Several days ago I posted an excerpt from Babett Peter’s interview with TZ, in which she expresses her admiration for Philipp Lahm. Later on I came across an article in Hamburger Abendblatt that touches, among other things, upon a similar topic. The article asserts that the press has started referring to Peter, who plays on the German Women’s National Team, as “Philipp Lahm of the team” (Philipp Lahm der Mannschaft). Naturally, Peter points out that “it is a great honor.” The author continues:
She does not pay attention to constant comparisons with men. In this case, she makes an exception, “After all, Philipp Lahm is a leading player who also has a pleasant personality off the pitch.”
One expects from a leading player to set the tone. Could she do that? Babette Peter pauses and then says, “No worries, I speak of things if they have to be said. However, I do not do that through the media but within the team.” (my translation)
I have heard more than once that Philipp is no Effenberg, Beckenbauer, Mathäus, Kahn, Ballack… The list can go on and on. While I understand a tendency to compare what can be compared, sometimes it seems people forget that Lahm is his own person. In fact, I am inclined to think that it might come as a surprise to some that he is, for lack of a better word, unique so much so that people get compared to him. Saying that someone is like Philipp Lahm automatically marks a reference to his talent, his personality, or the way he dresses. In April of this year, WZ published an article about a German musician named Clueso (on a side note, he does have great stuff, and his song “Gewinner” quickly became one of my favorites). Clueso was described as no other as “Philipp Lahm of pop music” (Der Philipp Lahm der Popmusik):
Clueso is basically Philipp Lahm of pop music. Quiet, almost shy, he sneaks onto the stage of Kufa, a lanky young man in a black shirt and black jeans, who acts as if he were having a free period at school and happened to be in the spotlight. Clueso cannot hide that he is a nice guy. […] However, just like with Lahm, who became a leading player a while ago, you should not make a mistake of underestimating Clueso. His optimism is not superficial, his good humor is not based on naivety, but on life experience. (my translation)
Football and music. Two different domains. One comparison. To some extent, not only is it a description of a person in question, Peter or Clueso, but also that of Lahm. In Peter’s case, it is clearly an allusion to Lahm’s football skills, as well as his personality. With regard to Clueso, the comparison alludes more to Lahm’s personality and the way he dresses. He might seem “quiet, almost shy” to some, like a schoolboy. It is not bad. It is just a perception. But each of those references has a certain weight. Considering both of them, it is implied that they will trigger something in the reader’s mind, something that will tell him/her exactly what the author wanted to convey. It implies that everyone knows how Lahm is. Simply reading “X is like Philipp Lahm” allows the reader to imagine that person.
Take a minute to think about it. I find it fascinating that Lahm has become some kind of a cultural reference. I believe that it emphasizes his individuality. So, the next time a need for comparison arises, it would be, perhaps, better to say, “Lahm is like… well, Lahm.”
PS.: with regard to Peter’s statement about speaking her mind, it most likely refers to Lahm’s criticism of his club’s transfer policy in 2009, which was open. But then again, Lahm does say that he discusses matters internally, but in that case it was something that could be seen by everyone, since the transfer policy is quite obvious.