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German media roundup: Ballack’s football tragedy

German football fans are in shock after hearing captain Michael Ballack’s injury will keep him from playing in this summer’s World Cup. Newspapers in The Local’s media roundup try to put things in perspective.

German media roundup: Ballack's football tragedy
Photo: DPA

On Monday, the 33-year-old old captain of the German national team announced he could not travel to the tournament in South Africa next month due to torn ligaments in his ankle.

Brutally fouled by Portsmouth’s Kevin-Prince Boateng while playing for his club Chelsea in the FA Cup last weekend, Ballack will likely recover, but not in time for the most important football competition in the world.

With 98 caps and 42 goals to his name, Ballack was a crucial part of Germany’s bid to win the World Cup for a fourth time. Many commentators on Tuesday paid tribute to the impressive yet still tragic arc of his career. He was suspended from 2002 World Cup final and failed to win in 2006, when Germany hosted the tournament. He also only came in second during the 2008 European championship.

As German football fans mourned the loss of their most important player, the nation’s newspapers sifted through the wreckage of a team built around Ballack to see what could be salvaged.

Painting a brave face on dreadful circumstances, Der Speigel said the injury was a personal tragedy for Ballack, but the sporting impact for Germany could be less worse than feared.

“Ballack will not become world champion in this life. South Africa would have been his last chance to win the most important title of the footballing world,” the magazine wrote. “But one can expect that the German team has enough time to react to this new situation.”

Saying national coach Joachim Löw had plenty of talent in the midfield to plug the gap, Der Speigel singled out Bastian Schweinsteiger as the man to take on more responsibility. “He’ll have to replace Ballack as a leader on the pitch, as a holding defender, as a creative playmaking force.”

The Süddeutsche Zeitung concurred that other players could step into the vacuum left by the injured captain. “Ballack is almost 34-years-old. The team would have had to soon learn to play without him anyway,” the paper pointed out. “And so the future of the national side will suddenly start sooner than planned.”

However, without Ballack’s leadership, the Munich daily said Löw would need to make team more “democratic” and inclusive.

“Yes, it’s a sporting disadvantage that Ballack is missing, but it’s also the chance to create a flatter hierarchy and stronger sense of belonging in a team freed from its most dominating figure,” Süddeutsche Zeitung opined. “If Löw cleverly uses psychology, he’ll use the departure of the captain as motivation.”

The daily Die Welt lamented the fact that Germany’s “only world-class player will not be at the World Cup” after Boateng’s nasty foul on Ballack.

“The public outcry wouldn’t have been anywhere near as big had it been any other national team player,” the paper wrote. “But it hit the irreplaceable one!”

The paper also pointed out that Boateng, born and raised in Germany, was already unloved by the country’s fans before he opted to play for his father’s homeland Ghana at this summer’s World Cup.

“The culprit, Kevin-Prince Boateng, grew up in Berlin’s problem neighbourhood Wedding, became known for nasty fouls and rowdy night-time behaviour, as well as his enormous footballing talent,” Die Welt wrote, explaining he was turfed out of the U21 German national team for lack of discipline. “And now he’s playing in the first World Cup round against Germany. As if that wasn’t suspicious enough.”

But Berlin’s Der Tagesspeigel tried to dispel any conspiracy theories by pointing out that Ballack had served up his share of rough play over the years.

“This selfless and tragic hero who fights for his Fatherland but still misses out on the biggest victories is also occasionally an arrogant provocateur,” wrote the paper. “He made clear on the pitch four years ago that he considered Boateng a little turd. And shortly before the brutal foul, Ballack gave him a mean little swat to the face to let him know it.”

Die Tageszeitung tried to look forward amid the misery.

“Captain, alpha wolf, leader. Michael Ballack was for years Germany’s only footballing superstar,” the paper said. “But a functioning football pack can do just fine without an alpha wolf.”

The daily said being robbed of its leader could even end up changing German football for the better.

“Much has been said of the modernisation of German football in recent years,” Die Tageszeitung said. And spreading responsibility onto the shoulders of all the team’s players could be another step in this direction. The leader is dead, long live the team!”

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FOOTBALL

British football teams allowed to skip Germany’s quarantine for Euro 2020

Germany's government announced on Tuesday it will allow England, Scotland and Wales to enter the country without quarantine to play at Euro 2020 despite a recent rise in cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Britain.

British football teams allowed to skip Germany's quarantine for Euro 2020
One of the venues for Euro 2020 is in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The three teams could potentially reach the quarter-final held in Munich on July 2nd.

If that were the case, they would be exempt from the rule that travellers from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must currently observe a 14-day isolation period due to the virus strain of concern – Delta – first identified in India.

“The people accredited for the European football Championship are exempt from the quarantine obligation, even after arriving from an area impacted by a variant” Berlin said in a statement.

“This exemption concerns all the people who have been accredited by the organising committee for the preparation, participation, the holding and the follow-up of international sporting events,” it added.

The exemption does not include fans, who will be obliged to follow German government self-isolation rules.

Germany declared the UK a ‘virus variant area of concern’ on May 23rd due to rising cases linked to the Delta variant in parts of the country. 

READ ALSO: Germany makes UK ‘virus variant area of concern’: How does it affect you?

This reclassification came just seven days after the UK was put back on Germany’s list at the lowest risk level, and barely a month after it was taken off all risk lists completely.

The ban was put in place despite the UK’s relatively low Covid rates as a precautionary measure.

A general ban on entry is in place for people coming from countries on the ‘virus variant’ list – such as India and Brazil – the highest of Germany’s risk categories. 

There are some exceptions for entering from these countries – for example German residents and citizens. However, anyone who does enter from Germany is required to submit a Covid-19 test before boarding the flight and must quarantine for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules after travel

Euro 2020 starts on Friday as Italy host Turkey in Rome with the Bavarian city hosting three group games as well as the last-eight match.

Around 14,000 fans will be allowed into the Allianz Arena for the fixtures.

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