Oliver Kahn faces harsh new realities
25 February 2004
HAMBURG – Oliver Kahn’s big smile on the front page photo of Wednesday’s Sport Bild magazine was a mockery of the new realities.
“Oliver Kahn laughs. Last chance for Jens Lehmann,” said the headline in reference to the dispute of the national team goalkeepers.
Germany number 2 Lehmann had last week harshly criticised Kahn and insisted that he was the better man between the posts. The outburst resulted in plenty of anger in the Germany camp and Lehmann now faces a meeting with coach Rudi Voeller.
By Tuesday, though, the Sport Bild edition was long printed and, in the meantime, Lehmann had done nothing wrong in Arsenal’s 3-2 Champions League win at Celta de Vigo.
Kahn, meanwhile, blundered terribly when he let Roberto Carlos’ free kick slip under his body to gift Real Madrid a 1-1 draw at Bayern Munich.
“Thank you, old man! Kahn, of all people, the hated, ugly and unsympathetic enemy gives Real the only joy of the night,” said Spanish sports daily As sarcastically.
Rival publication Sport said: “He destroyed his entire reputation with this blunder.”
Former Munich star Lothar Matthaeus predicted that the incident would haunt Kahn, not simply in the form of possible further criticism from Lehmann, but also in general.
“Oliver Kahn will have no peace in the near future,” said Matthaeus little more than three months before the start of Euro 2004.
Tuesday’s incident, however, somehow fits a trend which started almost two years ago.
The 34-year-old almost single-handedly lifted a far from glorious Germany team into the 2002 World Cup final and was named most valuable player of the tournament.
But in that deciding game with Brazil he failed to hold on to Rivaldo’s shot which allowed Ronaldo to score the first goal in Brazil’s 2-0 victory.
Kahn was consoled by friends and foes afterwards.
On Tuesday, by contrast, there was no one on hand to pity Kahn, who first dropped his gloves, then his captain’s armband, and then left the Munich pitch alone and without a comment.
“Everyone plays for himself, not for Oliver Kahn. he has criticised the team on several occasions over the past years, that is not forgotten,” said Matthaeus.
That is Kahn’s main dilemma and has always made him controversial.
Kahn is arguably the most dedicated professional in German football, a heavy burden in itself as it prompted fans to pelt him with bananas in a mock reference to his bodybuilder figure.
In addition, his outbursts have not won him additional friends.
His actions were not only against opponents (he almost once bit off an ear of Dortmund’s Heiko Herrlich in a Mike Tyson-like incident)) but also against team-mates, who under ideal circumstances should be as committed as the man himself.
Players and officials tried to limit the damage by insisting that Kahn was not to blame.
“He was the hero so many times in the past,” insisted coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.
But in 2004 alone, Kahn did not look good in the 2-1 cup defeat against second division Alemania Aachen. Last week, he misjudged a cross in the friendly with Croatia, which resulted in a temporary equalizer before Germany luckily won 2-1.
In that game, Kahn, who says he wants to continue playing for his country until after the 2006 World Cup in Germany, was plagued by back problems which even prompted him to sit out last Saturday’s league match with SV Hamburg.
He was back on Tuesday with the help of 15 pain-killing injections, but insisted that the injury was not the reason for his grave error.
But Kahn admitted that things weren’t going well right now.
“I must ask myself what is wrong. I believe that I am in the best shape ever. But something seems not right. I must find out the reasons for myself. I must ask myself what it all means,” he said.
The blunder tragically came in Munich’s most important match of the season so far and will likely mark the end of their Champions League campaign as Munich face in uphill battle in the return leg.
“What a drama it would be, if Bayern lose out because of Kahn, of all people,” said the Bild daily.
Subject: German news