In the past 30 years, many coaches came to the bundesliga, some of them are long gone. One has been on the sidelines since 1991.
Friedhelm funkel will contest his 500th match on friday evening. Bundesliga match as coach when his fortuna dusseldorf faces hertha BSC.
What do you remember about your first game as a coach??
Friedhelm funkel: no idea. That was with uerdingen, of course. But I no longer know against whom that was. Wait a minute – hertha BSC? The second game was definitely against bavaria. We played 2:2.
Exactly. Even then it was against hertha, they lost 1:2.
Funkel: in this game we even missed two penalties. My brother wolfgang missed one and holger fach too. Otherwise, this game is very little prasent with me.
Have you ever regretted becoming a coach??
Funkel: no, never. Not for a second.
What do you remember about the football of that time??
Funkel: since then, I have really experienced all the tremendous changes in soccer. Back then, I only had my loyal co-trainer armin reutershahn. Otherwise there was no one at my side. No goalkeeper coach, no rehabilitation coach. All that is self-evident today did not exist then. There were also smaller squads. Everything was different, even a bit more familiar. Also dealing with the media was easier. The conditions for us as coaches have gradually improved.
Do they deal differently today, especially with younger players??
Funkel: above all, I am more relaxed about them. The players today are more self-confident. They sometimes question things that have to be explained. I am completely neutral with them, take them just as before times in the arm and give them sometimes but also a kick in the butt. Things that are normal today, I also accept, without finding them good. There are many things I don’t like, but that’s part of it.
What exactly do they dislike?
Funkel: all the tattoos – that’s insane. I find that absolutely not good. But the players have to deal with it, not me. Or that loud hip-hop music in the dressing room before the games. I do not even know what that is. Makes my ears ache. There I go in the time also no longer in the cabin. But the guys need that. Or when the players walk onto the field as if they were on a modeling stage. In the past we did not care. But should I forbid it? The handling of the cell phone, with the smartphone, is also completely exaggerated. Players used to smoke in the dressing room. The cigarettes of yesteryear are the smartphones of today. I don’t like it, but I accept it.
What is your formula for having stayed in top-level football for almost three decades as a coach??
Funkel: the most important thing is to remain authentic. You can’t pretend in success or failure.
Who was your craziest player?
Funkel: ioannis amanatidis. At that time he always had his long mat and was really not easy. Today he is top serious. Jermaine jones we had to catch several times. Great guy, but difficult, really difficult. He has been around the house at a time when you should not do that as a professional. I even made both of them captains in certain situations. Some have said: the sparkle is crazy. But both of them lived only for the team.
Is there an encounter you will always remember??
Funkel: that was in 2006 after the lost cup final with frankfurt against bayern. Shaking hands with chancellor angela merkel and hearing her words of comfort was something special. What she said, however, I no longer know.
Which departures do you have particular respect for?
Funkel: probably a lot of people will say: he’s crazy? But I admire uli hoeneb and have always admired him. For his life’s work. The bavarians didn’t get anything for free, they simply worked well. For that stands first and foremost the uli. I admired that. I also admire the career of jurgen klopp in the last 15 or 16 years. How successfully he works, how he deals with people – I think that’s phenomenal.
Don’t wince at some hoeneb word messages?
Funkel: absolutely. Then I also think: hey, uli, what are you doing?? You don’t really need that anymore. The press conference with kalle rummenigge was underground. There are no two opinions at all. Even now, from my point of view, there was no reason to defend manuel neuer. Jogi low and oliver bierhoff had already positioned themselves clearly beforehand. Of course, I don’t like all that. He often polarized and argued, and was often right. One must also not forget who he has helped. That’s why I admire him. But the last things were just bad.
Hardly anyone expected fortuna to stay in the league. Does this appreciation make you proud at the end of your career??
Funkel: of course I don’t find that unpleasant. The last three and a half years at fortuna have been really positive in a way that I could never have imagined. I took over a team that was on the verge of being relegated to the third division and, in my opinion, was not well put together. We have not been relegated and have really had great success with the promotion. And the last year really flew by in a dreamlike fashion.
Is there anything you still want to achieve at all costs??
Funkel: i would be incredibly happy to go to berlin again. I won the cup once as a player and twice in the final in berlin as a coach. It would be a dream to go there one more time. It’s still possible this season.
They are already in berlin on friday. How do you feel going into your 500th year?. Bundesliga game as a coach?
Funkel: the team has to be the center of attention, not me. We have to try to score there. Sure, 500 games – that is already insane. I could never have imagined that. It’s great to have made it this far.
Ware in the event of relegation for them as a coach immediately end?
Funkel: it depends on the constellation. I don’t want to completely rule out continuing even then. But for now, let’s make sure we stay in. It will be more difficult than last year. But we all have a chance to stay in it.
What comes when it’s all over?
Funkel: then i will intensify playing tennis again, that’s for sure. My performance was declining because i hardly had any time. I will no longer be a coach. Maybe I’ll work as a TV pundit or as an advisor for a club.
About him: friedhelm funkel (65) played professionally for bayer uerdingen and the 1. FC kaiserslautern. At the end of his playing career, he became head coach at uerdingen in 1991, two days before the end of the season, and got rid of timo konietzka, whom he treasured. Since then, funkel has worked almost continuously as a trainer in the first or second division of the bundesliga. With uerdingen (1992, 1994), the MSV duisburg (1996), the 1. FC koln (2003), eintracht frankfurt (2005) and fortuna dusseldorf (2018) the neuss native has been promoted to the bundesliga a total of six times. He has coached 499 games in the elite league so far.