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18/02/1936: Nyáry interviews Dr. Nerz

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-11-20 18:56:20

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
— József Nyáry | 18/02/1936, Berlin —

There's an elevated railway out of town on the Westkreuz line. The town's tramway is already plunging into the snow, the winter sun sparkles on a thin blanket of snow at Eichkamp.
When we ring the bell, the host himself opens the door. A few moments later we are sitting in comfortable leather chairs in the elegant library room. Dr. Nerz begins:
Dr. Nerz: In Lyon...
— We've been out without any training — I interrupt.
Dr. Nerz: Of course, the Olympic tournament is still a long way off. Until then, your team could be quite different. It's too early to draw any conclusions. But by then, our national team will also be made up of quite different names, says Dr Nerz with a smile.
That is what interests me. I tease Nerz with the comment that he thinks Germany could field three completely equal national teams on the same Sunday.
Eyes light up behind the frameless glasses:
Dr. Nerz: I know very well what they write about me abroad, that I put unknown players in the team. Please! What does it mean to be an unknown player? Unknown to whom? A player can suddenly become famous in one town or another, and there may be many better players kicking the ball elsewhere. That's why I don't care about names and that's why I look at all players the same.
» Players from second-tier teams make up the bulk of our squad! When I took over, the first thing I did was to break with the prejudices that were damaging our football. Before that, even in our country, anyone who wanted to play for the national team had to play in a big club. Now that this has disappeared, the frequent changes of clubs have also disappeared. A player who is discovered does not try to move to a bigger club. And we punish that outright! If I pick out a boy on my trips to the countryside, I tell him: "Do you hear me? Don't let him move to another club! It could happen that the selection committee will drop me for that!" We consider it unwise for a famous player to leave his mother club. Because one either goes or one doesn't!
» If he's disloyal to his club, he'll be disloyal to the big fights. Such a player cannot be expected to fight for the national colours with all his heart and soul! Haringer, for example, was not included in the national team for a year and a half because of a change of club.
I want to ask a question, but Nerz has really got into it:
» We've even killed off the star system! Not only can any youngster make the team, but they can also drop out at any time. Even a 20-time national team player has to retest in every international match and prove he belongs in the national team! I put Lenz in for the first time against Belgium, for example. Then everyone snorted. I brought the player up to Berlin and worked with him for 3 days. Our team of "unknowns" certainly won and Lenz was our best man... We don't care what the public thinks. We have trained the public to expect not names, but a good game and a win!
» If you don't like the line-up, stay at home... There's not enough room anyway.
— Against Spain...
Dr. Nerz: I know, I know! The whole world press has booked as a surprise that we lost to the Spaniards at home, At home? I don't make excuses, I don't say the following. The Spanish team had played a game the week before and were already "together". Besides, they had arrived at the venue a few days before the match and were resting there. Our guys were at work until Saturday noon and then they took the train and came from all over the world to Cologne. We played at home," he adds with a smile.
— So the federation doesn't ask for time off for the players??
Nerz puts his hand in his pocket and digs himself deeper into the armchair. He puts his patent-leather-slippered feet gently into the other chair:
Dr. Nerz: To ask for a leave of absence? Of course! But not often! Twice a year is enough! Whoever writes to me before a match that it will be difficult to get time off, I say to him: stay home.
» We'll play X or Y! Münzenberg, for example, didn't play all summer because he is an architect and his company was busy. This winter he'll be back. Our players -—who are mostly young, inexperienced people — must not think that sport is more important than work! Now we are leaving for Spain for the revals only on Friday. This is one of the reasons why we have 50 players in 7 national team matches.
Now we're taking the conversation in a different direction:
— He did not revise based on what he saw in the England game. Your perception? As far as the W-system is concerned...
I haven't even said it yet, Nerz is going for it:
Dr. Nerz: No! No! On the contrary! This is where we really saw how good this system is, especially in a case like this...
— In this case?
Dr. Nerz: Well, yes. When the opponent is stronger.
— A rigid 'W'...
Dr. Nerz: Rigid? This is also badly perceived abroad. I'll explain what actually motivated me to instil this method in our players. As I said, at the time, we were building a whole new basis for selection. Most of the old players had retired and we had a lot of young, good, unattached players who until then had only played in some third-rate provincial game. Throwing them into international competition without any transition was a bit risky. But there was no other choice and so, to avoid them getting 2-3 goals in the first 10 minutes, I squeezed them into the W defensive formation.
» That way we had less surprises and there was hope that they would play out their normal form after the first few minutes of frustration. That's how our national team's style of play evolved. But the formation is only rigid as long as the opponent is better. Then we can't attack...
— Against England...
Dr. Nerz: Against England, the aim was to avoid the same fate as Italy and Austria. As far as the first minutes are concerned. Against them, the English actually won the match in the first minutes... It is not at all true that I gave the boys the motto defend at all costs before the game!
» This order was only for the first quarter of an hour. Against surprises. And please remember that, especially in Central Europe, our opponents are almost — under the name of a selection — city teams! They know each other, they're close. And here, three quarters of the team often get to know each other only 5 minutes before the match! It's only natural that we have to buy time for the boys to get to know each other. That's why we always start defensively!
Nerz follows my gaze to the glass cabinet full of prizes in the corner.
Dr. Nerz: And we don't always have to win, We're happy with our results so far! We'll settle for a good middle place in the international rankings...
— Now you are getting ready for the Olympics.
Dr. Nerz: Yes, we're going after the unprofessional by any means necessary. Be it anyone. But not just now, before the Olympics! We'll always have amateur football. No expense accounts, no long raids. Only players with a real job can be in the national team.
— And if one of them becomes unemployed? Like Lenz?
Dr. Nerz: Lenz? Factory worker. Day labourer. That's what he was before, and that's what he is now. We will not tolerate clubs putting someone in a job that does not match his intelligence and personality just because he can play football. If Lenz were to become unemployed, we would have no objection to his association finding him a job elsewhere.
» But only in his profession. But we don't want Lenz to transfer to another club, because his new club could get him a job sooner!
— Preparations?
Dr. Nerz: I myself have some plans, but I still have to get the association's approval. We will now play three international matches against Spain, Portugal and Hungary, after which the players will have a full rest for about two months. After that they will start work at their clubs — most of them without coaches — and then go up to Berlin twice for long periods of training under my supervision.
» Chances? Seven months before the Olympics? My guess is that the Austrian or Hungarian amateur teams will be as formidable an opponent in Berlin as any other! After all, in Hungary too, it is the amateurs who will eventually become the famous professional players and all they have to do is wait a while before signing a good player... So much can happen in seven months! We've been declared favourites abroad. That's what I don't like. Favourites can only lose. If you win, you're expected to win. If you lose? No.
I look out the window of the little villa. I can see the white outlines of Deutschlandhalle. To the left is the Charlottenburg stadium, to the right the Avus... You can't imagine a more stylish view.
I'm wearing my coat when Nerz says:
Dr. Nerz: And tell me, please, that the W-formation is not gospel for us! If someone offers a better one, we'll play it!
* * *
What is the greatness of Nerz? He solved the problem of the national team formation. It just happens to be through the W.
I'm on my way to the elevated railway...