The Subtle Difference: Chapter IV – Part I

I have read some kind words about my translation, and I’m very grateful. I hadn’t had a lot of free time on my hands to continue translating, but last night I got back to it. However, there are going to be some changes, and I hope all of you will understand my reasons for it.

Here is the gist of it: I am not a professional/certified translator, and I am not fluent in German. (Frankly, I am very far from it.) I am not a native speaker. (And yes, it is possible to read and translate without being able to speak that particular language fluently.) Taking that into account, this translation cannot be, must not be used as a source for a paper, for example. Moreover, since I do not want it to be printed out and used in that form for any purpose, this is what I will do from now on: I will omit certain sentences, or at times a whole paragraph, when translating. I will try my best not to throw away anything important.

In addition, once again here is the disclaimer I put up prior to posting the translation of the first chapter: there is no gain, financial or otherwise, for me in doing this. I simply believe that Lahm deserves to be heard. Therefore, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much I as did.

That being said, here we go…

Chapter IV: At Least a Five-Month Break

Injuries and Other Setbacks

To listen to your body – to handle setbacks objectively – to accept injuries, not brushing them off – the right pace to get well – learning patience – to accept that setbacks are inevitable


In the summer, Matthias Sammer became the coach of VfB Stuttgart; Felix Magath went to FC Bayern. While it wasn’t for nothing that Magath had the nickname “Quälix”*, Sammer’s approach is calmer: my pulse must not beat faster than 140 beats per minute during stress training. With Magath, training just begins at that mark.

I’m assigned to a full-back position and play well. The team is young and committed, and I’m wholeheartedly in it, even though I know that my time in Stuttgart is limited. By now, it has become clear that FC Bayern wants me back after two years, during which I have been on loan in Stuttgart. When I look at the standings, I always face two facts: on the one hand, [I see] where VfB and I stand; on the other hand, [I see] where the club, to which I will go back in six months, stands.

Over the winter break, each football professional must stay in shape in his own way. I return home, to Munich, go jogging in the woods, but sometimes I also need to do something for fun. Then I ring up a couple of friends from Munich; we go and play indoor football, and at times my father comes along.

Playing indoors is fun. A big mouth is just as important as the legs. The game is without any physical contact: no one challenges me one-on-one [because] everyone knows that I must be healthy when I get out of here.

Suddenly, towards the end of the game, I’m thinking that something is not alright with my right foot. I don’t feel abrupt pain: it’s rather a quiet yet alarming feeling that something’s not in order. […]

In the shower, everything seems to be back to normal. However, as I sit in the car, it’s obvious to me that something must have happened. As soon as I step on the brakes, the weird feeling in my foot becomes stronger, more intense. I don’t put it off any longer and drive to the hospital. An hour later, the radiologist looks over a thorough x-ray of my foot and says, “No doubts about this, Mr. Lahm. Your middle foot is fractured.”

Oh, no.

My first thought isn’t at all about the direct consequences, an operation, bed rest, anesthesia. I think about the fact that now I won’t be able to do what I do best and what I like the most for a damn long time. Usually, a fractured middle foot bone needs six weeks to heal, and then it normally takes the same amount of time for a player to be fit again and stand on the pitch. Hence, at a rough estimate, three months without football are waiting for me.

Still, the same evening I call Matthias Sammer in Stuttgart.

“Shit,” Sammer says.

The following day I go to Stuttgart. The club has called up a doctor who wants to take a look at the foot. Since the aches haven’t become worse, I cherish a hope. Perhaps, the diagnosis from the accident hospital in Munich isn’t right. Perhaps, this is only a bruise that in a couple of days…

Yet, the doctors let my silly hopes collapse.

“The fifth metatarsal is completely fractured. A fatigue fracture, Mr. Lahm.”

I’m sitting in an uncomfortable chair at the doctor’s office, and the tension comes over my body.

“What a bummer!” I think, and without me wanting it, the images of the past year and a half appear before me.


I haven’t yet been injured for an extended period of time, neither as a professional nor [while being] on the youth teams. Once, I was operated on the groin, but two weeks later I was back on the pitch.

What will the fracture mean for my career? Fractures are unpredictable injuries. One never knows if everything will heal the way he wishes for it to heal. Football professionals’ (physical) strain is huge; a shaky foot can alter the entire feel of the game, reducing it to nothing in a worst case scenario.

In the evening, after hearing the diagnosis, I fight off bad thoughts. What if the foot doesn’t function anymore? What if I lose the place on the National Team? What if my career will end just as fast as it started?

I don’t sleep well. After the diagnosis, my foot seems out of place.

The next morning, the day-to-day problems begin, and they help me to get back on track.

*’Quälix’ is a play on words. “Quäler” means “tormentor” while “ix” comes from Magath’s first name.

(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.



  1. Very good job !!

    1. :)))

  2. Thank you for translating this! weird too… for lack of a better word… because he’s out with a broken ankle :(

    1. Hi!

      Thank you for leaving a comment. Yeah, I thought about the timing, too, when translating.
      (To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to post something like that before the World Cup for superstitious reasons.)

  3. Thank you very much for posting!

    1. Thank you for reading! ;)

  4. this was really good! hoping to see some more!

    1. Thank you! :)

  5. thank you very much for your efforts!!! i was trying find this book in english but of course i couldn’t and 2 days ago i accidentally stumbled upon this… thank you once again, and please keep up the excellent work, can’t wait for more.. =)

  6. Thank you so much for the translation! I have always admired Lahm and he is one of my son’s favorite players. He is reading the translation along with me. Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work!

  7. nishith2015 · · Reply

    Thanks you for keep on translating the book, you must have been very busy with you routine life but it always great to read passage from Lahm’s book.
    Keep up :)

  8. Any new chapter coning ?!
    We really miss you !!

  9. potfcb · · Reply

    thanks for doing this, cant wait for the next chapter thank you very much.

  10. Thanks !

    1. unavis · · Reply

      You’re welcome!

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