Dear readers and lurkers,
This is the final part of the first chapter. I hope you are liking the book so far. I am grateful to everyone who has left comments. I really appreciate them.
With that being said, here we go!
This is insane: as I put on my tracksuit and sit down on the bench, I suddenly feel all the nervousness that my brain has transformed into energy on the pitch. I feel the pace at which I have played, the stress that has been nothing like that in any other game that I have previously played. The tiredness becomes apparent somewhere far in the back of my mind and down in my legs, but my alertness has been left on the pitch where now “Manchester United” wants to score an equalizer, and I cannot do anything to oppose it.
But we have chances. Soldo fails to score two headers, then Hleb plays it to Kurányi, Ferdinand tackles Kevin, a penalty.
Now we got them. On the bench, we are already congratulating each other. Fernando Meira is going to take the penalty, our experienced centre-back, a confident penalty taker, then it’s going to be 3:1, still ten minutes to play, “Manchester United” won’t be able to get out.
Fernando starts running, sends the ball into the left corner, but Tim Howard, the goalkeeper, is already there, in front of the ball. A save [like that] means a missed opportunity. The whole bench is in shock while over on the English side two substitutes, with fresh energy, are ready to take on the task to score an equalizer that seems to be miles away.
Nevertheless, our defenders remain focused. “Manchester” pressures indeed, but they don’t get a chance for an urgent shot on goal either in the remaining ten minutes or the eternally long four minutes of the additional time.
And then the game is over.
The stadium is singing, dancing, and celebrating, as if it wasn’t a football game but the Oktoberfest. We are singing, dancing, celebrating along with them. As I’m standing in the middle of the football field, looking at the stadium full of people, who still haven’t gone home, even ten minutes after the end of the game, I’m just thinking how unbelievable this is. A couple of months ago, I played against SC Pfullendorf in front of a thousand people, and now we have defeated “Manchester United” in the Champions League, and I have played so well that I no longer doubt that I will be in the starting lineup for the next match and a match after that. I am thinking that football always remains football; that every situation you experience is new and yet familiar, and that I have always played football, so even in this unbelievable spiral that pushes me right to the top, [I] have something that calms me down.
Then I go to the locker room. Today must be celebrated.
In the Bundesliga, we play a great first half of the season. After 17 matches, we have the same number of points as “FC Bayern” and “Bayer Leverkusen”, and are at the 4th place; “Werder Bremen” has a four-point advantage. We have the densest defense in the Bundesliga, missing only seven goals in 17 matches. Also, in the Champions League, things are looking marvelous; we have qualified with confidence for the round of 16, where “Chelsea” will be our next opponent.
In early February 2004, the second half of the season has just begun, and Felix Magath calls me into his office. He closes the door and says, “Philipp, only you know this. Next week, you will be called up to the National Team.”
(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.