I remember it as clear as if it was yesterday. Match against Bayern Munich at home. I was in the locker room, substituted by half time, 0-3 was the score sheet.
I was disappointed, filled up with melancholy. I took the match overview paper in my hands and took a glance at it. I looked at the birth cohort and was shocked. 90% of the Bayern team was under my age. I was there, in the locker room, 26 years old; always with this inner believe that I would one day turn out as the best player of the world.
But realism struck me. And it struck me hard – maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe that dream as a little kid, which was always deep inside me – was not going to happen? I was setting goals as a professional, wanting this for one year, something else the next one. But the inner drive, what made me get up in the morning setting those goals, was actually the childish believe that I could one day become the best. The best football player.
That day I found out I would never be. Never.
As I said it struck me hard, it took me several months to accept. But the more I accepted it, the more a new feeling and spirit was blooming inside me. If I couldn’t be the best footballer – then what could I be the best in? If I still wanted to be professional footballer? The thought of travelling came up. I love that. But it was first as my mental coach mentioned it really came clear to me – I wanted to bring my boots everywhere! Tie them on my back pack and explore the world with my football boots. So I did.
But what I want to discuss on this post is this realism. This realism that hit me 2 years ago was also a realistic view on myself. By myself. I came to the conclusion that if I REALLY worked hard for it, like REALLY – which means to take out all pleasures and only going for the football, not focusing on anything else – I might have the talent to play in a top 6 Bundesliga club. With a bit of luck of course. But what came clear to me is that I was not ready to sacrifice that, compared to the human development I could make as a person at the same time, if I redefined myself as a player. And so I did. Redefined myself. As a player but also as a human being.
I’m a big fan of Paulo Coelho – and he’s always quoting never to stop dreaming – or else our soul will die. But have I stopped dreaming? Or did I actually really start dreaming because I redefined myself and stopped looking upon myself as everyone else did? Only as the football player and not as a human being at the same time? I’m not sure I have the answer yet but in the European world we are coaching our kids nowadays. Telling them they can become whatever they want – No they cant! They can become a lot. But not whatever. We all have our values and skills, which we should develop, into the extreme. Making us specialists on a specific area. We should not develop into this big mass, this cafe latte generation and machine mass production where we’re all the same. We need to be different. The quality in a team is in the difference of the individuals.
The reality that hit me late in my twenties, what would have happened if it would have hit me earlier? Or if someone would have told me before realizing it myself? I don’t know. Maybe I came this far because people didn’t tell me what my maximum level would be?
For my sake I first started dreaming and experiencing when I figured out that one dream had to be replaced by another. Something achievable. Something I could do myself, not depending on luck or being seen by the right persons. But that would be difficult, would lead me to places I had never thought possible and giving me struggles and challenges I had never seen come. I chose that way. I am that way.