India keeper Subrata Pal has completed a two-week long trial-cum-training with German 4th Division club RB Leipzig. Subrata had a great time with the German outfit, but football fans and media in India didn’t show that much interest in the trials as many preferred to say it’s „just the 4th Division“. But hardly anyone in India has seen the league in action and there is a lack of knowledge to rate the standards in Germany’s 4th Division, which features players like Bastian Schweinsteiger!
The German 4th Division is called „Regionalliga“ and it is divided into five zones namely North, North-East, West, South-West and Bavaria. A total of three teams only will be promoted to the 3rd Division from the five zones. It means that the five champions and the winner amongst the runners-up of the South-West and Bavaria Zones will have to play a play-off to determine the three promotion spots.
The teams in the 4th Division are all professional clubs with annual budgets running into the millions of Euros. Most clubs have their own offices, training facilities and sponsors and they are running their teams as professional units in their aim to climb the ladder to the top Divisions of German football.
The German 4th Division is stronger than many people in India realize. It is much stronger than the I-League and the league features many experienced players, promising talents and well-known coaches/officials.
RB Leipzig is part of the “Regionalliga Nordost” (North-East) and the club is owned by Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull. The club has an annual budget of approximately 6 million Euros (!) and they play their home matches in the Red Bull Arena which has a capacity of 44,345.
RB Leipzig is part of the Red Bull Global Soccer network along with Red Bull Salzburg from Austria, MLS side New York Red Bulls and two academies in Brazil and Ghana. The German team is coached by Alexander Zorniger, while former Schalke 04 coach Ralf Rangnick is taking care of the club in his position as Director of Sports.
The squad features experienced players like former Bundesliga players Juri Judt and former Swiss international goalkeeper Fabio Coltorti. Coltorti did also play for La Liga side Real Racing Club de Santander.
RB Lepzig is an ambitious club and they have a well planned long-term goal to reach the Bundesliga. The club has various training grounds including one artificial pitch and three more pitches are already in the building.
The Regionalliga features many second teams of Bundesliga outfits like FC Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, Hamburger SV, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and many others. The Bundesliga teams regularly use the their second teams to give out of form players or players coming back from injuries a chance to get some match fitness. So it’s not unusual to see players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and company playing in the Regionalliga.
Indian fans just need to recall the FC Bayern Munich II team, which visited India in 2009. The second team featured players like Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber who played the 2010 FIFA World Cup just one year later!
The German Regionalliga is stronger than many people expect and fans/media shouldn’t form an opinion just because of the fact it is a “4th Division” on paper. It is a major mistake to rate a league just looking on the division and without watching a single game.
Subrata did exceptionally well as reported earlier [+ read more] and he has been invited by the club to re-join them for another training next year. Subrata has various options to use this professional club and the Red Bull Global Soccer network to take his career to the next level.
Many fans/media need to learn that they can’t judge the level of a league based on the Division name and they even need to see the prospects behind a club with all its networks which would open the door to higher Divisions, if a player performs well.
European football is much more than the top Divisions like the Bundesliga, EPL, La Liga, etc.! The league systems are much more complex and the quality is much higher than one would expect.
Indian players need to start off in 3rd and 4th Divisions to get them into the focus of the major European leagues as long as Indian football(ers) is/are not seen as “top quality”. It is part of the long journey for Indian football and its aim to take it to the next level.
Pictures of Subrata Pal’s training with RB Leipzig are available at www.facebook.com/cpd81