Sports "You mustn't waste talent" TIME ONLINE

“You mustn’t waste talent” TIME ONLINE

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An early maturer could soon join Borussia Dortmund. According to reports from the “Bild” newspaper, the club is considering applying for a rule change in the German Football League (DFL). The age limit in German professional football is to be reduced to 16 so that the B youth player and U-national player Youssoufa Moukoko, who has already scored 12 goals for the U17, can play from the coming season.

So far, footballers can only be used when they have reached the U19 age group, which will be the case with Moukoko in the summer of 2021. According to the current statutes, Moukoko can only play from the season after next. However, if the DFL agrees to the Dortmund application, the German-Cameroonian striker can probably start playing for Borussia on November 20, 2020. He turns 16 that day.

The youngest Bundesliga player of all time was also a Dortmund player: Nuri Şahin made his Bundesliga debut in August 2005 a month before his 17th birthday. Other countries do not handle this question as strictly as Germany, for example the Belgian Romelu Lukaku, now a national team player, and Ansu Fati from FC Barcelona with 16 each in the senior team. Ulf Baranowsky, executive board member of the German gaming union VdV, however, in a conversation with ZEIT ONLINE warns of caution with the age limit.

TIME ONLINE: Soccer you play at preschool age. Why do you still consider an age limit to be important?

Baranovsky: As in general labor law, health and safety are also important in football youth protection to be considered in particular.

TIME ONLINE: The current rule stems from a time when footballers should first train after their careers. Today they are introduced to the profession of footballer at a very young age. Should one take these circumstances into account in this rule question?

Ulf Baranowsky
© picture alliance / Jürgen Fromme / firo Sportphoto / VDV / dpa / dpa

Baranovsky: Yes. But sports physicians point out that the number of cruciate ligament tears and fatigue fractures, as well as the overloading in the youth centers in general, is high. Professional football, including training, is even more intense, physical, demanding. It also requires a lot of regeneration. Anyone who gets in there too early is at risk of permanent damage. You can’t waste talent. Incidentally, it is different in women’s football because girls develop faster than boys.

TIME ONLINE: Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann also warns of public pressure in the Bundesliga,

Baranovsky: Being a professional also includes psychological maturity.

TIME ONLINE: Perhaps Borussia Dortmund is concerned about losing the player abroad, where he may play earlier. The club also has great experience with very young players.

Baranovsky: Undisputed. And I cannot and do not want to judge the individual case. I just have to consider with a general rule change: Clubs should not give preference to short-term economic goals over the long-term development of a player.

TIME ONLINE: At least the DFL does not deny that it could change the age rule soon.

Baranovsky: This should in any case be preceded by a careful discussion in which doctors, psychologists and we as a union are involved. Professional football is for adults.

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