The Subtle Difference: Chapter II – Part V

To celebrate the first day of October for no particular reason at all, here is another part of the second chapter. In the next few days, I will try to finish translating this chapter since I am getting busier with some routine tasks, and it well may be that I will not start translating the third chapter until some time later, hopefully in the near future.

Also, I have been contemplating the whole idea of translating his book. I sincerely hope that it is at least of some interest to you, Lahm’s fans; otherwise, I might as well drop it all together.

Thanks to those who have given me feedback.

That being said, here is the previous part (Chapter II – Part IV) if you need to brush up on the story.


On our way to the locker room, Markus says, “What is going on, Philipp? What do we do?” I shake my head helplessly.

So, Markus makes a decision. He takes off his cleats and throws them into his locker. In general, you slip less if the shoes have long steel cleats, except when the surface is extremely rough, then you slip with any shoe. In any weather conditions, I prefer the shoes with cleats [he means the metal ones] because, being a defensive player, each slip and slide can potentially have disastrous consequences. Markus rummages through his locker, pulls out his shoes with plastic studs and puts them on. The cleats have certainly nothing to do with how crappy we have played, but Markus simply has a feeling that he must change something because things aren’t working out for him at all.

We run back on to the pitch: I – with the cleats, Markus – with the plastic studs. The spectators are whistling. They are against us. They are right to some extent. The way we’re playing is pathetic.

A couple minutes after the break, we get a free kick from the side. The ball is flying high in front of the goal, Dominik Haas, whose brother Leonhard currently plays at FC Ingolstadt*, catches it with his head, and it’s 1:0 for us.

Five minutes later, Zwetschge Misimović kicks the ball from outside of the penalty area, and the ball lands into the net. 2:0. The score turns the course of the game upside down. We’ve had exactly one and a half chances and scored two goals.

Bayer Leverkusen is angry about it.

When one of their forwards falls over in the penalty box, the referee points to the 11-meter mark. A borderline decision. However, the penalty kick is about to take place. Now it’s 2:1.

Ten minutes prior to the end, Bayer scores an equalizer. We are exhausted. Now the fact that we were only running after the ball in the first half rebounds on us. It’s a matter of time before Bayer permanently turns the game around.  

Nevertheless, we attempt a sort of counter-attack in the 88th minute. Suddenly, Piotr Trochowski stands on the outside left, almost on the base line, and while everyone is waiting for him to play the ball to the center, he chips it with a lot of swerve into the empty net.

Then the game is over. I have never been so exhausted before, but the joy of winning a title recharges the batteries a little, and our celebration is boisterous and wild; we are the champions, we have won, even though we haven’t had a chance; we are dancing on the pitch, hugging one another; Herbert Harbich runs from the coach’s bench and jumps with the full force of his still somewhat strong body onto the guys – boom! – the champions; and how this victory came about, with a weaker team having more luck today, makes things a bit sweeter, a bit nicer.


I’m 17 years old, 170cm, my body is slim. I feel that it’s soon time to make a decision. At 17, professional football is within reach, when else?

Bayern’s U19 has never before won the German championship. Perhaps, that’s a sign that, out of all people, it’s us who managed to do it.

With the U-19 National Team, I play at the European Championship in Norway. My parents travel to Scandinavia for the first time. They are appalled [to see] how expensive everything is here.

We win our group, I score the header against England, and then we are in the final. In the final, the only game I will not participate in, we play against Spain and lose o:1. The scorer: a certain Fernando Torres. There’ll be moments in my career when this game crosses my mind again.


At a club, the leap from the youth team to the professional one is always difficult. The rules applied in professional football are different than those in the youth division. While in the youth division the best players of the previous years, i.e. younger teams, get a call-back, coaches of professional football teams get the players they want on the transfer market.

At FC Bayern, it’s especially difficult to go from the youth team to the professionals. For FC Bayern, it’s a matter of the club’s philosophy: the best players of Germany are brought to Munich. Thus, already in his youth, a player has to stand out in order to get his chance.

But it doesn’t have to be equal at Bayern. There are other players, along with me, who also are sniffing their chance. Piotr Trochowski, for example, Zvjezdan Misimović, Markus Feulner, Florian Heller. Several of us play in the Youth National team. All are focused on pursuing a goal of becoming a better football player. If, from time to time, an article about youth football appears in the local press, it talks about the fact that, perhaps, a golden generation is growing at Säbener Street. They mean us.

*At the time when the book was being written, Leonhard Haas was, indeed, playing for FC Ingolstadt. Now he plays for a different club.

(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 VI (final)



  1. […] Chapter II – Part V Share this:DiggRedditStumbleUponTwitterPinterestEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tags: bayern munich, book, die mannschaft, philipp lahm, the subtle difference […]

  2. Thank you so much for translating this book! Please don’t turn down this project, as many of us don’t know german and can’t read the actual book. :( thank you so much! ^.^

    1. Hi!

      Thank you very much for leaving a comment! I truly appreciate it.

  3. […] promised, here is the last part of the second chapter. (The previous one can be found here.) I hope you have enjoyed reading […]

  4. The bright side of life · · Reply

    It’s impressing to know that Lahm hasn’t grown up an single cm since he was 17. And indeed, specially alcohol and vegetables but also everything is very expensive in Norway and Scandinavia in general.

    Well then, thank you for keep on translating Philipp’s book, it means so much to me and as Ranier has said it’s perfect for people who don’t know German at all and can’t read it. So yay, thanks! :3

    1. First of all, thank you very much for your comment! I appreciate it.

      Second, I laughed out loud after reading it :D The first sentence just made my day ahaha

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