Football fans in Asia have a common characteristic when it comes to supporting football teams. These fans, although they love their respective European clubs, tend to have a soft spot for certain other clubs. They do not support these clubs, but they love to watch them play and do well. Being in the mentioned category, Ajax, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli are the clubs that popularly appear in football discussions. The brand of football and the ability to constantly challenge the big teams of Europe makes fans admire them.
Despite Europe’s top clubs always poaching their talents -- not to mention their rival Bayern Munich -- Borussia Dortmund have managed to consistently challenge Bayern for the Bundesliga title. The club has become a factory of talent who have consistently produced world-class players. Lewandowski, Gotze, Sancho and Pulisic are proof of how Dortmund is producing world-class players from scratch. So how Dortmund actually do this has been a common point of discussion among football lovers.
Rethinking business model
It all started in 2005 when the club almost went bankrupt. Dortmund rethought its business model after surviving bankruptcy and took on a youth first approach. The club hired young Jurgen Klopp in 2008 who revamped the entire youth system. Dortmund began to invest in cheaper, younger players by developing local players through their academy and scouring the globe for unpolished gems in youth teams. The current business model involves identifying the world’s best young players, nurturing them and giving them game-time that they would have been denied elsewhere, and then selling them for a huge profit. The process definitely is easier said than done.
A footballing university?
Dortmund’s youth first approach is very lucrative for teenagers around the world. The promise of immediate first team football for these teenagers and scope for rapid career development makes Dortmund an elite footballing university where teenagers can try new things and find themselves before going out into the real world. Dortmund provides a platform for first team football to these youngsters, who perhaps would have to sit on the bench at certain other clubs. Sancho, Haaland, Bellingham are the teenagers who snubbed the Manchester clubs to join Dortmund. The club ensures the hiring of coaches who follow the same philosophy of believing in youth.
Nurturing the talents
The club has as many as 15 youth teams. The young players are kept in good shape as they are blessed with boarding facilities, healthy diets, great living conditions, and exceptional education. In the mornings, the young players go to school, and later on they can carry on with proper training which does not necessarily exhaust them physically.
The training ground for youth teams is also set up in such a position that the young players get to see the first team up close, allowing them to literally view their path to the top. At the youth level, although winning is important, the club stresses more on putting up a satisfactory performance. A self-assessment sheet is provided to these players after games to rate their performances and reflect their thoughts of the game. These are all unique thoughts brought together to nurture talents.
The club also looks to develop the mental aspect of the young players. Programmes are designed to enhance the players’ confidence which inevitably plays a vital role on the pitch. The club also makes these youths adapt to consume pressure, so that they can live up to their potential when playing in front of 80,000 people at their home stadium Signal Iduna Park.
Once these players make their mark on the big stage, Dortmund sells them off for a big profit. Pulisic, Dembele, and Aubameyang have been the recent players who were bought cheaply and sold off for a huge profit. Once a player is sold, the cycle starts once again as another prospective young player gets incorporated into the first team.
What can Bangladesh learn from Dortmund?
The Dortmund model has so much to learn from even the perspective of Bangladesh football. Firstly, it shows what a good scouting system can mean for a team. Here in Bangladesh, at school, college, university levels, and in division, district, upazila levels, there are lots of potential young footballers who can be churned into future stars. A proper scouting system can do wonders for the future of football for this country.
Secondly, Dortmund sells the idea of first team football at a big stage to youngsters. The approach can be helpful in attracting passionate young footballers towards pursuing or at least starting a career in football. The very idea of getting to play against some of the country’s best footballers at an early age is an opportunity that enthusiastic youngsters will not want to miss out. And surely the local clubs can enrich their talent pools by following this Dortmund model.
The writer is an undergrad student studying at Dhaka University. He can be reached at- [email protected]