Long time no see, my dear readers… But here I am again. From the bottom of my heart, I thank Lahm for not giving any major and very interesting interviews while I was immersed in life’s busy craziness, otherwise I would have had a hard time. However, since that has been the case, today’s post is about his book. We are now moving on to the third chapter.
Disclaimer: There is no gain, financial or otherwise, for me in doing this. I simply believe that Lahm deserves to be heard.
Chapter III: Nice That You Are Here
The First Season in the National TeamThe old-new National Team – the role of young players – why Germany doesn’t play well in friendlies – what it means to get ridiculed publicly – what one can learn from a messed-up tournament – what matters more, a defeat or a good performance? – from whom one receives true recognition – the art of setting goals publicly
In February 2004, I take a train from Stuttgart to Frankfurt to go to my first get-together with the National Team. I am sharing the compartment with Kevin Kurányi and Andreas Hinkel. The young and wild ones from VfB Stuttgart are in great demand in the National Team.
At a hotel, we meet with the core of the National Team. Christian Wörns is here, Jens Nowotny, Didi Hamann, Michael Ballack. And, of course, Oliver Kahn.
“This is crazy,” I think to myself, “the Titan.” Somehow, merely with his presence and presence alone, Oliver Kahn inspires in me a hell of respect. As a matter of fact, I’ve known him already from FC Bayern from the time I got called up for a practice match with the professionals. But it was no more than a polite “Hello” or “Ciao”, and I tried not to do anything for which the Titan could, perhaps, devour me. Now I am with him on the National Team. Seven months ago, I was playing in the regional league.
I am making rounds, greeting everyone. Rudi Völler, the head coach, says very politely, “Nice that you are here.”
I, too, think so. Thanks, coach.
If I believed that someone would take care of me, as a newbie, I was deceiving myself. The senior national players, who have already experienced many such meetings – an arrival, checking into a hotel, two, three training sessions, going to the venue, an international game, a return flight, going back to clubs, – stay together and make their stay as comfortable as possible. There is a lot of laughter. I hold back from joking. We young players – Hinkel, Hildebrand, Friedrich, Kurányi, and I – perch together and are simply there, don’t say much, do what we are told.
The training is amazingly relaxed. I am used, of course, to Felix Magath’s philosophy, who conveys during each training that football is a difficult 24-hour job, but I have not expected such relaxed days in the National Team. We run one or two laps on the field, warming up, do a bit of stretching, play in circle, on the flanks, practice shots on goal, and afterward start a little game. This is to me as if two buddies went on vacation and played football together. After training, no one says anything. The senior players don’t take care of the young ones anyway, the staff is nonexistent, and the coach obviously finds that everything is okay the way it is.
We play an away game against Croatia. The match takes place in Split. We don’t know much about the opponent, except for those players whom we’ve gotten to know in the Bundesliga. And nobody wants to be in the know about the opponent, and there is no discussion in which the tactics would be presented. The only discussion that I remember is the one in which Rudi Völler made the line-up known. I am a left-back in the starting line-up.
Awesome. The first game, and already in the starting line-up.
We win 2:1, I played a decent match; after the game, the head coach comes up to me, puts his arm on my shoulder and says, “Terrific, Philipp.”
I say what I always say, even nowadays, “Thanks, 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.
This bit is definitely one of my favorites, and this is why: although the entire book demonstrates, to a certain extent, why Lahm is the way he is, and why he thinks the way he does, this bit points to a particular situation that, I believe, influenced him greatly. When the book was first published, and there was a discussion about the captaincy, I remember writing a post in which I quoted Schmelzer. The latter basically said that one can talk to Philipp about anything and that he always talks to younger players. When I read the book, I immediately knew why. He, himself, has experienced a certain neglect, so once it became up to him to decide, he made sure to change things. I do not blame the previous generation of players, and neither does Philipp. That is how the things were. However, I am convinced that Lahm made a mental note to himself that he would act differently. After all, his generation is the epitome of change.
Also, some of you might have recognized the description of a training session in the National Team from an article in Bild, in which they published several excerpts a while ago. Oh, how the context matters, doesn’t it? At the time, Bild made no remark about the fact that in the text itself Lahm was comparing one way of training to another. The reason why the National Team’s training seemed easy to him was not due to its ridiculousness, it was due to the following: the only, – and I cannot stress it enough, – the only professional training he had gotten used to was that at VfB Stuttgart with Magath, and that was a whole different story. We all know that. He had different expectations once he arrived at the National Team’s headquarters. Taken out of its context, a statement can lose its meaning.