As promised, here is the last part of the second chapter. (The previous one can be found here.) I hope you have enjoyed reading it.
On the training ground of FC Bayern, there are numerous pitches. The ones in the front, facing the club’s building, are reserved for the professionals. In the back, further away from the locker rooms, amateur and youth players train.
Every now and then, it so happens that the professionals need another player for a training session. Then the assistant coach comes around the fence and asks Hermann Gerland, the head coach of the amateur team, to send a player over.
Gerland knows that this opportunity is hard currency for us. A person who gets a chance to train together with the professionals benefits twice from it. First, he can learn something by watching Effenberg, Elber & Co.; second, he has a chance to get noticed by the head coach, and who knows, maybe one day…
One day, there were exactly seven players and two goalkeepers present at the professionals’ training. The others were with their National Teams. An assistant coach comes around the fence, “I need a player, Tiger.” In order to have two teams, they need just one player.
Hermann Gerland, whom everyone calls “Tiger”, points to me.
We have been playing for about five minutes, five against five, when one player gets injured and has to return to the locker room. The coach thanks me, but now he doesn’t need me anymore.
As I am going back to the amateurs, they are playing a match: eight against eight. The “Tiger” sees me and asks, “What are you doing here?”
I tell him what happened and ask, “Can I also play?”
“No,” says Gerland. “We don’t need another.”
It’s hard to be on the threshold between amateurs and professionals.
One day Markus Husterer asks me whether I already have an adviser*. Markus came to Bayern at 15 years old. We got along right away and are friends to this day.
“No,” I say. “Why?”
Markus responds with a question, “Are you familiar with contracts? Do you know how much a club pays for a contract with an amateur?”
That I don’t know, and I’m not familiar with contracts.
So, Markus makes an appointment with a man who has been his adviser since not so long ago. We’re going to eat a pizza, and the meeting leaves a very good impression on me. The man seems competent and friendly. At the next meeting, I’m thinking, we’ll finalize everything.
The next day I tell one of our physiotherapists about the meeting with Markus’ adviser.
“Aha,” he says. “But have you already talked to Roman?”
Roman, our coach, has started being an adviser to young players.
“I am going to arrange something for you. Talk to Roman before making your decision.”
Hence, I meet with Roman. I have already known him for a long time, I know how he perceives football, how he plays football. I trust him, and we quickly reach an agreement. We shake hands, and he becomes my adviser. We don’t need a contract. To this day, there is no written agreement between us.
The next day, I call Markus’ adviser and decline.
Shortly after that, Roman improves my first contract that I have signed myself. Instead of two years, it is now for five years; I earn more than the initially agreed upon 1000 Marks a month. From 2002 to 2004, I should play in the amateur team in the Regional League with a possibility of becoming a professional for the following three years.
Of course, this contract is primarily a crash barrier for my prospects. Nevertheless, the prospects of becoming a professional football player are becoming more and more concrete.
I finished school with the secondary school leaving certificate [my note: he finished the 10th grade, and if I understand it correctly, it was the higher level type, since there are two types of the 10th grade.] Before going into another profession, I am going to try to make it in football, even though my most important teacher** advises my parents to let me learn something useful.
After winning the championship with the U-19, I play for FC Bayern’s amateur team in the Regional League (South). The coach makes me a right-back. On my team, there are Zwetschge Misimović, Steffen Hofmann, Hansi Pflügler, Markus Husterer, Markus Feulner, Stefan Wessels. From time to time, the professionals, who are seeking either to regain their form or are in need of practice after an injury, come from the first team to ours. I play a good season and then another one.
During my time as a professional at VfB Stuttgart, the teacher once again enters the picture. He congratulates my parents and nearly apologizes for having misjudged my talent to play football.
*I didn’t write “agent” on purpose. First, that wouldn’t be the correct translation. Second, the word “agent” has a slightly different meaning, although we are used to hearing that athletes do have agents. But I felt it was important to emphasize a difference that, in Lahm’s opinion, exists between Roman and regular agents. He talks about it later in the book.
**this is the same teacher that the article The Captain As A Student talked about;
(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.