Ralf Kellermann’s name is now a synonym for success in Wolfsburg after the 45-year-old, who joined the club in 2008, steered VfL's women to an unprecedented treble triumph of Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League last season. And his outstanding work for the Wolves did not go unnoticed either, with Kellermann one of the three candidates nominated for the 2013 FIFA Women’s Football Coach of the Year award.
“It’s fantastic to be considered for such honours when you’ve won everything there is to win in club football,” said Kellermann proudly in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. The award ultimately went to Germany coach Silvia Neid, with a German player – Nadine Angerer – picking up the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year accolade. And Kellermann thinks that these developments speak volumes about the quality of the women’s game in the land of poets and thinkers.
“The level of women’s football in Germany is one of the highest in the world. Of course, other nations have caught up, but this only makes the women’s game more exciting and attractive. With Nadine Angerer and her sensational final performance, my colleague Silvia Neid and VfL Wolfsburg’s treble success last season, we have shown in impressive fashion that Germany is one of the leading nations in the women’s game,” remarked Kellermann.
Reaping the rewards of professionalisation
“Women’s football in my country boasts a long history. The development of young girls is very good in Germany and remains the focus of meticulous work. We Europeans realised early on that the women’s game must move towards professionalisation,” said the coach as he explained the success of women’s football back home. “If you compare the conditions in place when I took over this club back in 2008 to those we have today, there have certainly been some significant developments. So it makes sense to continue to professionalise the women’s game and to improve development and the structural conditions in order to produce such successful results in the future.”
Such results have become a regular occurrence for Kellermann’s Wolfsburg side, who still have their sights set on defending two of last year’s titles. VfL have been drawn against Barcelona in the quarter-final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League and occupy third place in the Bundesliga as the final months of the season approach: “We have a chance of success this year too, but I don’t think you’ll see any German team repeat our treble triumph any time soon. You really need everything to go for you to make that happen,” said the former second-tier goalkeeper.
“Football is full of special moments when you’re playing in the Bundesliga at the weekend and in the Champions League in midweek. But if you have a lapse in concentration at any point and you put in a bad performance, that’s it. Women’s football in Germany is of such a high standard that a single bad result could mean not winning the league or getting knocked out of the Cup. That’s why the treble was such an extraordinary achievement.”
Team spirit key to success
But the future certainly looks bright for VfL. Kellermann, who describes himself as a meticulous worker and a committed team player, recently joined some of his key players in signing a contract extension to keep him at the club. Now he would appear to have all the ingredients required to steer the women of Wolfsburg to success in the coming years.
But Kellermann responded modestly when asked to explain his success, highlighting the club’s support for his gradual development of the team and the pressure-free environment in which he works as key factors. “We've taken a step forward every single year. There have been setbacks too, but we’ve really been able to build something here. In team sports it’s absolutely essential that you're given the time to build a squad, to develop players and to ensure that the new signings you bring in are the right ones for the club - players who'll foster this team spirit. What's certain is that you won’t achieve anything without it.”
His team’s excellent performances lend support to Kellermann’s belief, with the coach still hoping to achieve the objectives set out for his side in 2014. And the first step towards success could come as soon as Sunday if his VfL Wolfsburg side beat Spanish outfit Barcelona in the last eight of Europe’s elite club competition. “I hope that we can defend our two remaining titles and qualify for the Champions League this season,” he concluded.