In das Spiel by Philipp Lahm, you get to read up close the mindset of one of Germany’s finest ambassadors of the beautiful game. When the book came out some weeks ago, the section of the book that garnered attention was Lahm’s take on homosexuality in football, but the book delves in to various aspects of the game, and it would be a disservice to limit its scope only on homosexuality.
Interestingly, this is Philipp Lahm’s second book. And Lahm continues in his tradition of directly confronting tough issues and expressing an opinion. Some of the opinion comes across as a self-help book for would be player, parents, and fans. There are some tidbits for everyone.
He stylistically divided the chapters using football jargon like Rote Karte (red card), Coaching zone, Eckball (corner kick), Konter (counter attack) or Erster Einwurf (first throw) etc.
Discipline is everything
Lahm began his journey as a football player age six at FT Gern in 1989 and developed his aptitude for the game as he progressed to FC Bayern. There is a constant in his trajectory to stardom-discipline. He learned early the virtues of hard work.
In his formative years, he was lucky to be in a family that was supportive and encouraging for his career to flourish. Lahm had the fundamentals when he arrived in Bayern scandal free. A product of a pleasant home.
Lahm had to develop game intelligence early to compensate for his diminutive stature. The ability to interpret the game without emphasis on the physical side was Lahm’s hallmark. As a result, he never had red or yellow-red card in his illustrious career.
Reoccurring themes in the book are game intelligence, structure, and game idea. Lahm is a fanatic of planning goals and executing them both on and off the field.
November 10th 2009 was a day were a sickness that was swept under the carpet or spoken in hush tones came to the fore. It was the death of Robert Enke from suicide. Lahm like many others in society thought there was a new awakening to tackle issues like depression in sports. Sadly, as soon as the shock and mourning phase was over, it was back to business as usual.
Lahm does not encourage active players to admit battling with depression openly because of the consequences.
Homosexuality is contentious in football. Lahm was circumspect on his take on active footballers coming out. He would not advice an active player to discuss the topic with his co-players for fear of ostracization. Although there are some clubs like St. Pauli, Berlin or Freiburg that are tolerant of such issue, he thinks currently the Bundesliga is not ripe for it. A player will not be unscathed.
According to Lahm, homophobia in football is widespread, and it’s waning slowly. The society in Germany still has a lot of work to do before an issue about sexual identity becomes irrelevant.
Despite statements from zoologists and anthropologists that “the concept of race is the result of racism, not its prerequisite”, in a paper known as the Jena declaration, we still have racists who believe in superior and inferior races even in sport.
Racists should be identified and isolated from a group in stadiums like the example of racist insults in Münster against Würzburg’s Leroy Kwadwo. They identified the offender, arrested and prosecuted. The result for inciting hate was a three-year ban from stadiums in Germany.
To stem the tide of hate or maybe nip it in the bud, football officials could exercise authority in racism prevention.
Das Spiel grapples with all facets of the game and does not shy away from addressing societal ills. Philipp Lahm is the voice of a new generation of ex-players who might have contrarian views, but he adds variety to the discourse of football.