The Winterpause that refreshes

While the English gorge on Boxing Day matches today, the soccer stadiums of Germany are locked, the lights shut off and the stands empty.

The Bundesliga and the lower domestic leagues in Germany are novel among the top nations in Europe for not playing all the way through the holidays. It’s one of the many appealing aspects of German soccer, along with the venues, ticket prices and club relations with fans that also elicit winsome praise from the English.

Winterpause wasn’t mentioned by The New York Times in this takeout on the renaissance of the German domestic game, which focuses on the overhaul of its youth programs, the advantage of being in a more economically stable European nation, and an aesthetically pleasing style of play:

“ ‘Once the Germans have decided to transform, to reform, they do it,’ Emmanuel Hembert, an expert in the business of soccer at the consultancy A. T. Kearney, said. ‘It has been the case for the labor rules; it’s the case for football where they changed their model; and it’s had a very positive impact.’ ”

But for as industrious as Germans are, they are just as savvy about observing the importance of dialing it down. Even before the German break, Borussia Dortmund proved startling in the Champions League, advancing over English champion Manchester City and self-immolating Real Madrid.

When Dortmund returns to the fray of the Bundesliga and Europe in mid-January, it will be well-rested. That’s not always a guarantee for success in the second half of a grueling season. But it’s sane and utterly civilized and a needed counterpart to the endless, almost joyless grind of the Premier League, where the end of it all, somebody from Manchester is going to win.

As Grant Wahl points out, the Bundesliga needs a better TV deal in the U.S., but that’s all that seems to be missing.

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