Philipp Lahm: The DFB-Genscher

Many thanks to my German friend, Josie, for translating the interview. I have made some changes to it, but the bulk of work is hers, and I’m grateful. Any use of this translation without my permission and the link to this blog is forbidden. (c) unavis

This is one of those two articles that, surprisingly enough, emphasize Philipp’s personality. It is quite rare. Without further due, here are some excerpts and my comments.

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Published online on February 8th, 2011, in Spiegel (the article) before the friendly with Italy.

The DFB-Genscher

(To spare you the trouble of googling the name, Genscher was Germany’s Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor.)

“Friendly, smart, eloquent : Philip Lahm is the paragon of the national team and, from a coach’s point of view, the ideal game leader. Officially the 27-year old is only the surrogate captain of the DFB but a return of rival Michael Ballack is as unlikely as never before.”

As I have mentioned before, the three adjectives used by the author of this article are those that I would use to describe Philipp. Those are the qualities that define perfectly his personality.

“A press conference with Philipp Lahm is like tea time. There is a polite conversation; the man knows how to formulate a neat German sentence on any topic. Lahm is the chief diplomat of the German national team – even when he arrived to the game against Italy as newly appointed captain of the club that has been in trouble for months now.”

In addition to mentioning the atmosphere and pointing to politeness, thank you for bringing up the fact that he can actually think and talk at the same time. I’m not sure why that quality of his is often omitted by the media when the captaincy issue surfaces. Isn’t it important for a leader? That is also why the media loves talking to him so much. There is a possibility of… well, a conversation.

[on FC Bayern’s lack of good performances]“Crisis at FCB because of the astronomically large backlog to Borussia Dortmund ? Lahm smiles and says, ‘ I understand that you also have to ask questions about Bayern Munich. But for me, the only thing that matters is a huge joy and honor to be allowed to lead the football nation Germany onto the field tomorrow.’ Hans-Dietriich Genscher couldn’t have said it smoother in his time as the Foreign Minister.”

Well, one has to admit that it was a great answer :) Refusing to give any comments on FC Bayern’s situation, making it a classy answer. Oh, Lahm, I wish I could do that too. The thing is that his answer was completely legitimate in that it wasn’t a press conference for FC Bayern. It was a press conference for the national team. Why should he talk about anything else? So, he let people know what he thought without actually saying it.

[on his responsibilities] “Lahm explains it like this : ” In this position you are daily gaining new experiences through interesting conversations with interesting people. “

Goooo Lahm!

[on Bastian Schweinsteiger]“What he thinks about the fact that Bastian Schweinsteiger currently has to play a different role in Bayern Munich’s middlefield ? Lahm takes off, ‘ Of course it is the optimum when a player is always set in for the same position. ‘ Immediately follows the ” but “, ‘Bastian has so much experience that he can handle this double role without any problems.’  “

An analysis combined with an opinion. Acknowledging the reality but emphasizing the advantages. Yep, that’s Lahm for you.

“Who hears Lahm speak knows why he was the first choice for both Bayern-coach Louis van Gaal and national coach Logi Löw when it came to passing on the captain’s bandage after Mark van Bommel’s departure and Michael Ballack’s withdrawal due to injury. Lahm isn’t one who talks without thinking, he keeps his composure. Only if he really sees an advantage, he goes on to the offensive . Like in 2009, when he gave the SZ a very precise interview and criticized his club.”

I’m glad they mention his talents as orator in this passage. Too often people seem to believe that roughness, in whatever way, is what distinguishes a good captain. Too often they forget about finesse. Lahm embodies dignity. It never ceases to amazes me, to watch him answering journalists’ questions. With that little amount of German that I know, I still can grasp what he tries to convey. It’s concise. It’s to the point. Apart from press conferences, one can witness him keeping his composure in this interview:

Philipp Lahm after the match against Spain

It was right after Germany lost to Spain in the World Cup semi-final 2010. I have heard that Schweinsteiger is considered an emotional soul of the team. Lahm isn’t made of stone either. The following interview quickly got a title “Lahm cries”. People were surprised?.. During the first few seconds of the interview one can hear his voice cracking a bit and see him blinking, as he was most definitely trying to do away with tears after a disappointing loss to Spain. (Again.) And then, just a couple of seconds later, he collects himself, regains control.  Speaking of composure. The simple fact that one sees him dealing with the situation in that manner speaks volumes. It tells a lot about what is going on the inside, indicating quite clearly that he is no less emotional than anyone else on the team, but he chooses to deal with it. Perhaps, because he can. Perhaps, because he has to. Perhaps, both.

