, homegrown players.

Jurgen Klinsmann was at the heart of the German football revolution in the early 2000s.
Jurgen Klinsmann was at the heart of the German football revolution in the early 2000s.

For India, this process will take much longer - and will be much more expensive - but in order to move forward, these commitments of time, money, and expertise have to be made. Now.

Effective use of football data

Jürgen Klopp and Ralf Ragnick are credited with changing the tone of football discussion in Germany - from the intangible debating points of 'will to fight' and 'character, to the actual goings-on on the pitch and the technology-based revolution they've driven has become a core aspect of German football.

The emphasis on meticulous, minute, analysis of data can be enforced across age groups to enable coaches to improve player performance - and by extension the teams' - as well as to help identify talent that would have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

Improving the structure for coaches

The Bundesliga has greatly benefited from putting in place a structure that allowed players to transition into a coaching role, and from trusting young managers to make the most of that foundation. The introduction of a special license for youth coaches in 2003 - along with the growing emphasis on the youth leagues - has ensured that German football doesn't have a dearth of coaching talent.

Schalke 04 coach Domenico Tedesco is only 33 and has thrived in just his second year of senior management and first in the Bundesliga.
Schalke 04 coach Domenico Tedesco is only 33 and has thrived in just his second year of senior management and first in the Bundesliga.

Dominic Tedesco, manager of Schalke 04, is 33. Julian Nagelsmann, manager of 1899 Hoffenheim, is just 31. That's just two of the more recent, high-profile examples. Indian football has also seen the emergence of young coaches like Khalid Jamil, Akbar Nawas in recent years, but India still needs a foundation to build on that trend.

Transparent ownership and the 50+1 rule

Most Bundesliga clubs follow the German federation's 50+1 rule, ensuring that fans and club members remain majority owners. The rule was introduced to protect the teams, and the league, from undue external influence and although there are exceptions (Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen - and the controversial 'circumventions' of RB Leipzig), this has ensured that the league has largely moved forward with uniform consistency.

It can also prevent absolute catastrophes like with DSK Shivajians and ensure the country's football industry remains a steady, stable employer.

Fan friendliness

FC Union Berlin fans before a Bundesliga second division match: Consistent ticket prices and increased fan engagement boosts the league's popularity.
FC Union Berlin fans before a Bundesliga second division match: Consistent ticket prices and increased fan engagement boosts the league's popularity.

Few leagues in the world are as fan-friendly as the Bundesliga. While it's driven by the ownership structure (parity ensures competiveness, which in turn, makes it much more entertaining), practices like consistent ticket prices, increased engagement with clubs and the community, and a focus on maintaining quality infrastructure also boost popularity.

Unlike in Indian football, where fans are often an afterthought, in Bundesliga, they are front and centre of every strategy.

And of course, playing attractive football

Self-explanatory, isn't it? Focus on entertaining, attacking football... the fans will come. And stay.

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