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A psychologist for Team Germany
- Coach Klinsmann breaks new ground

Berlin: Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann wants to get inside the heads of his players.

He has appointed a team psychologist to help deal with the pressures of playing at the highest level and hopes Hans-Dieter Hermann can exercise the players' minds while the other national team coaches are working on their physical fitness.

'He'll be a useful asset for us in coping with stress and getting out top performances,' Klinsmann said after the Heidelberg University psychologist was named to join the squad for the three-match tour of Asia from December 13 to 22.

It is the first time in the 96-year history of the German FA that a psychologist has been appointed for the national team.

Since taking over from Rudi Voeller in July after Germany's humiliating first-round exit from Euro 2004, Klinsmann has imported fitness trainers from the United States to work as consultants. He has broken another taboo with the psychologist.

But unlike initial grumbling over the former Germany striker's use of consultants, the reaction has been muted partly because some players have suffered from depression and burnout.

Klinsmann, 40, who moved to the US six years ago and commutes to Germany several times a month, has been impressed by the way American teams use university research.

'It's a great assignment and a great honour to accompany the Germany team to the World Cup finals,' Hermann said.

'The idea is to help players prepare psychologically for the special situation of playing in the World Cup finals in their own country and the pressure of high expectations resulting from that,' he added.

Hermann has also worked with Austria's women ski team as well as German boxers and gymnasts before the 2004 Athens Olympics. Hermann acknowledges some players may be reluctant to work with him and said his help is voluntary.

'I think there is still a certain prejudice,' he said. 'But that's because there isn't enough information about what sports psychologists actually do. They're put in the same category as psychiatrists.'

Psychological counselling has become a hot topic in recent years, especially after Germany midfielder Sebastian Deisler missed much of last season for Bayern Munich and part of this season during an on-and-off battle with depression.

Before Deisler's public breakdown, Hanover 96 striker Jan Simak, once a Czech midfielder, was placed on the sick list last season after doctors ruled he could not stand the pressure of the professional game. Hermann later counselled Simak, who has returned to the game, playing for Sparta Prague this season. (Reuters)

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