When Lahm Is Compared With Merkel

I have to say that I expected so much more. Many of you have probably read the recent article in which the author compares Lahm with Merkel. Usually, I am very interested in such comparisons, drawing parallels, etc., so I would most certainly talk about it in one of my posts. However, I found this particular piece of writing to be so uninspiring, to say the least, that I decided at once not to translate any bit from it.

Later on, one of my readers (deyaa17) has submitted a request, and I cannot help but oblige. Nevertheless, I hope you wouldn’t mind if I translate just the important parts and summarize the rest, making comments here and there.

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Philipp Lahm: Merkel of German football

By Richard Herzinger

Not only is he the captain on the pitch, but he also pulls the strings behind the scenes. Philipp Lahm symbolizes the responsible citizen in a jersey. The football player knows exactly what the wants.

Commentary: This doesn’t sound so bad, although the fact of pulling the strings is an assumption. (Naturally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lahm did a lot of things behind the scenes when it comes to captaining the team. But it is still just a guess.)

Then Herzinger proceeds to tell the story of how Lahm, when asked in an interview to give a tip to Obama, advised the President not to talk with the Chancellor about football because she’s an expert in that area. He also points out that politics and football, for Lahm, are not two separate worlds. Why, you may ask? According to Herzinger, it is because Lahm feels like he has to communicate his opinion about politics to a wider audience. He gives an example from 2009 when Lahm told in an interview – I assume – that voting was important and that the German people should be happy to live in a democracy.

Commentary: When it is time for the elections in the US, you cannot escape it. Everyone tells everyone else to vote. Lahm’s words are no different. What’s the big deal? After all, he is a citizen of his country.

As always, when Philipp Lahm takes a stand on social issues, his statements sounds a bit boyish and precocious.

Commentary: I am sorry, but… What?

Lahm represents a new type of sport star, so to speak, the epitome of a responsible citizen in a football jersey. In doing so, he’s omnipresent when it comes to advertising good, politically correct things. From the posters, he advocates for donating blood, educating about AIDS and taking a stand [in favor of] safe driving and against those who drive over the speed limit. Lahm is the embodiment of a responsible and socially committed young man.

Commentary: Alright. For some reason, the tone seems to me somewhat mocking here. I remember reading an article dated 2007 or so, in which the author argued that Lahm is a brand that sells. I can definitely see how that can be true. However, that does not exclude his personal take on certain issues. That, I believe, is what makes him choose to advocate for certain things. Notice that we still have not gotten to the actual comparison. Oh, here it comes…

Lahm And Merkel Are Very Similar

But his ‘good guy’ image is a bit deceiving if [we remember] that, when it comes to Philipp Lahm, we’re dealing with a power-conscious contemporary, with the one that is unspectacular behind the scenes, but knows how to effectively how to pull the strings, and the impressed by him Chancellor is not different.

Commentary: He is not spectacular on the field, according to those who aren’t in favor of him as captain. And now he is not spectacular off the pitch either?! Oh, c’mon, cut the guy some slack! (These sentences are full of sarcasm, by the way.)

Herzinger then gives an example – wait for it – of the World Cup 2010, claiming that Lahm meticulously orchestrated the ousting of Michael Ballack from the National Team.

Commentary: Goodness gracious! Just think about it… The captaincy is something that only a coach can give and take away. Not only does one have to be one heck of a persuader to make the coach decide in his favor, but also the coach has to be a dupe since in that case it would mean he is easily swayed.

Besides, this talk reminds me of the cartoon “Pinky and the Brain”. The Brain’s famous phrase is a response to Pinky’s question about their plans for the evening, “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!” The alleged orchestration by Lahm falls into the same category.

Next, the author points out that “with all the boyish innocence that he radiates, Lahm is not afraid of offending the authorities, expressing his opinion clearly.” Herzinger demonstrates this by mentioning Lahm’s criticism of Platini.

Commentary: It seems like looking young and criticizing do not go together very well in Herzinger’s opinion.
The one thing I would like to add is this: it has already been said before that one of Lahm’s traits is that he is not afraid of coaches and/or directors, etc. Before the World Cup in South Africa, Löw answered a question about the reason behind Lahm’s nomination. One of the things he said at the time was that Philipp will tell him exactly what he thinks about a particular matter.

