Die Wutrede: the nifty German word for rant. However, in German, the term has darker connotations; thanks to the wut- prefix, it means something like “rage,” “fury,” or “wrath,” which is a attached to Rede, meaning something like “speech,” “discourse,” or “oration.” Put the words together and you get something stronger than plain ol’ rant from English—more like a screaming mad tirade. Maybe the kind of talk your parents gave you on occasion for breaking the screen door or living room window.
In German culture, a Wutrede is an event.
Usually, it’s an event captured on camera, featuring an enraged male. But the phenomenon is not exclusively male, of course. Finally, my perusal of YouTube revealed that most recorded Wutreden are delivered by Bundesliga coaches, followed by German politicians. Stylistically, a Wutrede features a speaker in the grip of a seemingly out-of-body paroxysm, in which—I swear!—the speaker’s soul begins hovering above the now-inhuman head of wrinkled rage. From an audience perspective, it seems we’ve mostly hijacked Wutreden with irony, transforming them into legendarily humorous episodes. I won’t lie: I titter, then laugh out loud at the Wutrede. If only it were all so funny when I was a kid. Perhaps childhood memories of being screamed at is precisely what makes a stellar Wutrede so funny now for us adults.
Anyhow, Wutreden are part of the folk history and culture of German Fußball. I have no idea if a raging n’ ranting football coach acquires greater status or meaning in Germany than, say England, Spain, Italy, or Fiji. I don’t know. Regardless, the raging rant seems to linger longer in the German footballing conscious. We love to relive them in video clips. Perhaps because German coaching culture implicitly stamps a veneer of formal professional discourse on football coaches. I mean, can you think of another footballing culture that has THE Wutrede? In England, Sir Fergy had too many raging rants for the collective memory—the same can said for Italian managers across the board. As for Spain and France, well I just don’t enough.
Let’s kick off the Wutrede Hall of Fame with the original rant itself. That is, THE Wutrede. The “O.G.” of Wutreden. The godfather. The Adam in Eden. The Columbus in Salvador.
Scene: May, 1998. The “FC Hollywood” days at Bayern Munich. Bayern has just lost a crucial away match 1-0 at Schalke 04. As Uli Hesse explains in Bayern: the Making of a Global Superclub, before the match, both Mehmet Scholl and Mario sat sulking in the bus for 10 minutes after everyone got off. The pair was mad at Bayern coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who benched them for the key match. After the match, Trapattoni drove home to Milan and drafted a speech he planned to deliver during his next pre-training press conference the following the Tuesday.
The result was the most famous speech in German football history, according to Hesse. Despite Trapattoni’s garbled German, the 3 minute 10 second speech conveyed its message with perfect clarity: FC Hollywood had gotten out of hand and must stop. Trapattoni dropped names and burned bridges. It was glorious. Nine days later, he essentially resigned, knowing his relationship with the squad was irreparably broken.
Sind Sie bereit? (Are you ready?) May I formally introduce THE Wutrede with German subtitles (German language learners, avert your eyes!):
In Bayern, Hesse himself (god bless him!) translated some key moments from garbled German into garbled English: “It is at the moment in this team some players forgetting them professional what they are.” Trapattoni continued (this time, my translation): “I read not very many newspapers, but I have heard many situations. Firstly, we have not played offensively. It is no German team play offensive or dynamic offensive as Bayer [sic].” Bless, the man. As the speech continued, Trapattoni grew increasingly louder in volume, faster in delivery, and more dramatic in gesture. The whole thing is really quite volcanic, complete with perhaps the O.G. of “mic drop” moments when the Italian coach simply walks out at the end.
- “A coach not an idiot.”
- “In this game, as two or three, these players were weak as a bottle empty.”
- “These players lament more when playing.”
- “What allows Strunz [player name]?”
- “I am tired now the father of these players, the central defender of these players”
- “I have ready.”
- “When is demands I can reiterate words.
Yes, the German was equivalent of what I get out of Google Translate; however, and here’s the remarkable thing, Trapattoni was clear. Everyone got the message: Scholl, Bassler, and Strunz were not real professionals and were hurting the club. As someone learning German myself, I marvel at his sheer gumption in unleashing his unpracticed German in so unconscious a fashion. There’s odd inspiration here. There’s something revealed, unconcealed, and shining forth about Trapattoni. It’s not that I find him to be a morally upstanding man, or even that I agree with his talking points; rather, it’s the breaking through—the conventions of manners, behaviors, and discourse—into the space of pure possibility that this clip presents.
But I don’t find anything “good” or “bad” about this space that Trapattoni opens up. I’m not sure there’s an ethical point here. Instead, there’s the possibility of unconcealment of the self. So perhaps, if anything, there’s a human point to Trapattoni’s Wutrede: a self standing naked in the presence of others, a self setting in motion a chain of events.