Thomas Worle, Bayern Munich institution
Some things never change, or so it seems in the dugout of the Bayern Munich women's team, where Thomas Worle has been in charge since 2010. That Worle took over at all was down to a matter of chance: his father was coach at the time, but was unable to travel to one of their games due to health concerns.
"There was a Champions League qualifier in Lithuania and after our manager, Karin Danner, gave the green light, I jumped in and became coach overnight," said the 34-year-old, recalling his start in the role in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. The former second division footballer, who last played for Greuther Furth, had been forced to hang up his boots shortly before this twist of fate due to glandular fever. However, his first result as a coach was so promising that Bayern and Worle junior soon reached an agreement for him to continue his father's work.
"I'd always wanted to work as a coach like my dad one day," said the Swabian native. "He certainly had a big impact on me. He's a very experienced and clever coach. We're still in touch a lot and speak every couple of days. I try to benefit from his huge wealth of experience."
Major successes For Bayern, the decision to appoint the then-28-year-old proved to be an inspired one. They lifted the DFB Cup in 2012 and somewhat surprisingly won the German championship in 2015 by the narrowest of margins. Bayern defended that title a year later, albeit rather more comfortably and in all Worle's charges managed to go 40 games unbeaten across two seasons. They set a new Bundesliga record in the process and finished the last campaign ten points clear at the top.
Worle is now in his seventh season in the Bayern hot seat. Since his appointment, Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes, Pep Guardiola and now Carlo Ancelotti have been in charge of the men's team. So how has he managed to stay there so long? "I've benefited from being able to develop myself," he replied. "I'm very demanding in training and always work professionally. I try to do that by leading by example." But that is not all. Worle also endeavours to connect with his team on a personal level. That was how he operated as a player, and a strategy he also learned from his father.
Widespread praise "My players should know that I'm somebody who expects a great deal from them and wants to improve the team, but that I'm also a person they can talk to; somebody who sees the human in them too." That style has resonated with his players, as Gina Lewandowski confirmed in an interview with FIFA.com: "He talks to us a lot and always takes his time." Furthermore, the defender speaks highly of Worle's technical expertise: "The way he analyses opponents and then sets us up tactically . He somehow thinks differently. He works with a lot of passion and the team obviously sees how much he gives and that carries us along with him. Worle’s work has not gone unnoticed. In 2015 he was among the ten candidates for the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women's Football award for the first time, and was nominated this year too.
"I was very surprised by it, it's an honour," said the former midfielder with pride, before adding: "It's an award for the entire group. I work with an extraordinary team, especially in terms of their character. Our secret is a strong sense of togetherness among the players and coaches."
Worle will not be the recipient of The Best FIFA Women's Coach prize this year either, as he was not among the trio of shortlisted candidates, but that does not bother him. He believes there can only be one winner when the trophy is handed out at The Best FIFA Football Awards™ on 9 January 2017.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this year it'll be Silvia Neid," he said. "She's totally deserved it and won the Olympics at the end of her career with the national team." It is not only Neid's success this year that has impressed Worle, however. "She's been incredibly consistent and has won a lot of titles. It's astonishing what she's done over a number of years in Germany, and through the national team she's helped women's football.
"Neid being in charge of Germany's women's side was another thing that never seemed to change, but now she has stepped down and Steffi Jones has taken over. Would Worle ever be interested in the job? Or would he prefer to go into the men's game? He does not entertain such thoughts, replying: "To be honest I feel great right now." That much was clear when he recently extended his contract until 2019; Worle’s presence on the Bayern touchline will not be changing any time soon.