Sport and school go hand in hand

When the phone rang one day at the dietl family's home, the amazement was enormous. A man's voice answered at the other end of the line. The gentleman introduced himself as an employee of spvgg greuther furth. It would be about jakob, the twelve-year-old son. The club had been watching him and asked him if he could come to the tryout, it sounded from the horer. The opportunity was tempting. "Why not??"Said christopher dietl to himself before he drove with his offspring from aub, the family's home, to furth, a hundred kilometers away. The first trial training was followed by a second and a third and then the first appearance in the further jersey as a result of a guest match permit. As time went on, furth's interest became more and more concrete. "Actually, we thought that furth would take the decision away from us," says christopher dietl: "by telling us that jakob's performance was not sufficient to be taken."But things turned out differently.

Jakob was so convincing that he was offered the chance to join the junior division of the bundesliga club. "At first, the joy was great," says christopher dietl, "but then my wife and i became thoughtful."The thoughts kept revolving around one question: how would jakob be able to combine soccer and school in the future?? Until now, he had played as an inside defender for the wurzburger FV, trained twice a week and played league games at weekends. In furth, the expulsion of the sixth-grader from wurzburg's deutschhausgymnasium was all the more severe because of the three training sessions alone. The journey there and back meant that two and a half hours were wasted each time.

"Good grades are just as important to us as athletic performance."

Enzo vitale junior coach at greuther furth

The dietls took a long chance, sought advice and asked friends. In the meantime, those responsible at spvgg greuther furth had also given them a good feeling. "We were never caught off guard," says christopher dietl: "we were also shown all the disadvantages of youth professional sports, namely that the players are strongly fixated on soccer."Enzo vitale, who coaches the further U13 juniors, is responsible for spotting talent and once contacted the club by phone, even came to aub and took three hours to talk to the parents. At the end of the reflection period – half a year had passed from the first contact to the signing of the contract – christopher dietl had dismissed the doubts. "The professionalism of the further convinced us," says the 41-year-old. Since july, jakob dietl has been a player at the new national league team's junior training center. The generation of young talent centers has existed in germany for just over a decade. After the national team's poor performance at the 1998 world championship and the european championship two years later, the german soccer association obliged every club in the first and second national leagues to set up a junior performance center with places at a boarding school.

At the "kleeblatt" sports center in the further district of ronhof, around 260 players aged between 6 and 23 are currently being trained in 16 teams, including some youngsters from mainfranken such as jakob dietl. Part of the further concept is to bring soccer and school together. "Good grades are at least as important to us as performance on the pitch," says enzo vitale. That's why the club has a contract with each of its players to collect the certificates and to check the current performance level with the teachers. Before school, the up-and-coming players are sometimes released from training to have enough time to learn. "Not everyone can go on to become a professional and earn a living as a soccer player," says vitale: "in this respect, we have a social responsibility for our young players and their future lives."But the chance of becoming a professional in furth is better than anywhere else. This is evidenced by homegrown players such as nicolai muller (now at FSV mainz 05), stephan schrock (TSG hoffenheim) and edgar prib – which has helped furth gain the image of a familiar training club. A good reputation helps in the search for talent. "There is no ideal time to join us," says enzo vitale (36), who is now in his eighth season working full-time for further. "The player and his parents have to be ready to take this step."Jakob dietl has decided to take on the new challenge. In the future he will have to organize his time tightly. "I know what's coming," says the twelve-year-old. Two players who have already gained experience at the further performance center are oliver scheufens and patrick hock. They too had the dream of making the leap into professional soccer with the spvgg.

At some point, however, the time came when things could no longer go on for either of them. Hock left furth after three seasons at the end of the B-youth season. "Auand got too rough for me," says the twenty-year-old dettelbacher. After finishing high school, he decided to train as a technical draftsman – and for the time being against professional soccer. Moving his home to furth was out of the question for him at the time. "I didn't want to leave my familiar surroundings," explains the attacker, who now plays for TSV abtswind in the regional league, who initially regretted the step back but still has only positive memories of his time in furth. "When you're no longer needed, you're quickly gone," kitzingen's oliver scheufens has found over the course of his three and a half years at greuther furth. After the u19s, the goalkeeper was not offered a contract – which robbed him of his desire to play soccer for over a year. "Friends, girlfriend and family have fallen by the wayside before," says the 21-year-old, who has since joined regional league team eintracht bamberg and, like patrick hock, is still hoping for a chance in paid fubball. "The door is not closed yet," believes hock.e spvgg gulchsheim sports field. Opponents are the junior teams of SG gulchsheim/aub/gollhofen and JFG maintal. Match kicks off at 2 p.M. At 17.30 the men's team of spvgg gulchsheim meets TSV aub in a test match at the same place.

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