The German Football Association (DFB) has been involved in the worldwide development of the game since 1962. In partnership with the National Olympic Committee (NOK) and the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), a government international development agency, the DFB sends experts to all corners of the globe, with a special focus on Africa. Individual projects, which are funded by the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs, last between four to six weeks and one to four years.
"Good stuff," said Willy Brandt, before delivering a warning: "Just make sure you don't mess it up."
Burkhard Pape (picture above: first assignment in Sierra Leone; picture below: visiting the Dalai Lama) could hardly be accused of messing it up. Since his first mission on behalf of the German Football Association (DFB) in 1966, he has travelled the globe passing on his football expertise for more than three decades. Pape was a pioneer, the first coach sent abroad by the DFB and the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs operating in tandem.
He has coached youths in the "Golden Triangle" formed by Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). "By simply talking to the youngsters, warning them about drugs, I'm convinced I achieved more than all the government leaflets and brochures put together," he observes.
Torsten Spittler is another of the DFB's globetrotting missionaries. The qualified coach completed a two-year assignment in Yemen just a few weeks ago, before setting off on 1 July 2003 for a year in Asia. Spittler will travel the continent helping to raise youth coaching standards as part of the DFB's 'Vision Asia' project.
The DFB's 20-strong group of foreign instructors love the life they lead: men such as Pape and Spittler value the multi-facetted and wide-ranging variety of tasks and the immersion in foreign culture offered by the job. They teach shooting skills, closing down space and offside traps all around the world in a lifetime spent nurturing the game from continent to continent.
"Our aim is to establish structures and teach others to teach for themselves," DFB officer in charge of coaching Markus Weidner explains, "at the end of the day, football is always the winner." The job is not without its risks, however: Burkhard Pape, for example, has experienced five popular uprisings at first hand.
Between 1962 and the present day, DFB coaching staff have been despatched to run 34 long-term and more than 140 short-term projects in Africa alone. This year, DFB personnel will operate in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Rwanda, China, India, Thailand, Guatemala, Lebanon and Togo. Meanwhile, coaches from around the world will be invited to Germany for training: the best individuals from Africa, Asia and Latin America can earn an advanced coaching diploma at the DFB's annual international seminar. In October, 30 coaches will be put through their paces at the Hennef sports academy, "and there'll be a number of future national team managers amongst them," Weidner comments.
The party at Hennef will include two Afghan coaches who received preliminary instruction on a course run by former TV reporter Holger Obermann and ex-international Ali Lali in Kabul. "This is a special project," says Georg Behlau, head of international relations at the DFB, "our aim is to make a significant contribution to the restructuring of Afghan football."
The Hennef international coaching seminar has been held annually at the sports academy since 1976. More than 750 coaches from 85 countries, from Afghanistan to Zanzibar, have come away with a diploma.
Burkhard Pape, who left the DDR and moved to Karlsruhe in 1953 after the 17 June uprising, recalls the origins of the DFB's international programme. "Sepp Herberger kept on at me to go abroad. And eventually, on 31 January 1966, I set off for Sierra Leone on behalf of the Association."
Life at once became exciting and unpredictable. "One evening, a soldier came to me and said: 'It's going to rain tomorrow. Training is cancelled.' I didn't get it at first, but then I did actually stay at home, while two soldiers stood guard in front of my door." The night passed without further incident, and Pape had survived his first military coup.
Torsten Spittler experienced the fall-out from the Gulf war while he was working in Yemen. "The embassy staff had already been evacuated. My partner Manuela and I tended to avoid the streets after Friday prayers. It was only natural to start thinking about heading for home."
Spittler stayed put though, and saw out the remainder of his project.