In the next paragraph, Herzinger suggests that in the past years there has been a shift in terms of how much a player can say and what he can say. Of course, this brings the author to Lahm’s book and all the fuss it raised to which Lahm responded with an “apology soft as butter, without which one could have the impression that he really regretted something.”

Commentary: Right, because he was not sorry for the words themselves. He didn’t do anything wrong. He apologized for the way they made people feel, which was the exact thing that one should do in that sort of situation. He did not take any of his words back.

Herzinger continues by evoking Lahm’s interview from 2009 and even quoting a passage out of it. He suggests that, contrary to the book, this time Lahm has followed through with everything he said, judging by the way Bayern plays now.

Commentary: First, I did not check the accuracy of the quote passage. Second, the book was NOT a glimpse into his and/or Bayern’s future. It is just a book about all the things he has experienced so far and about him. It was not meant to be a manual on how to improve Bayern’s game.

So… The title of this section alluded to some similarities between Lahm and Merkel. Alas, those ones began and ended with a half-sentence in the first paragraph.

Attempting to convince the reader once again that Lahm pulls the strings behind the scenes, Herzinger, for lack of a good argument, names the next section “He Pulls the Strings Behind the Scenes”. He calls Lahm “seemingly impertinent” and points to his physical appearance by calling him “small, slender Lahm”. I assume he was hoping to add some weight to his non-existent analysis, failing to use anything but the reference to Lahm’s looks. In the following sentence, Herzinger tries to remind us that Lahm is no Oliver Kahn or anyone like him because he’s lacking the charisma of a leader on the pitch, promoting the so-called “flat hierarchy”.

Commentary: Nothing new here. Do I even have to say how ridiculous that sounds? It has sounded silly before, but, in the light of the past season, this is simply hilarious.

The next paragraph of the article lets me know that there is hope after all. Herzinger suggests that the position at which Lahm plays is not predestined for the spotlight in the glamorous world of football. He pulls the strings behind the scenes, coming out “from the supposed insignificance, almost invisibility.” Moreover, “he always seems calm and collected; one doesn’t associate ecstatic outbursts of passion with him.” Then “not even the rumors of alleged homosexuality could knock Munich’s native out of the orbit. They bounce off of him as of Teflon.”

Commentary: This is one of the two, perhaps, good paragraphs in the whole thing.

  • I agree with him that the position of a full-back does not always allow a player to be in the spotlight, while those who play in the central midfield seem to automatically get the vote. In my opinion, that is part of the reason why some people did not/do not believe that Lahm should be captain. They are preconditioned by this assumption. At the same time, this is exactly what makes Lahm even greater: he still manages to shine, and he has been doing it for several years now. Thus, I disagree that he is invisible and/or insignificant, and the history concurs.
  • Every time I hear that Schweinsteiger is the heart of this team, I respond by saying, “Then Lahm is the brain.” I’d suggest that’s where “pulling the strings” comes in.
  • As to the outbursts of passion, we did see it last year, and we saw it this year too, I believe.

All of that somehow makes Lahm similar to Merkel. Herzinger even believes that Lahm votes for the Union. He quotes Lahm saying, “I’m rather conservative”, and emphasizing the value of predictability, determination, patience and a family. These characteristics, according to the author, indicate the similarities between the football player and the Chancellor. 

Finally, Herzinger underlines how close the relationship between politics and football is, mentioning Merkel’s ability to use the National Team to convey whatever messages she wishes to convey. Lahm, on the other hand, “understands perfectly well how to use his connection to politics, especially his acquaintance with Merkel, for his own degree of exposure.”

Commentary: uhm… What?.. When?.. How?.. Where did that come from?

The author concludes that it wouldn’t be surprising to see athletes like that in politics one day.

Commentary: Like I have said before, I would not mind Lahm working for the Department of Health or something along those lines. Being a sports analyst for this or that channel would be like a giant waste of his brains.

Overall, I believe this is one of the worst examples of journalism. In the end, I am still not really sure what sort of connection exists between the Chancellor and Lahm. Herzinger presents no analysis, he draws one-two parallels in a very unconvincing way. In other words, he does not expose his reader to any new information, which his potential analysis could have become. Instead, he re-tells the same old stories.

If you wish to comment on anything, please feel free to do so.

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