Germany’s football stars went back to school Tuesday as part of another charm offensive aimed at repairing the damage from their World Cup debacle last summer.
Ahead of Thursday’s friendly against Russia in Leipzig, captain Manuel Neuer, forward Leroy Sane, winger Julian Brandt and forward Timo Werner fielded questions from schoolchildren as the team seek to build bridges with fans following their humiliating first-round exit in Russia.
The German team was criticised for appearing too distant from their supporters and this latest initiative follows the national team holding an open training session for 5,000 fans in Berlin last month.
But that didn’t stop the schoolchildren from asking some tricky questions.
“What do you think of the fact that Mesut Ozil no longer plays for the national team?” one bold youngster bluntly asked Manchester City winger Sane.
Ozil resigned from the national team in July, accusing the German football federation of ‘racism and disrespect’ after being the target of xenophobic comments on social media following the team’s poor displays in Russia.
Sane answered with diplomatic aplomb.
“For me, it’s a shame. He is a good friend and I would like to play with him again,” said Sane, controversially left out of the World Cup squad by coach Joachim Loew despite being voted the Premier League’s best young player last season.
“But there are other good players in the team whom I get along with.”
During a 45-minute press conference only a quarter of an hour was set aside for questions by journalists.
Despite Germany’s efforts, only 28,000 of the 41,629 tickets for the friendly against Russia in Leipzig had been sold as of Monday.
Germany need a morale-boosting win against the Russians before next week’s crunch Nations League clash at home to the Netherlands, which Germany must win to avoid relegation from their pool.
However, the result in Gelsenkirchen on Monday could be irrelevant if the Dutch beat France in Rotterdam on Friday during the other Group One match as the Germans are bottom of their pool with just one point.