Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Schweinsteiger, nine years ago

I thought Bastian Schweinsteiger, blood and all, performed like a true leader, a warrior, the day Germany lifted their fourth World Cup in Brazil.

I was lucky enough to be on the stands when the Bayern Munich midfielder scored his first goals for Die Mannschaft, more than nine years ago. In conjunction with the World Cup in Germany, this article on German playmakers was published by the Malay Mail on June 7, 2006, under the heading I gave...

Mannschaft maestros

By Rizal Hashim

YESTERDAY the Teutonic instincts were driven by Gunther Netzer and Bernd Schuster.

Today it's all about Michael Ballack.

Tomorrow shall belong to Bastian Schweinsteiger. On a chilly night at Borussia-Park in Monchengladbach exactly a year ago (June 8), this scribe was privileged enough to witness Schweinsteiger's first two international goals in a German shirt.

Before a capacity crowd of 46,228, Schweinsteiger's prodigious talent was there for all to see. Trailing to an Alexander Anyukov goal in the 26th minute, Germany equalised five minutes later through a well-worked move sealed by a goal that bore Schweinsteiger's signature, a low shot that was deflected into the right corner of Sergei Ovchinnikov's goal.

Fielded on the left flank, Schweinsteiger notched his second of the evening by placing his shot inside the near post after slaloming past two Russian defenders on the edge of the area in the 70th minute.

The two moments of inspiration established Schweinsteiger's reputation as Germany's latest poster boy, following in the well-beaten path paved by Netzer, Schuster and Stefan Effenberg, just to name a few.

An exciting attacking midfield prospect and notorious bad boy, Schweinsteiger's reputation, just like his illustrious predecessors, precedes him. He was once caught in a disco on the eve of a game, fined for speeding and in a bizarre incident, was caught with a girlfriend in the whirlpool at the Bayern training ground in the middle of the night.

On the pitch it's hard not to notice Schweinsteiger, always the livewire either on the left flank or in the middle of the park, an area currently reserved for the talent of Chelsea new signing Ballack.

Once Ballack quits the Nationalmannschaft, Schweinsteiger, whose name means pig climber in English, will no doubt be his natural successor. His playing style is a throwback to the glorious yesteryear when Netzer, along with Franz Beckenbauer, personified the elegance not usually associated with German football.

When others were methodical and mechanical in their approach, Netzer was the rebel, the artistic maverick with the flowing blond locks, the footballer frequently photographed at the wheel of a sports car.

The image of Monchengladbach-born Netzer striding forward, long hair glinting in the floodlights became a symbol of German football. He was able to spray long, hard passes all over the pitch with devastating accuracy.

The tradition was continued by Schuster, the enfant terrible in the 1980s. Brilliant at club level, the Blonde Angel never really fulfilled his potential in the black and white of the national team. Differences with the coach, Jupp Derwall, kept him on the outside of the `Mannschaft' and his personal caps tally stopped at 21.

Effenberg, languid and elegant, compiled 35 caps and scored three goals for the German national team. He will be remembered most for showing the finger to the whistling crowd during a 1994 World Cup match against South Korea.

Obviously Schweinsteiger's journey into football folklore has just begun.


Date of birth: Sept 14, 1944, Monchengladbach
Clubs: Borussia Monchengladbach, Real Madrid, Grasshoppers Zurich
International appearances: 37
International goals: 6
Honours: European Champion 1972, World Cup winner 1974
* Tasted only 21 minutes of World Cup action in 1974, when skipper Beckenbauer preferred Wolfgang Overath and Rainer Bonhof.

Date of birth: Sept 26, 1976, Gorlitz
Clubs: BSG Motor Karl Marx Stadt, Chemnitzer, Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Chelsea
International appearances: 65
International goals: 31
Honours: World Cup runners-up 2002
* Single-handedly drove Germany to the 2002 final but had to miss that match due to suspension. The Germans then lost to Ronaldo's brace.

BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER Date of birth: Aug 1, 1984, Kolbermoor
Clubs: Bayern Munich
International appearances: 28
International goals: 7
* The next big star for Germany

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