Germany was stunned Tuesday when a car crash interrupted the preparations of the German national football team for the upcoming FIFA World Cup. The accident, which occurred on May 27, involved two members of the German national football team, and left two pedestrians in hospital. Nico Rosberg, a star in Formula 1 racing, and Pascal Wehrlein, a Mercedes DTM driver, were driving Julian Draxler and Benedikt Howedes around a closed track in South Tyrol for a promotional film when a pair of elderly pedestrians inadvertently stepped onto the closed circuit and were struck by Wehrlein’s vehicle. Nico Rosberg was taking part in this event, sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, just days after his victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, and certain football analysts have questioned the wisdom in allowing players to ride in high powered sports cars in the lead up to such an important tournament.
One of the pedestrians, a 63-year-old German tourist, was airlifted to a nearby hospital with various fractures, although his condition was reportedly not life threatening, whereas the injuries of the other pedestrian were reported to be less serious. Germany has been hosting its training camp for the FIFA World Cup in northern Italy, and are currently preparing for a friendly against Cameroon on the first of June. Although neither Howedes nor Draxler were injured in the accident, and both have since resumed their training regimen, Nico Rosberg was deeply affected, and has tweeted that he hopes the two pedestrians have a speedy recovery. Oliver Bierhoff, the general manager for the German national team, commented that the whole team was deeply affected by the accident, with Draxler and Howedes being particularly impacted.
The impact that this accident will have on Germany’s preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup will likely not be overly significant, although Joachim Loew, Germany’s head coach, cancelled a scheduled practice game against the German U-20 side in favour of a more private practice following the stunning car crash. Bierhoff said in a statement that both Draxler and Howedes had sports psychologists available to them, and said that both the players and the drivers had conversed with specialists regarding the accident. Bierhoff, Wehrlein, and Rosberg also went to visit the injured men in hospital, although no new information has emerged regarding their current condition.
Johann Ramoser, the local chief of police, commented that the course on which the accident occurred had been cordoned off prior to the accident, while Mercedes-Benz spokesperson Claudia Merzbach said in a statement that the event was simply a product demonstration, and not a racing event. Merzbach went on by saying that she was not allowed to disclose any additional details pertaining to the collision, but she re-emphasized the fact that the accident had taken place on a closed course. It seems unlikely that the German national team will allow itself to be distracted, even by such a stunning car crash, during their preparations for the FIFA World Cup, as Germany has been named by pundits as one of the favourites to win this year’s tournament.
Commentary by Nicholas Grabe