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Sports

German Players Coached in Tactics for Formal Occasions

Clean-cut Germany coach Joachim Löw decided it's not enough for his players to look good when they're on the pitch and decided to turn the team into an orderly troupe of well-groomed personalities off the field as well.

Löw, Merkel and Schweinsteiger speak at the opening of Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen

"Then you want to tuck it in here and give the scarf just the slightest pull..."

Bastian Schweinsteiger looked the perfect gentleman as he stood in a smart suit and fashionable scarf next to Chancellor Angela Merkel on the film premiere's red carpet.

The young Bayern Munich midfielder, like his teammates in the German national team squad, is cutting sophisticated and stylish figures off the pitch these days.

What happens off the field was the subject of a much-hyped documentary "Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen" (Germany: A Summer's Tale). Released in early October, the documentary focuses on the players' personal lives by concentrating on scenes in the team's hotel and on the bus as well as their reaction to the massive enthusiasm that engulfed Germany during the World Cup.

Film shows players away from the game

Klinsmann gives last minute instructions to his team

The documentary went inside the locker room and team hotel

Director Sönke Wortmann's film also shows the team receiving visits from German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as German President Horst Köhler, where the players, by then celebrities themselves, greet the politicians with a laid-back nonchalance the officials are seldom likely to experience.

With two years until the next major international tournament, manager Oliver Bierhoff and coach Joachim Löw are making it clear that being an international soccer star is not just about being able to kick a ball.

"We want to form the guys into personalities, both on and off the pitch," said Bierhoff.

Life lessons for soccer stars

Wortmann explains the camera to a player during a training session

Wortmann gave players a few tips to improve their own home videos

That means encouraging the players to look beyond the game. Joining the national team means also learning some all-round lessons for life under a philosophy first encouraged by former coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

The days when a computer game was the most important object to pack with the kit or a game of cards the main leisure activity for a national team player seem to be over.

A trip to the Shah's palace in Iran, a boat trip on the Bosporus or a clock-making course in Switzerland have all been on the agenda recently for German players.

Consultants share secrets to success

Not only are these sort of activities designed to forge team bonding they are to encourage players normally living in a football microcosm to turn their minds to other things in life.

Lukas Podolski and David Odonkor pose for cameras at the film's opening

Lukas Podolski, left, and David Odonkor are getting lessons in how to look good off the field

"We will be continuing to do things like this in the future to show the players a few things outside their sport. It's all about increasing their awareness," said Bierhoff.

Klinsmann began this approach in his two years in charge leading up to the World Cup when he invited experts from outside football to give lectures to the squad. These have included free climber Stefan Glowacz or Herbert Henzler, former Germany chief for business consultants McKinsey, outlining their secrets for success.

Former German national hockey coach Bernhard Peters was also invited and impressed Klinsmann and Löw so much that he has now become a consultant to the German Soccer Federation (DFB).

One spoon for soup, another for dessert

National team players race cars around a toy racetrack

Team officials make sure players have some fun between lessons and matches

The players were even given a crash-course in etiquette. The players were briefed on good manners by an expert using guidelines set out in a classic German book on good behavior, the Knigge guide written by Adolph Freiherr Knigge in the late 18th century.

No matter what happens on the field of play, the Germans are to be a team with manners.

Yet even the senior members of the squad like 36-year-old goalkeeper Jens Lehmann still have something to learn.

"I didn't know that you had to eat faster so as not to embarrass your dining partner," he admitted after the Knigge course.

Not just "yes, please" and "no, thank you"

But it's not all formal and polite when the German team get together. At the team hotel this week Bierhoff had a giant Scalectrix-type racing-car track set up for the players to let off steam -- all part of the team-building effort.

The team's sports psychologist Hans-Dieter Hermann and chief scout Urs Siegenthaler also play key roles in the all-round schooling.

During the World Cup, Siegenthaler briefed the players not only on the team and tactics of Germany's opponents but also on the culture, history and mentality of the people in opposing teams' countries.

DW.DE