Lahm In Interview To “Frankfurter Rundschau”: Part II

I must apologize for such a long delay, but here it is. (The first part can be found here.)

FR: At the early stage under Louis van Gaal, you gave an interview in which you defended the coach, who was under a lot of criticism, and criticized FC Bayern. You had to pay the unprecedented fine of 50,000 euros for the interview that had not been cleared with your employer. Now you write in your book that the investment was worthwhile. Is that coquetry or do you really think so?

Lahm: I, of course, wasn’t too happy to pay 50,000 euros. But I believe that some things have developed at the club as the result of that.

FR: What things exactly?

Lahm: Since then the players have been bought according to certain positions, we have a system; we need this or that kind of players, and they are bought accordingly.

FR: You mention in your book that you’ve cried at times. For example, during the European Championship final in 2008 when you had to remain in the locker room because of the injury. One rarely hears it from your lot. Professional football players must not cry?

Lahm: Now, I don’t find that dramatic. Crying is not a sign of weakness. I just felt that way at the time. Above all, the situation before the World Cup at home (2006) had been difficult. There were two, three weeks left till the game against Costa Rica when I got injured. When you wake up from anesthesia, the arm hurts, and it’s very difficult.

FR: In your book, you write that you wouldn’t advise any homosexual player to come out because the fans of the opposing team would verbally harass him from their stands at their home arena. No one has said it as clearly as you.

Lahm: But that’s how it is. At the stadium, things are rarely politically correct. Football is like a battle of gladiators in the past. Sure, politicians can come out, but they don’t have to play in front of 60,000 people every week, not to mention that it can get worse. It’s bad that things are like that. But this is how I see it: I don’t think that the society is tolerant enough to matter-of-factly accept homosexual football players, as it is possible in other domains. 

FR: How are things on the pitch? Would an opponent still call that player a fag or a homo?

Lahm: No, it has become completely harmless.

FR: In 2007, you were on the cover of a gay magazine. However, one didn’t have an impression that the interview introduced the discussion of homosexuality in professional sport in a relaxed manner. In principle, it went back to one question: Is Lahm possibly gay? How do you handle it?

Lahm: I’m just as realistic as you are. What can you do? If you search for my name in Google, the second or third term will be “Philipp Lahm gay”. When the magazine approached me about the interview, I said, “Why not?” And the interview was mostly about soccer.

FR: Let’s talk about another aspect of the sport’s social appeal. Whenever there have been cases of a burnout or a depression in your field in the last two years, the media has taken an opportunity to examine other areas of life with regard to that subject. One could soon get an impression that people are under the same pressure in everyday life as the top-level athletes. Wouldn’t that be a frightening idea?

Lahm: I don’t know if I would intensify it to that extent. When we look at the facts, a burnout or a depression are the new common diseases. Unfortunately, they are still often perceived as a weakness, although it has probably changed recently. I believe it is important to repeat the following: depression is not a weakness, it is a disease.

FR: However, in essence, nothing can change the growing pressure to perform [well] in professional football.

Lahm: Once again, I perceive the depression as a disease, but not, by implication of a basic principle of competition, as a disease of competitive sports.

FR: But the sport is sometimes merciless. Take Michael Ballack who went from an irreplaceable leader to an outsider and a tragic figure during the World Cup 2012. How can one stand that?

Lahm: That’s true. What you don’t address is that, just as fast, it can go back to the top. I, myself, went from a player in the regional league to a player on the National Team within six months. One has to be able to handle that too. But it’s true that it’s not an easy profession. What helps me are my personal surroundings: my wife, our families, our friends. Around them, I can get peace and find strength.

FR: You said once that the formula “you have to be 11 friends” is a cliché. Then what holds a team together nowadays?

Lahm: It is important, in any case, to have an understanding between people. But friends? Andreas Ottl is my friend. However, he doesn’t play for Bayern anymore. In that sense, I no longer have a really close friend at Bayern. But I get along well with many people and sometimes hang out with them off the pitch.

(translation ©unavis)

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