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Moving farewell to football: When Völler’s wife made “Tante Käthe” the national coach

Moving farewell to football
When Völler’s wife made “Aunt Käthe” the national coach

By Ben Redelings

After a total of almost thirty years at Bayer Leverkusen, Rudi Völler is retiring from football. The man they call “Tante Käthe” as a player gives Bayer a new look after Reiner Calmund’s departure. But the former national coach does not always have the strings in his own hands.

“Absolutely not! If I tell my wife, she’ll throw me out!” It’s summer 2000 and Rudi Völler is sports director at Bayer Leverkusen – but the DFB is in dire need. National coach Erich Ribbeck was no longer acceptable after a disaster EM in Belgium and the Netherlands and a management team around Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder and Reiner Calmund had chosen Christoph Daum as the new DFB coach agreed. But there is a problem: Daum cannot and does not want to take up the post immediately. Only next summer. A temporary solution is needed. But who should do it?

And then, on this wonderful day, Daum looks around the group with the greats of German football. His gaze lingers on Völler. “Rudi, what’s the matter with you?” he asks the 1990 world champion, who looks “shocked” at the Bayer Leverkusen coach and designated national coach, “as if I had just told him to shave his mustache”, as Daum recalls in his book “Immer am Limit”. Reiner Calmund, the Bayer Leverkusen manager who was still heavyweight at the time, switched the fastest: “Okay. Then we’ll just call Sabrina and ask.”

There are grotesque scenes that must have happened in the summer of 2000 when Calmund finally picked up the phone and called Rudi Völler’s wife. Minutes later, a momentous decision is made for German football, Bayer Leverkusen – but above all for Rudi Völler himself – and Daum sees a new national coach with “beads of sweat on his forehead”: “This is obviously what you look like when others decide on your behalf .”

Legendary interview

This story doesn’t really fit into the picture of the always self-confident, sovereign, sometimes short-tempered man, whom the republic baptized “Tante Käthe” because of his flowing hair when he was playing. “He’s a guy like Beckenbauer. He can have a child with any woman – and he’ll be forgiven in public,” said 1860 goalkeeper Michael Hofmann, very impressed about Völler. And the world champion from 1990 enjoyed his special status in most of the hours. “There are worse fates than being popular,” he once said. Only when they had praised him too much in the sky did he think about this always so benevolent treatment: “On nights like this I sometimes asked myself in bed what was so special about me.”

The nation was not supposed to really get to know the other Völler until September 6, 2003. The famous “Scheißdreck-Käse” interview of the then team boss of the German national team with Waldemar Hartmann was extensively discussed in the press. The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” wrote: “Executives from other sectors should not have been asked to resign after such rude failures; after a few minutes of distance, they would have realized that they had become intolerable.” However, the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” showed more understanding for the verbal outbursts in front of an audience of millions: “Völler’s anger is not evidence of a double existence in terms of character, but only a reaction that is due after someone has kept silent about his oppression for a long time”.

Perhaps Völler’s reaction at the time was partly due to his private situation. Because his wife Sabrina had finally given her consent on this memorable summer day three years earlier in conversation with Reiner Calmund, but clearly linked it to an ultimatum: “In God’s name, if that’s the case, then he should just do it for a year do it. But no longer!”

A white lie by Calmund

But Völler could not get out of the number at the latest after the cocaine affair involving Christoph Daum. He remained coach of the DFB-Elf for four years – and was always connected to Bayer Leverkusen. Because this chapter in his life had already begun at the 1994 World Cup. Calmund later said of a meeting lasting several hours in Berti Vogts’ room in the USA: “The seeds were planted back then. I wanted to bring Rudi Völler to Leverkusen at all costs.” And in fact, shortly afterwards, the Bayer manager had to resort to a white lie (“I pretended to be stupid”) when DSF (today Sport1) confronted him live on air with solid rumors that he had just signed Völler from Olympique Marseille. In fact, Calmund had just made himself comfortable on the couch minutes earlier – after a day trip by plane to the south of France. It was the beginning of a great era that is ending today after almost thirty years.

Ben Redings

Ben Redelings is a passionate “chronicler of football madness” and a supporter of the glorious VfL Bochum. The bestselling author and comedian lives in the Ruhr area and maintains his legendary anecdote treasure chest. for ntv.de he writes down the most exciting and funniest stories on Mondays and Saturdays. More information about Ben Redelings, his current dates and his book with the best columns (“Between Puff and Barcelona”) can be found on his page www.scudetto.de.

After the end of his active career in 1996, Rudi Völler had a huge opportunity to stay connected to football at the highest level. After all, he once said: “I can’t say all my life: I’m world champion, otherwise I can’t do anything, but I’m good at it!” And although the time in a managerial position at Bayer Leverkusen remained untitled, he was always the likeable face of the club, which has been referred to as the “pill club” for many years. But then it was decided to “creatively turn another concept that “lay like a hundredweight on the shoulders of the club” (Völler) into a positive, radiant light”. “Our ‘Werkself’ campaign. That was the best idea anyone had here,” says Rudi Völler with visible pride.

His foster father and friend Reiner Calmund left Bayer in 2004. Since then, Völler has been the club’s main representative. And the man that Berti Vogts once described as “the greatest football personality ever” did a good job for the benefit of the club. And that’s exactly what Reiner Calmund thinks, looking back on Rudi Völler’s eventful life as a footballer at Bayer Leverkusen: “I’m a guy who likes to sort everything into hit lists. The best restaurant, the most beautiful vacation spot, the greatest woman. In the list Of the greatest guys I’ve met in the football business, Rudi Völler is right at the top. To have brought this personality to Bayer – that still makes me proud today!” And rightly so. All the best and good luck for your football retirement, dear Rudi Völler!

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