Ready for it? You better be ’cause here we go…
(Just in case, Chapter II – Part III)
I play now in the U17 of FC Bayern. I give my all for the team. After losing (0:1) the final of the German Championship in Berlin against Hertha BSC, I am sitting in the locker room, crying out of anger, and I don’t feel embarrassed at all. Next to me, there are two other players to whom the same thing is happening. In this very moment, I realize how wonderful it is to be a part of a team.
We share everything. The defeats, the anger over defeats, the determination in training, the ambition in the next match, the first goal, the victory, the joy, the celebration in a locker room and later in the evening. You’re never alone. You share the common goal with pals. You no longer have to ask yourself why you’re doing this to yourself: lots of training, so little free time.
My parents come to every match. They often see us win. My mother, as well as my father, is a fan of the team; however, despite the fact that both are quite knowledgeable in football, they hold back on their comments on a game. They praise me, yes, but they never think of having to tell me what I could have done better.
I find that terrific. That way, football remains for us a precious thing that never becomes the ground for conflicts.
As I move up to the U19 at 17 years old, I earn 400 Marks a month like everyone else: an expense allowance and gas money. In the U17, it was 100 Marks, in the U18 – 200 Marks. With a chance to play for the first youth team (A-Jugend), there comes an opportunity to enter the world of professional football. I could be sent off to FC Bayern’s amateur team that plays in the regional league at the time, the third league in the German football. There are also the second Bundesliga and the Bundesliga.
My coach in the U19 is Roman Grill. He, himself, has played for many years for FC Bayern’s amateur team and has a precise vision of what has to happen on the pitch. He’s from Schliersee. His Bavarian [accent] is so pronounced and polished that it will eventually be considered the World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. Roman has what a good coach must have: the authority. When we talk about what my task is as right-back or in defensive midfield, I notice how clear his ideas are.
We’re successful. With Roman on the sideline, we make it to the final of the German U-19 Championship in 2001. Our opponent is Bayer Leverkusen, certainly that year’s best team. We play in Leverkusen at the BayArena. It’s almost sold out; there are about 20,000 spectators in the stands.
We sleep in the stadium: there is a hotel that is part of the BayArena. My night is short. I’m nervous. So many people, most of them will support the home team. For this match, Roman has given me a central role. We are going to play against the opponent, that is strong in terms of attacking, with two numbers ‘6’: a concentrated, defensive midfield. I’m one of the two ‘6’s.
In goal, there is Philipp Heerwagen. Philipp is a super goalkeeper. Markus Feulner plays next to me; we have to make a game difficult [for the opponent before they reach] the defense. In the attacking midfield, Zvjezdan “Zwetschge” Misimović, a gifted technician, should provide our strikers with an opportunity for a counter-attack through long balls.
The match begins, and the following is evident after a few minutes: the opponent plays exceptionally. We can’t accomplish anything at all. If Philipp Heerwagen hadn’t made some world-class saves, we would have already lost the game before the halftime. The 0:0 after 45 minutes flatters us. I have made exactly 6 contacts with the ball in central midfield, and Markus has had 7. Nothing is working.
(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.