Spring 2006. The German national football (soccer) team has practiced, open to the public. There are only a few weeks left until the start of the World Cup in their own country.
A little boy, maybe five years old, stands on the edge of the pitch behind the barrier, holds a football in both hands and roars his soul out of his body.
But no one seems to hear him.
Jürgen Klinsmann, the national coach, approaches him.
“What do you want?” he asked the little football fan.
“I would love Michael Ballack to sign at my ball.”
“Okay,” says the national coach. Takes the ball, goes on the field, grabs Michael Ballack, the former star and world-class player of the German team, hands him a pen and the ball. After the signature, Klinsmann takes the ball again and brings it back to the little boy on the sidelines with Ballack’s signature.
What a bright smile he triggers in him. And gratitude.
Many others on the sidelines, including mums and dads, have observed this moment and are touched and impressed by this scene. And I am convinced that this situation has happened not only once.
Jürgen Klinsmann had been national coach of the German national team for a short time. This was far down on the popularity scale of the Germans. He knew he had to change that, a few weeks before the World Cup in his own country. And it was clear to him that this could not only be achieved on the pitch, but also off it. In football, this is called “the twelfth man or the twelfth woman” – the enthusiasm of the spectators.
The rest is known. The German team reached – completely unexpectedly and admittedly a bit lucky – the semi-finals. The mood throughout the country was tilted, into the positive – a German football fairy tale.
Small steps at the beginning make a big difference in the end.
The national coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, was not too proud to be the ball boy in the scene described. However, he was very aware of the effect in the environment and the fact that such behavior is perceived positively – outside the team, but also within. A great change manager.
And today? How do you see the development in local football and football in the World?