The Subtle Difference: Chapter II – Part I

Alright. So, I am continuing with the translation of Philipp’s book, and it is the first part of the second chapter. Just like with the previous chapter, I am going to translate this one in several parts. That being said, here we go…


CHAPTER II: Around the Fence to the Professionals

A Junior in Gern and FC Bayern

Always keep on enjoying playing football – develop trust in your own feeling – always think only about the next step – don’t set the goals that are too high – develop weaknesses into strengths – the joy to be a part of a team – recognize your own possibilities – find the right support.

In the beginning, we lose every game. We lose by a big margin, we lose closely, and we don’t even get a draw.

I have been of two minds. Do I enjoy playing football more than how much losing irritates me? Or does losing annoy me so much that eventually I have no longer any desire to play football?

I’m five years old, and my kindergarten friend stands at our doorstep in Neuhausen and asks, “Is Philipp allowed to go to training?”

My mom laughs and says what she has been saying ever since: “If he wants to…”

Okay, in that case, I want to. For the first time, [I] go to the training of the “Freien Turnerschaft Gern” and add another person to the considerable number of Lahms in this club.

My dad plays for FT Gern. My uncle plays for FT Gern. My grandfather has played for FT Gern. My mom is soon going to sit in the FT Gern main office and make sure that every youth team has what it needs. The pitch of FT Gern is exactly five minutes from our residence in Neuhausen.

Thus, one could think that my path to this club has been predetermined.

However, I basically want to kick the ball about. Across from our house, there is the Olympiapark, and there are always a couple of kids who play together. A group of kids, a ball, and two goal nets: is there anything better?

“FT Gern” plays in the ninth division of the German league. My dad has talent; the “Sechziger” [TSV 1860 München ] wanted him to join the club. But instead of playing in the second Bundesliga, my dad prefers to stay at home on the weekends.

Football has been in our family since forever but never in terms of big ambitions. With regard to ambitions, I am apparently in charge.

As soon as I lost with my new club for the first time, I throw myself into it even more than before. Would be ridiculous to do otherwise! During training, I notice that it is easier for me than for many others to command the ball to do what I want from it. I shoot quite well, and I can stop almost every ball. Therefore, it does not take long until I play a role in my team. We play every which way [in a disorderly manner], but I’m always in the middle of it.

I like that. However, what I like even more is that we no longer lose as certain as dollars to doughnuts [as the sun rises in the East]. We get a draw now and then, and we even win on good days.

My teammates are my friends. If we didn’t play football together, we would come up with something else [my note: he means it in a way of playing tricks, doing pranks. In other words, all the mischief that kids do.] But we don’t manage to do anything like that since school and football take up the whole day.

At Munich’s football fields, there are always scouts of the big clubs. They watch matches of all youth teams and try to convince promising young players to join their club. The careers of many professionals began that way.  

One day – I just turned 10 – a friendly man comes up to me to talk after a match. He liked the way I moved the team forward. [He wonders] if we could play a bit more.

With my two friends and my dad, we play a bit more. The man watches closely how we handle the ball, how we stop it and play it again. Then he approaches with the matter at hand. Would I like to play for TSV 1860 München? That’s it for a trial session.

“Hm,” I say, “I don’t know.”

Nevertheless, I’m also interested in how the training goes at TSV 1860 München. Although I’m almost certain that I won’t leave FT Gern, I drive to a trial session in Giesing.

The first thing that I see is the fence behind the net. There is a big hole in it.

“No,” I say, “I don’t want to play here.”

A couple of weeks later, in the U12 Championship, we play against the “Lions”, the very same team for which I didn’t want to play. We lose 2:7, but at least I score two our goals against them.

A year later, another man, whom I don’t know, comes up to me after a match.

“Hello, Philipp. Do you, perhaps, have a desire to play in the U11 for Bayern? I’m the coach.”

(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.

Chapter II – Part II



  1. The bright side of life · · Reply

    I did not exactly know if Gern was a town itself or not, some time ago I read on Tumblr that Philipp was from Gern and my doubt was there, is Gern a district, a town, a city or wtf? Now I know that Gern is a district in Munich, so both Tumblr and Wikipedia were right. I also didn’t know that TSV 1860 München had economic issues (I’m refering to the net and its hole as Philipp says). I’m waiting patiently for the next part :D

    1. Hi :)

      Thanks for leaving a comment.

      You know, I probably should have pointed out the whole “Gern” thing. I didn’t know that people didn’t know ahaha

      As to the economic problems, yeah, I guess you’re right :) They were there even at that time. I think the first time I started reading this chapter, I was surprised at how certain he was in his refusal to play for 1860 Munich because of the hole in the fence, in other words because things weren’t in order :D

  2. Thank you so much for this!

    1. Hi :)

      You’re very welcome ;) Thanks for leaving a comment!

  3. Thank you so much as always :)

    “Do I enjoy playing football more than how much losing irritates me?”, this somewhat applies to me as a fan too. Not that the teams that I support (Mannschaft & FC Bayern) always lose, but in recent years it has been so frustrating at times that I wonder if I should still be so emotionally invested. Obviously I just cannot quit lol.

    1. You’re very welcome!

      I agree with you. Me too, I know how that feels :D, although I have to say that it has become easier to adjust to losing matches. I mean this time around, after EURO 2012, I got a grip much quicker :))

  4. Luke Kim · · Reply

    Reading this in 2017! Thanks for your great translation. I am defender, and Philipp Lahm, one of the best defenders in football history, is my role model. Being able to read how he felt and thought is just amazing. It’s like a child who gets to know a very secret about his favorite super-hero. You know how it feel!

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