I find the so-called “offensives” very interesting. One of the French newspapers has mentioned it as well, and I’ll make sure to elaborate on it in a next post. It is necessary to emphasize that the “advantage” here is the one that benefits his team, whether it is the German national team or FC Bayern. The “advantages” are the instances that can change the dynamic of his team for the better. I believe they say a lot about his character. Frankly, it took a lot of courage and confidence to criticize the transfer policy of his club (in November, 2009), knowing what the consequences would be. Even more so, he avoided speaking of his teammates and supported the coach with just several phrases. The code of FC Bayern had emphasized, at least up until that point, that the players couldn’t criticize their fellow players or their coach. (They changed the regulations right after.)  Philipp did neither.  Yet, he had to pay a fine. To make a long story short, his constructive step-by-step analysis scared the management of the club, cause quite a stir on every possible level, and, most importantly, changed things.  They started moving in a positive direction, that is to say that the transfer policy, which is still not the best nowadays, has changed a bit. Thus, I am surprised that the media and many fans don’t see it as something indicating that Lahm has more than enough potential to be the captain of captains.

“Many fans would have rather seen Louis van Gaal appointing Bastian Schweinsteiger the new captain. Lahm is too much of a paragon, also too clever, and keeps his distance to be the people’s hero.”

And we are back to the debate. It’s absolutely fascinating to read about the qualities that make him a not-so-good candidate for the captaincy. “He is too clever.” Well, this is funny! Being “too clever” is definitely a bad thing, I see. He is too clever… Is it better to have a not-so-clever captain than a clever one? What is “clever”? “Too clever” according to whom? Too clever for the bosses?.. Perhaps, they are afraid that they will be called on their s*** if an opportunity presents itself. But then again, Lahm might be “too clever” to do that. And what is that about him keeping his distance?!  When did Lahm keep his distance? What does that even mean? He does that to the people’s hero… What? I think that would actually push people away, no? Those who aren’t approachable aren’t liked by the public. Am I missing something? I’m not criticizing the author of the article, though. Simply my thoughts…

“Schweinsteiger, despite all his maturity, likes to provoke, also owning his spot in the midfield, is a more famous guy. But Lahm is better when it comes to be a mediator between the team and athletic performances, not a hierarch but rather the first among equals – a longer arm of the trainer, like every modern coach would wish for.”

Bastian likes to provoke? What has been his provocation exactly? Painting his nails black? That is so provocative! Not the right kind of provocation, if you ask me. The fact that he is a midfielder is one of the reasons why I think he’s anything but a captain. Yes, I know there are many midfielders out there who have the job. But Bastian likes to be in the spotlight. In a good way. However, it’s still a spotlight. He needs to be there, needs to score, needs to play. He has no time to lead. Germany’s match against Uruguay for the third place proved as much. So, thank you for pointing out Lahm’s qualities that make him a “radical modern player”, as the official DFB website put it.

“For the national team this is the case until Ballack returns. That is the official speech : Ballack is the captain, Lahm is his replacement during his absence. And Bayern’s defender wouldn’t have been himself his he hadn’t repeated this official declaration of the DFB before the game against Italy.”

Love it! What was he supposed, or perhaps expected, to say? :) It’s Joachim Löw’s decision that Lahm has accepted. He just repeated the same thing he had already said. Now, it says, “He wouldn’t have been himself…” “Himself” meaning diplomatic and smart.

[on his reaction to what the head coach has talked about with regard to Ballack and his place on the team] “When Löw said this Lahm sat next to him, and, of course, he didn’t show on his face what he thought about these words.”

They even concentrated on his facial expressions to get a scoop! ahaha Of course, he didn’t show! Why would he? Would you? Not to mention the fact that, most likely, he didn’t have any concerns about the issue at the moment. Hence, zero reaction.

[on his thoughts about the Italian team] “Italy still is a ” big football nation “, he told the Italian journalists, that were struggling with the current state of the Squadra Azzura. Smiling, just as polite and noncommittal. Then the tea time was over.”

I absolutely love the fact that such terms as “smiling” and “polite” have made it to the final description. I was watching the press conference, which is the focus of the article, live. Philipp seemed to be in a good mood. He did smile. He joked :) And, believe me, he has a good sense of humor. Until recently, I have seen him very serious for the most part. He means business. That’s why when he smiles it is just… exciting :D Also, I find interesting the word “noncommittal”. It has some sort of bad connotation to it, it seems. But there is nothing wrong with being noncommittal when one doesn’t want to commit to any point of view, is there? That was the case.  That was the case here. Lahm knows the strengths and weaknesses of his team and those of his opponents. No need to talk about them before a friendly. As simple as that.

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2 comments

  1. […] fact, some time ago the same author wrote, in my opinion, one of the best articles about Philipp (The DFB-Genscher). In yesterday’s article, which is mainly focused on Bastian, the author points out: Other […]

  2. […] “Philipp Lahm: The DFB-Genscher.” Der Kapitan. WordPress.com, 26 Feb. 2011. Web. 29 May 2011. […]

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