I read this interview yesterday morning, and that was what instantly changed my mood. And I thought to myself, “A Phenomenon. He truly is a Phenomenon.” That’s right. With a capital letter. (By the way, the accompanying photo is great.) In the spirit of things, I have chosen this comment on Lahm’s Facebook page as an epigraph for this post.
“You are taking way too much shit for what you wrote in your book. Fuck ’em. Don’t let them tell you what to write. It’s not like other other players – and coaches! – don’t say their opinions too. To hell with all your critics.” – Robert, Atlanta
Lahm In Exclusive Interview: “One is a man who thinks”
Mister Lahm, you were the nation’s favorite as a football player. As the author of a book, do you suddenly feel like a scapegoat?
No, not at all, because I have merely depicted and analyzed what has happened in my career up until this point. I am objective and don’t get carried away with it. Whoever picks up the book, immediately notices that it’s not the settlement of accounts. I am firmly convinced that those who will read the book, from 10- to 90-year-olds, will have fun doing so. I am glad that it goes on sale on Monday because then people will talk about the actual content.
Some have called it the “tell-all” book or “scandal book” – these labels do not survive a reading?
No. I do not attack anyone. I analyze my previous coach: what in him was better than in another? So, I describe how it went in my career. I also write on what I always reflect on and what I ask myself: where am I, myself, going with my career, with my life? This book was an important pillar for me because that way I could also do some reviews of what had happened. And that’s why I think that it touches outsiders who follow football with interest.
Were you surprised by the outcry?
Definitely yes, because it was not my intention to cause trouble. The excerpts that had been chosen for a pre-publication were shortened. One has to approach the reading as a gold seeker to find those passages. I didn’t want to condemn anyone, and whoever reads the book will find out how the statement is contextualized; the fact that under Rudi Völler, for example, the National Team trained often only for an hour – that was back then simply a different time.
Nevertheless, your former coaches, Rudi Völler, Felix Magath, Louis van Gaal und Jürgen Klinsmann, feel attacked.
One has to read all of it and not just trust the excerpts. For example, I write in the same chapter about Völler that I was not aware of any other nation of that period that was training differently. And with regard to Jürgen Klinsmann, I don’t write only negative things, but also that he has brought in professionalism into the National Team. With regard to Louis van Gaal, there are several passages in the book, saying that he has effected everything at Bayern in a positive way. So far, only negative aspects of the book have been exposed.
Would you do anything differently?
No. Nothing, because the book is harmless. It is simply an analysis of my career up until now, what has happened and how the times have changed in the industry.
What do you say to people who accuse you of an “image neurosis” or greed? – the question about your motivation to write such a book preoccupies the minds to a great extent…
I cannot do anything with those allegations. Something like that I cannot influence. About money: most people know that I have a foundation. The proceeds from selling the book will certainly also flow in that direction. My true motivation was to bring football closer to people. That is my intention. People ask themselves, “What happens with a professional football player?” They see that he trains, that he plays a match, but that is far from being all of it. A book like that would have caught my interest as a kid. Only there was no such thing back then. Thus, we have written it because there wasn’t something like that.
Which passages are your personal favorites?
Oh, there are so many nice stories. That I already was a ball boy in Bayern, even though I wasn’t in the club. As Felix Magath fetched me to the pros at VfB Stuttgart, I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. There are so many memories that come alive.
You write, for example, when talking about U11, thus at a very young age, that “I smell football, feel a level”. How was that?
I came from FT Gern. Of course I felt a difference in Bayern right away. Before it had been like, “Simply go to the ball and play!” In Bayern, there was a coach who really gave instructions as to how and why we should do this and that.
You also vividly describe how your friends, having hit puberty, went swimming, how the girls became more important. Have you ever felt like a victim, preferring football to the pleasures of youth?
No, never, because it was always fun. If swimming or going out at night had been more fun for me, everything would have worked out differently. But I always had a goal in mind. I wanted to play every weekend, wanted to win, wanted to become a champion. I always had goals, and they were in football. I have always looked forward to every game 11 against 11. I still love this game today.
Also, there is a nice story about how, after a fiasco, a tabloid called the National Team “snips from Bucharest”.
Yes, today that makes me chuckle. But one has to learn to live with public criticism. At that time, it was a strange feeling, one is a man who thinks, so you just ask yourself, “Whom people see now on the street – Philipp or a snip?” Those are mechanisms that one has to get used to.
You also speak openly on the subject of tears. When you got injured before the World Cup 2006, “I started crying”, you write.
The book should be honest, and that’s how it is. I stick by the fact that I have cried every now and then. The situation was very bitter: I wake up after my surgery, my arm hurts, I see the World Cup, that goal for which I have worked for a year, slip away. I knew that it wasn’t so dramatic that my career would be over. But the fear of missing the World Cup was huge.
Today you are captain of Bayern and the National Team. You are at the top of the list of the country’s most powerful football players. Does that mean something to you?
No, and I don’t even know what that really is. I gladly express my opinion, and of course, the armband in Bayern and the National Team is an honor. For me, power still has a bit of a negative connotation. For me, it is simply important to be heard when I have something to say.
In the book, you say that you had a feeling Angela Merkel saw the national players as “fellow sufferers”. What do you mean?
As I once was giving an interview about being tired, she said to me, “I am familiar with that, I know what you mean.” She is also criticized a lot at her job, but nevertheless, has that joy in what she does. You stories are noticed, and when a Chancellor, such a figure, jokes with us, there is a connection.
You partially demystify football. You describe your guild as “gladiators”, the nice idea that eleven friends pursue their profession is an illusion.
Within the team, there should be, of course, an agreement between teammates. But everyone is ambitious. Eleven friends? Let’s be honest: who has ever eleven friends? I mean, that’s right. I don’t. And the fact that in a team, where the competition prevails, there can’t be eleven friends, it lies in the nature of things.
“Softies aren’t successful in football,” you write. Tough.
One has to endure a lot. One can see it now. (grins)
Bravo, Philipp! Classic!
You also take on another, let’s us call it a “sensitive topic”. The rumor that you are a homosexual, does that actually bother you?
No. That is not a problem for me. I know that it’s not true. And I also know that I can’t change minds of those who say that I am gay with a couple of lines in the book or by referring to my wedding and my wife. It is as simple as that.
Chapter 14 provides for a controversy: the topic of “lack of philosophy” can be seen as a critique of your employer, FC Bayern.
No, because we are in the meantime on the right path, picking players specifically for our philosophy. Nowadays, one doesn’t simply buy a player, but [does so] according to the system that our coach has undertaken. For example, Manchester United and FC Barcelona has been playing by their systems for years, whereas we only for two. That still continues.
The content pertaining to FC Bayern has already been discussed in advance. In the book, you depict the president, Uli Hoeneß, as your role model; you would ask yourself in certain situations whether he would act the same way if he were in your shoes. What does he say about your book?
(laughs) He liked it.
(my translation, © unavis. Any use of this translation without my permission is forbidden.)