From the mid-1970s until about 1990, when West Germany won the World Cup, its national team was a soccer powerhouse. Then German soccer collapsed. For a decade, the German team—which unified just after that World Cup victory, along with East and West Germany—did not proceed past the global quarterfinals, and in 2000, it was ejected from the European championships after having scored just one point. This book describes the comeback of German soccer, culminating in the team’s victory at the 2014 World Cup. Honigstein, one of the world’s top soccer columnists, describes how the German establishment came together to invest in soccer facilities, establish a national system of youth academies, reconstruct scouting and coaching systems, install state-of-the-art training equipment, and develop a cohesive national team spirit. The details of this story will thrill soccer lovers, but there is also an underlying lesson—a very European one. Excellence in sports, as in the arts, education, business, and many other things, is a social accomplishment. It is achieved through sensible institutional design and not, as many believe (especially in the United States), simply by getting incentives right and letting talented individuals do their thing.
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