FOOTBALL: THE BIG INTERVIEW: THE SMART MONEY'S ON BALLACK
FROM FOOTBALL FLOP TO NATIONAL HERO IN A MERE 12 MONTHS, MICHAEL BALLACK TALKS ABOUT HIS UPS AND DOWNS
ONE year has made an incredible difference in the life of German midfield star Michael Ballack.
At the start of September 2001 he was Germany's scapegoat for that shock 5-1 World Cup qualifying defeat by England in Munich's Olympic Stadium.
Now he is back in the Olympic Stadium every other week following his €12million transfer to Bayern Munich. In addition, he has been crowned German Footballer of the Year with almost 100 votes more than keeper Oliver Kahn.
Ballack has admitted that the thrashing by England was the lowest point of his career. But there was only one way he could go from then on - and that was up.
He scored three decisive goals in the World Cup play-offs against Ukraine and won worldwide admiration in the finals.
Along the way he also proved his worth at club level, guiding Bayer Leverkusen to a runners-up treble in the German League, the German Cup and the final of the Champions League.
Germany surprised even themselves by finishing runners-up to Brazil. Ballack struck the winning goals against the USA in the quarter-finals and co- hosts South Korea in the semis. Sadly, he was banned from the final after a professional foul that saved the day against the Koreans.
QUESTION: How did you feel about missing the World Cup Final?
ANSWER: I cannot complain about the referee's decision. I was upset at missing the final, of course, but as a professional footballer you learn that such upsets are part of the game and you accept them. Anyway, the World Cup is history now. What matters most is winning the German League and the Champions League with Bayern Munich. We have the ability.
Q: Against the Koreans you were booked but you also scored the winner. What did people say to you afterwards?
A: Rudi Voller told me I had made a great sacrifice for the team. I phoned my father, Stephan, and he congratulated me and told me to keep my spirits up. But it was difficult. I sat up most of the night. I couldn't sleep. I have known ups and downs in football. I suppose it would have been worse if I had been suspended for a silly foul. At least the one I committed saved us from conceding a goal, which might have turned the semi-final around.
Q: What did referee Urs Meier say?
A: Nothing, really. I hoped he would not show me a card but out it came. I didn't protest. It was a fair decision but he is a bit of a jinx for me. Everything seems to go wrong when he's refereeing. He was the referee at Hampden, for example, when Leverkusen lost to Real Madrid. I thought later I knew how Laurent Blanc felt missing the 1998 World Cup Final due to suspension but it was worse for him because he had been provoked.
Q: Leverkusen finished second best in the Champions League, the German League and the Cup. Why leave?
A: They were more successful than Bayern last season, it's true, and played the better football but in the long run Bayern will win many more titles and cups than Leverkusen. I had a good offer from Bayern and I was ambitious to win things. Bayern are one of the greatest clubs in the world. It was not an offer you turn down.
Q: Do you think Bayern are guaranteed success?
A: Of course not. It's all down to the players being dedicated and working hard for the club and for each other. Nothing can be taken for granted. The World Cup showed that. Look at all the big teams who went out early. The right attitude is so important. Also, because Bayern have the best players, our opponents treat every game like a cup-tie. But I've been in the Bundesliga for six years. I knew what I was walking into. The bigger the challenge, the better I play.
Q: Any problems adjusting to life in Munich?
A: Only driving. The first time I went there the club arranged everything - meeting me at the airport, driving me to the training ground and so on. Then I got lost the first time or two when I had to do it myself. Now it's OK. I also had trouble understanding the local dialect. At one stage I thought I would need a translator.
Q: Are you worried about being compared with Stefan Effenberg, a Bayern legend?
A: That's inevitable. Effenberg was club captain, playmaker and he helped the club win just about everything. He was also popular with the fans. But I can cope with that. I don't think last season was one of his best and that's probably why Bayern won nothing. He is at the end of his career while at 26 I have my best years ahead of me.
Q: Are you the key player now at Bayern?
A: Bayern do not depend on individuals. We have star quality through the squad and every club envies us our strength in depth. For example, Sebastian Deisler arrived from Hertha Berlin at the same time as me. He has not played yet as he is recovering from a knee injury but we have the players to cope.
Q: What was the difference between coming home from the World Cup and coming home from Euro 2000 where you crashed out in the first round?
A: Totally different. After Euro 2000 I went as far away as I could on holiday. I am confident we will qualify for the European finals again and this time I am sure we will do much better when we get there. We're not in the toughest group but it's not easy either. The World Cup proved less fancied teams can often beat you. We won't be taking it easy against anyone, whether we're playing Scotland or Iceland.
Ultimele referate adaugate
- Mihai beniuc - „poezii"
- Mihai eminescu - student la berlin
- Mircea Eliade - Mioara Nazdravana (mioriţa)
- Chirita in provintie de Vasile Alecsandri -expunerea subiectului
- Dragoste de viata de Jack London
|Ion Luca Caragiale
- Triumful talentului… (reproducere) de Ion Luca Caragiale
- Fantasticul in proza lui Mircea Eliade - La tiganci
- „Personalitate creatoare” si „figura a spiritului creator” eminescian
- Enigma Otiliei de George Calinescu - geneza, subiectul si tema romanului
- Arta literara in romanul Ion, - Liviu Rebreanu