One can call it Ossification…the demographics of the new Germany

The recent announcement of the twenty-three man squad for next month’s Euro 2012 finals got me thinking about one of the many facts and stats features on my website – Ossis v Wessis, a short analysis of the number of Eastern German players who have been selected for the Nationalmannschaft in major tournament finals since 1992.

This topic came to mind because there are only two players from Eastern Germany – that is, the Eastern German Bundesländer including what was East Berlin – amongst the twenty-three names selected by Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw: FC Bayern München’s Toni Kroos, born in the Hanseatic city of Greifswald in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and BVB Borussia Dortmund defender Marcel Schmelzer, a native of the famous city of Magdeburg in Sachsen-Anhalt.

Löw’s squad consists of:

Players born in Western Germany (19)

Holger Badstuber (born Memmingen, Bayern), Lars Bender (Rosenheim, Bayern), Jérôme Boateng (Berlin-West, Berlin), Mario Götze (Memmingen, Bayern), Mario Gómez (Riedlingen, Baden-Württemberg), İlkay Gündoğan (Gelsenkirchen, Nordrhein-Westfalen), Benedikt Höwedes (Haltern, Nordrhein-Westfalen), Mats Hummels (Bergisch Gladbach, Nordrhein-Westfalen), Sami Khedira (Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg), Philipp Lahm (München, Bayern), Per Mertesacker (Hannover, Niedersachsen), Thomas Müller (Weilheim, Bayern), Manuel Neuer (Gelsenkirchen, Nordrhein-Westfalen), Mesut Özil (Gelsenkirchen, Nordrhein-Westfalen), Marco Reus (Dortmund, Nordrhein-Westfalen), André Schürrle (Ludwigshafen, Rheinland-Pfalz), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Kolbermoor, Bayern), Tim Wiese (Bergisch Gladbach, Nordrhein-Westfalen), Ron-Robert Zieler (Köln, Nordrhein-Westfalen)

Players born in Eastern Germany (2)

Toni Kroos (Greifswald, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), Marcel Schmelzer (Magdeburg, Sachsen-Anhalt)

Players born outside Germany (2)

Miroslav Klose (Oppeln, Poland), Lukas Podolski (Gleiwitz, Poland)

Examining these figures in the bar graph below, we can see that while Kroos – the sole Eastern representative in the 2010 FIFA World Cup squad – now has one more “Ossi” to keep him company, there is still a serious dearth of Eastern Germans being picked for the national team. Even among those on the fringe of selection, players born east of the river Elbe are few and far between. One could call it Ossification

Even though the number of foreign-born players has fallen from the five that travelled to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup to two, Easterners still make up the (joint) smallest number of the three representative groups.

However to truly gauge what is currently being produced at the “factory”, we should have a closer look at the figures for the other age-groups at national level. Examining the representation among the current Under-21, Under-20 and Under-19 teams, we get the following data:

(Details from the DFB site, as of 12.05.2012)

For all three age groups the number of Eastern German players remains extremely thin – and the figures are remarkably consistent across all age groups with the average figures closely reflecting those of the A-Mannschaft. With very few Easterners coming through the current ranks, there it looks unlikely that there will be many more to join Kroos and Schmelzer in the first team – at least in the next four to five years should the usual rules of progression apply.

The collapse of the club system in the east of the country has had much to do with the dearth of quality young players emerging in the region; with many clubs in the former East struggling for their very survival and no representatives in the top-flight I. Bundesliga, only the most talented youngsters are able to make it through – Kroos and Schmelzer are two, with the other being Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Hoyerswerda-born midfielder Tony Jantschke who has been lined up by many commentators as a future starter for the Mannschaft at senior level.

One can only conclude that until at least one of the bigger Eastern German sides is able to compete at the highest level – and there is no hope of this happening any time soon – there will be plenty of potential talent that will continue to slip under the radar. It was not always like this of course: before the Second World War and the division of the country, many of Germany’s top teams were from the East. The most of famous of these was two-time champion VfB Leipzig and the famous Dresdner SC, a team that produced no fewer than fourteen German internationals, among them a young striker going by the name of Helmut Schön.

There was and remains a rich history of football in Germany’s eastern Länder, and it is a crying shame that there are only a handful of players from the region representing the national team from the Under-19s through to the senior side.

Time for a slice of pie…

While I was in the mood for playing around with things statistical, I decided to extract a little more mileage out of the time I had taken (some may say wasted) to list the birthplace of all of the players who had been selected for major tournaments since 1992 and provide an analysis of which state or Land they were born in. So here are a couple of pie charts to go with the bar and line graphs above.

The first chart below shows all of the final tournament squad “slots” filled by players born in the Western Länder between the Euros in 1992 and the latest Euro squad, and the breakdown by region. Between 1992 and 2012 – eleven tournaments – a total of 246 slots were available, of which 180 were filled by players born in the region known as the former West Germany – with 41 slots being filled by players from the former East and the remaining 25 by players born outside Germany.

The most obvious thing that stands out when examining this chart is that the national team has been largely dominated by players from Nordrhein-Westfalen, Bayern and Baden-Wurttemberg – though this is no massive surprise as these three Länder have the largest populations and contain the vast majority of the top Bundesliga clubs. Every Land has been represented, with the exception of the Hanseatic city state of Bremen – the smallest of the sixteen with a population of just under seven-hundred thousand.

The second pie chart below illustrates the distribution of the thirty-nine national team squad slots for players born in the former Eastern Germany, and once again there are some clear leaders:

Having filled seventeen of the thirty-nine national team slots awarded to players from the former East between 1992 and 2010, the state of Saxony clearly stands out as the most productive, with Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Thüringen a fair distance behind having filled seven slots each. All of the Eastern German Länder, even the smaller ones, have had at least one representative in the Nationalmannschaft between 1992 and 2010.

Of course, we can fine-tune these figures even further: by dividing the population of each region by the number of squad slots filled, we can work out which of the sixteen Länder has been the most productive:

All figures have been rounded up/down to the nearest decimal figure

From these figures Berlin (with the numbers for West and East combined) is by far the most productive with one national team slot for every 0.179 million (178,947) people, but it is worth noting that some of the Eastern German states are clearly punching above their weight: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Sachsen are in second and third positions overall. Of the Western German Länder, Baden-Württenberg leads the way ahead of Bayern and Nordrhein-Westfalen only the fourth most productive and eighth overall.

Nordrhein-Westfalen has most teams from those involved in the top three tiers of the German league for the 2011/12 season with thirteen, ahead of Bayern (nine) and Baden-Württemberg (eight). There are only two Bundesländer without representation in the top three leagues: Sachsen-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein.

If you would like to see some shinier versions of these graphs and charts, along with a rather interesting data table, you can check out this Excel-lent file here (file size 44kb). I have saved the file in an older Excel version, so you should be able to view it even if you happen to have a Robotron PC 1715. Or not, as I doubt it would look very good on one of those old green screens.

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.

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