There’s one thing my coach never tired of saying to me: “Hau den Ball ins Tor hinein!” – best translated with: “Just slam it into the back of the net!” What did yours used to say to you? What about this one: “Can you please come back out of retirement? We need you on the team!” Well, if ever you stopped playing and your team got into trouble, it’s quite possible you’ve heard that one before.
Like Michael Schumacher, whose comeback was the event in German sport on the weekend: the seven-time champion is back on the track and raring to go – again. Yesterday was his first race for his new team, Mercedes GP, and he finished sixth in the Bahrain grand prix.
Of course, Michael Schumacher is under a tremendous amount of pressure. On the one hand, German fans and the Mercedes team are expecting nothing less than the world championship; on the other, his competitors Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are all themselves world champions and are all licking their lips at the thought of beating Schumacher, who is the most successful driver in the history of motor racing. It probably doesn’t bother him, though; after all, true champions need this adrenalin kick like we mortals need air.
Football is another sport whose fans are always happy to watch true star-players do their thing: obviously, the sheer amount of running means that age takes its toll, but that doesn’t stop fans dreaming of seeing Pélé, Maradona and Zidane working their magic one last time – wouldn’t that be fantastic?
It’s not just the fans who want their stars back, of course; there are several Bundesliga teams who are longing for the return of their great players – and several of them could really use them. Bayern München, for example, would probably like nothing better than having Oliver Kahn back: “the Titan” is without question the best German goalkeeper of recent years and there is still no-one to fill his goalie gloves. Hans-Jörg Butt, for example, will never be in Kahn’s league, especially not after the mistakes he made in the Champions League game in Florence; and despite the 2:1 victory against Freiburg, van Buyten and Badstuber in defence are certainly no dream-team – you’d need Franz Beckenbauer back ordering them around to make the Bayern defence watertight.
There are some less famous teams who could do with a helping hand from the past, too, like Borussia Mönchengladbach, who need Günther Netzer back. This midfield strategist from Borussia’s glory days in the 70s would have been just the right person to straighten out their play against VfL Wolfsburg and make the “Wolves” start worrying about goals: instead, however, the Mönchengladbachers went down 0:4. And if Netzer were to stage a comeback, it wouldn’t just help Mönchengladbach out, but would remove him from our television screens. His childish antics with co-commentator Delling are becoming increasingly annoying and ruining international games on the ARD network.
Another team that could use an old star is VfL Bochum, currently sinking into Bundesliga obscurity. If they had their old goal-machine Stefan Kuntz back, though, they’d be on the right road. He may well have earned his reputation as a striker at Kaiserslautern and in Euro 96, but back at Bochum in 1986 he was already the highest-scoring player in the league. Without him, though, Bochum are forced to suffer humiliating defeats against Ruhr-neighbours Dortmund, who won the weekend duel with a convincing 1:4.
The return of a certain Karl-Heinz Körbel would be just the thing for Eintracht Frankfurt, who suffered a 1:2 defeat against Hannover. This steely defender played 602 times for Eintracht in the 70s and 80s, holds a Bundesliga record and would certainly have held their defence together. Without him, however, Hannover were able to actually win a match and glimpse a silver lining on the otherwise dark horizon of relegation.
If FC Schalke 04 had a wish, they’d use it to request a very special comeback: not of a particular player, but of the league championship itself, which they haven’t won for 52 years: and with their 2:1 win against Stuttgart, Schalke is well on course to achieve this, too.
And what would Hertha BSC wish for? A time machine! If they could just turn back the clock to the beginning of the season, they’d be a happier team. After all, with the 1:2 home defeat against Nuremberg, their hopes of staying in the top league are shrinking fast; even a turnout of 57,000 fans was not enough to help the Herthians win a match in their own stadium. It now looks as if the Hertha coach will soon be shouting at a team that’s playing in the second division. Nevertheless, no matter which league you’re playing in, the coach’s words are always the same: “Just slam it into the back of the net”.
(Stefan Reichart/Brian Melican)
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Results Matchday 26:
FC Schalke 04 - VfB Stuttgart 2:1
Borussia Mönchengladbach - VfL Wolfsburg 0:4
VfL Bochum - Borussia Dortmund 1:4
1. FSV Mainz 05 - 1. FC Köln 1:0
Hannover 96 - Eintracht Frankfurt 2:1
Hertha BSC Berlin - 1. FC Nürnberg 1:2
Bayern München - SC Freiburg 2:1
1899 Hoffenheim - Werder Bremen 0:1
Bayer Leverkusen - Hamburger SV 4:2
1 Bayern München 56 P
2 FC Schalke 04 54 P
3 Bayer Leverkusen 53 P
4 Borussia Dortmund 45 P
5 Hamburger SV 43 P
6 Werder Bremen 42 P
7 1. FSV Mainz 05 38 P
8 VfL Wolfsburg 37 P
9 VfB Stuttgart 35 P
10 Eintracht Frankfurt 35 P
11 1899 Hoffenheim 32 P
12 Borussia Mönchengladbach 30 P
13 1. FC Köln 27 P
14 VfL Bochum 27 P
15 1. FC Nürnberg 24 P
16 Hannover 96 23 P
17 SC Freiburg 20 P
18 Hertha BSC Berlin 15 P