Kevin Prince Boateng deciding to lay his studs on Michael Ballack’s ankle seems to be the best thing in hindsight to happen to Germany. Just a month ago, Germany was convulsed in doom and gloom as Ballack was ruled out. Now, he seems to be a figment from Thomas Mann’s ” The Magic Mountain”.
Ballack was brought to South Africa on a sympathy vote a week ago. As a mascot to cheerlead his team the same as Beckham for the English. After being an ubiquitous presence on the sidelines he ostensibly returned to Germany to continue his rehab. But there is a feeling he was politely asked to leave to defuse a growing crisis between him and Philipp Lahm.
Behind the scenes the German success made his position more trivial and exposed fault lines between this young team and the older establishment.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is having the World Cup of his life and has found an able assistant in Sami Khedira. The midfield’s uptempo game relyin on quick releases had led to a glut of open field goals offsetting German concerns that Ballack’s set piece expertise would be missed.
In the latest nail, Lahm’s captaincy has proved quite inspirational to this young German side. Not surprisingly, Lahm wants to continue as captain after the World Cup is over. He has made it clear that he is not going to give it up.
“To be clear I would like to continue as captain. It has been a lot of fun. Why should I give it up voluntarily?” The Bayern Munich full back was also not all that enthused about Ballack returning to the national squad offering an ambiguous, “It’s not for me to say yes or no.”
This viewpoint is shared by a public that increasingly feels that Ballack is now not central to the team’s success. However, officially, the opinion makers like Rudi Voller and Oliver Bierhoff are insistent that Ballack remains an important part of Germany’s future and nothing has changed.
Lahm is enjoying his responsibility and most visibly this German team is having fun. They have bought a ray of sunshine to a World Cup in which the Dutch and the Brazilians resemble grim reapers and the Spanish have zigged and zagged their way to somnolence.
Ballack has promised he’ll be back for the finals if Germany succeeds against Spain today. Jogi Low has tiptoed around the issue but after the World Cup it needs to be addressed right away with the Euro qualifying campaign looming large. Politics waits for no one.