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Documentary

‘Elite School’ (2014) a view of a German football academy

Elite School (2014) also known as Die Kaderschmiede: der traum vom profi-fussball
Elite School (2014) also known as Die Kaderschmiede: der traum vom profi-fussball

A Kaderschmiede is an elite training center, school, or academy, and in the case of Karlsruher SC, its purpose is to create a cadre of skilled footballers. Writer-Director Juana Guschl followed the club’s youth players for the 2013-2014 season and submitted this film for graduation from the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in 2014.

Die Kaderschmiede: der traum vom profi-fussball (the dream of professional football) is a 45-min documentary now available with English sub-titles on Amazon under the title Elite School. A German-only version is on youtube.

Guschl captures a period where the players are in their senior year at the academy, a major stepping point in their lives. The boys all follow one dream, and they have all sacrificed a normal teenage life for a dedicated pre-professional one. They board near the academy and attend school nearby. But only 2 of the 20 in their age group will get a professional contract.

Even though this documentary is 6 years old, parents who think their child could be an elite footballer should watch this ethnographic film, as I doubt the way Academies operate has changed much. All the interviews are honest and presented in a way that lets you make your own judgments.

Players discuss the difficulties of living away from home, the reluctance to make friends with someone who plays the same position, and how an injury means they lose the spot they worked so hard to earn. A former player talks about how he is now learning to be a car salesman but still carries the dream that he will be spotted in an amateur game. Still, all are grateful for the chances they have and the support they receive.

German youth development

Karlsruher SC (KSC) plays in 2. Bundesliga, the 2nd division of the Bundesliga, which means that their academy must adhere to the requirements of the DFB (Deutscher Fussball-Bund, the German football association).

After major losses on the international arena in 2000, the DFB worked with the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 to create a new talent development program with a unified philosophy. Academy coaches must be licensed at a fairly high level and be fully funded. There are training facility requirements as well and regular DFB assessments. Within 10 years, the talent development effort produced a large crop of German stars who went on to win WC 2014.

Contrast this with the haphazard USSoccer development, which has no academy standards and in 2020 drop-kicked its DA Development Academy to MLS and whoever else would pick up the ball. MLS has only recently required coaches to have Pro level licenses.

The players

KSC’s biggest name alumnus is Oliver Kahn, but in general as a 2nd division club, they don’t produce big stars. Edmund Becker, who is still the youth coach, was the first team manager until 2009. Of the 3 youth players in the film Jannik Mohr, Kristijan Ivkic, Alexander Wähling, now 25 years old, the first 2 are playing at low divisions, while Wähling is a coach.

In conclusion

As with Aljoscha Pause and his film Trainer!, Juana Guschl had to convince a 2nd division team to let her film. The club appears to be happy with the film, as they promoted it on their Facebook page. A documentary that captures the lives of academy players in their final year, the result is well worth your time.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8

Resources:

  • Released: 2014 (Germany)
  • German title is Die Kaderschmiede: der traum vom profi-fussball
  • The translation of the title is The Kaderschmiede: the dream of professional football
  • I watched this on Amazon where the English title is Elite School
  • In German with English sub-titles
  • 45 mins
  • not on IMDB
  • Director: Juana Guschl
  • Stars: Coach/Manager Edmund Becker
  • Watch on youtube in German no English sub-titles