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With Bill Shankly and Manni Breuckmann

Not just a game

Breuckmann 1

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” It’s one of the most famous quotes in the history of football and it came from the legendary former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly. But was he right? Certainly Germans take their football very seriously, which is just one reason why the country’s national team won their fourth world cup title earlier this year. One of the outstanding voices of football commentary in Germany is Manni Breuckmann, my latest guest on Talking Germany.

Breuckmann 2I’d hardly met Manni before he was unfolding a poster of one of the great German football stadiums: the Parkstadion in the western city of Gelsenkirchen – close to where Manni grew up. From 1973 until 2001 it was the home ground of Bundesliga club Schalke 04. “Windy and cold,” Manni tells me, but the old stadium was clearly very close to his heart. Until, that is, it was pulled down. But it was at the Parkstadion that Manni experienced “one of the worst days of my life!”

Breuckmann 4Let’s go back to the very last day of action in the 2000/2001 Bundesliga season. After 90 minutes of play, Bayern Munich were losing one-nil in Hamburg and Schalke had beaten Unterhaching at the Parkstadion. Manni Breuckmann was there and Schalke were champions. A dream had come true! But then. But then: with THE LAST KICK OF THE SEASON and deep in extra time, Bayern equalised in Hamburg to steal the title from Schalke – with a lead of a single point.
Breuckmann 4It was quite a day for me, too, because I was at the other end – at that tumultuous game in Hamburg. It was my job to report on the match after the final whistle. Which wasn’t easy: the emotion in the stadium had really got to me. It was so intense that I found myself wiping tears from my eyes before going on camera. It was nothing, though, in comparison with Manni’s ordeal: “You know,” he tells me, “there was a photo taken just after the match, and no joking: I look as if my mother and father had both died.” So how important is football?



September 15, 2014