Thursday, Oct 23, 2014

FIFA World Cup: The fantastic Mr Klinsmann

Klinsmann’s decision to drop USA stalwart Donovan for the WC qualifiers was criticised, but the side went on to win 12 matches in a row to book their spot in Brazil with ease. ( Source: AP ) Klinsmann’s decision to drop USA stalwart Donovan for the WC qualifiers was criticised, but the side went on to win 12 matches in a row to book their spot in Brazil with ease. ( Source: AP )
Written by Aditya Iyer | Recife | Posted: June 26, 2014 1:21 am | Updated: June 26, 2014 2:51 pm

In his Twitter account, Jurgen Klinsmann is not just a serial exclamation mark user, but trades it wholly for full stops. Each of the USA coach’s last ten tweets (most of them composed here in Brazil) end with at least two slammers. Many punctuate with three. Roughly, Klinsmann averages about 3.2 exclamation marks per 140 characters.

Not too long ago, he was known for his German coldness and steely stare — such as the one he gave a reporter when asked point blank if he intentionally dived in the 1990 World Cup final to get Argentina’s Pedro Monzon sent-off, a moment that eventually resulted in his trophy deciding goal. Today, US Soccer aficionados claim with glee that the 49-year old resident of California has finally been Americanised.

He vouches for it of course. “In the US, I like that someone asks, ‘How are you?’” he is quoted as telling New York Times recently. “I always say, ‘I’m fantastic!’” It’s a word he likes, ‘fantastic’, exclaiming it often at press conferences here in Brazil, with a Californian lilt no less. The man who once called Stuttgart home is now a true-blooded Yank. This, it is said, hasn’t gone down too well with the man on Deutschland’s streets.

However, as far as Mannschaft and its faithful are concerned, Klinsmann playing Yank off the field is not the problem here. What is, and will be when the two sides face off in their final group game on Thursday, is the fact that he has taught 23 little-known Americans to play, think and attack like Germans on the field.

And the players are more than thankful for it. Danke, they perhaps say. “The history of the sport is not in America. It is where he (Klinsmann) is from, in Europe,” USA ‘keeper Tim Howard has been recorded as saying in the past. “That’s something people have to realise.” Against Portugal on Sunday, realisation dawned upon the world like a smack from a sledgehammer, when USA were all of 30 seconds away from becoming the first team to qualify from a group that contains Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

Had Cristiano Ronaldo not found his crossing touch in the final minute of a five-minute period at the end of regular time, the Recife fixture wouldn’t have mattered to USA. But inconsequential it is far from being, not since Klinsmann signed on US Soccer’s contract’s dotted line in 2011. And ever since, he has been leaving his trademark ‘creative destruction’ signature on the men who say ‘soccer’ instead continued…

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