As promised some time ago, today I started translating Philipp’s book The Subtle Difference. I will do so whenever I have time, and I can tell you now that the process with stretch over an undefined period of time. Moreover, I will break each chapter into several parts. As Lahm mentions in the preface, each chapter has several important points that he writes down in the beginning. Hence, we have the following scheme: the title of a chapter – its subtitle – important points.
I am also apologizing to my German readers or anyone who can speak German, as you have probably read the book by now. Hence, this post contains nothing new for you, but you are more than welcome to leave comments if you wish.
There is no gain, financial or otherwise, for me in doing this. I simply believe that Lahm deserves to be heard. Therefore, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much I as did.
I thank my wife Claudia, my family and friends, acta7 and Roman Grill.
A special ‘thank you’ to Veronika Oelschlegel for the title of this book.
CHAPTER I: To Say ‘Yes’ At the Right Moment
From the regional league to the National Team in six months
About seizing the opportunities – flexibility at the right time – carefully considering little details – learning to be self-confident – philander with the impossible
My cell phone rings.
“It’s Felix Magath calling.” This “calling” rings like a sound from an accordion.
Magath. The Magath? At first, I’m speechless for good measure.
“I would like you to come to VfB Stuttgart.”
At the moment, I can think of nothing better than to hold my breath for a bit.
“Think it over,” says Felix Magath and hangs up.
To think about it? About what? I’m 19, I just played the last game of the season with FC Bayern’s semi-pro team in the regional league, and Felix Magath calls. Under his leadership, VfB Stuttgart has finally made it back into the Champions League after a year of struggle; he is putting his team together for the next season, and he wants me to join them.
I have to sort out the facts. Alright, I have played at right-back for two years with Bayern’s semi-pro team, and it is clear that now something must happen. The fact that I should become a professional after this season is put down in black and white in the contract that I signed two years ago; however, going from the semi-pro to the professionals of FC Bayern is a huge step, even though the professionals practice at the training ground right next [to us]. Every day we hear them shouting, laughing, panting.
The stars of FC Bayern. Stefan Effenberg, Giovane Elber. Owen Hargreaves. Oliver Kahn. I wouldn’t have thought that they, as well, simply played football [because] I had so much respect for them. Sometimes one of us would get called up to the professionals because they needed a player for a training game, so that person played with them, but what did it mean? One of us would go up there, and, before he could accustom himself to the pace, energy, the matter-of-course way of the professionals, he already had to return to the semi-pro team, without being able to demonstrate that he could also play together with them, if…
The “if” was the problem. I knew that the difference between me and the professionals wasn’t extremely big. If I was allowed to train regularly with top players; if every day I could pay attention to how the best played; if I had a chance to compete with them during every training session; then I could prove that I can keep up, that training with those who are better makes me better, that I have the quality to play for Bayern.
But I haven’t yet been able to show a lot. In November of 2002, I came on as a substitute in the Champions League match against RC Lens, two minutes before the final whistle. By that time, FC Bayern had been long knocked out, and in those two minutes of playing time at the poorly attended Olympiastadion, I could demonstrate nothing more than the fact that I was wearing Bayern’s jersey with the number 29.
For me, it was a lot of money. If I had won with the professionals, I would have gotten a bonus that would have been higher than my monthly income in the semi-pro team. As I was coming on to the pitch, it still looked good. Markus Feulner had just made it 3:2 for Bayern. But one minute later, the dream was gone. So were the bonuses.
At the time, a spot on the professional team of Bayern was out of reach, and Felix Magath is offering me to join the club that also plays in the Champions League, just like FC Bayern.
To train with the professionals every day.
To be a professional myself.
I call my agent. Roman advises me to do it. We make an appointment with FC Bayern. FC Bayern agrees to lend me to Stuttgart. We go to Stuttgart. Felix Magath is clever and also extremely friendly. He says that he wants me to play at right-back, a position at which Andreas Hinkel, a player of the National Team, plays at VfB Stuttgart. ‘But you can also play right midfield’, says Magath, ‘or Hinkel plays in the midfield and you in the defense.’ The only thing I hear is “to play”. I don’t want anything else. To play regularly in the Bundesliga, in the starting line up whenever possible. A dream come true for a 19-year-old like me. After talking to Magath, I get up and am convinced that he really, really wants me to join; that I will play. Regularly. After having consulted once again with Roman and my parents, I accept.
On the first day of training at VfB Stuttgart, I have to go from person to person and introduce myself. No one knows me, except the three young players with whom I had already played in the Youth National Team.
“Hello, I’m Philipp Lahm…, hello, I’m Philipp Lahm…”
(translation ©unavis. It is strictly forbidden to use this translation, in parts or in its entirety, without my consent.)
Lahm, Philipp. Der feine Unterschied: Wie man heute Spitzenfußballer wird. Munich: Kunstmann, 2011.