JOHANNESBURG – The name Lutz Pfannenstiel will not immediately be familiar to many South African soccer fans.
But the discerning Orlando Pirates follower will remember it as that of a young goalkeeper who had a stint with the Buccaneers back in the inaugural Premier Soccer League season in 1996/97.
Long retired, having set the remarkable record of being the only player in the world to have played in all six of Fifa’s confederations, Pfannestiel has taken to coaching.
But after a few years of barking orders to professionals at both club and international level, Pfannestiel is now a development coach tasked with nurturing young talent.
He was back in the country last week in his position as director of international relations for Bundesliga outfit TSG 1899 Hoffenheim who, along with Metro Stars Academy, recently held a three-day coaching clinic at development club Alberton FC during which they mentored footballers from as young as six years.
Pfannenstiel, who was at Pirates on loan from Nottingham Forest, has a relationship with another former Buccaneer in Stanton Fredericks – currently of Metro Stars Academy and together they decided to plough back.
“I have a lot of connections here. That’s why we came to do our first football camp outside Germany,’’ Pfannestiel highlighted.
“South Africa is our entry point because from here, we will move on to Namibia and hopefully to other countries later on.”
It’s not only about Hoffenheim giving back.
“This camp has a double meaning for us (Hoffenheim). Firstly, it is part of a social project in that it focuses on our trade and brand here in Africa. On the other hand, we are trying to have an early look at talented players here.
“We scout players from as early as the age of six years going up to 16 years. And there is a very wide range of talent we’re seeing here as compared to what is on offer in Germany.
“Obviously if there is a top talent here, then we will have them in our books. Hopefully in the future, in an ideal world, they would go to Germany and play for us.’’
Pfannenstiel’s decision to give back was not only impacted by his playing days at Pirates and close relationship with Fredericks, but his love for the African continent.
“South Africa and also Namibia, where I coached the national team, still have a big place in my heart.
“I am very close with Stiga and other former Bafana Bafana players. For me to be here is a dream come true.
“I would obviously like to take more PSL players to Germany, like we did with Knowledge Musona, whom we took from Chiefs to Hoffenheim.”
Pfannenstiel was in the company of the club’s head of football school Sebastian Bacher, who supervised the initiative.
“We are not here solely on the holiday clinic, but we also have a huge education coaching programme in Germany, which we run internally for our academy in football coaching,” Bacher explained, proudly adding: “Our first team coach Julian Nagelsmann is a product of the academy, and we are proud to say he is the youngest professional coach in the Bundesliga history.
“The coaching clinic is not to claim we know it all, but we are definitely experts when it comes to a football school regarding training of children.”
Storm Jaynes, who plays for Bidvest Wits’ Under-17 side, believes such an initiative is what will positively impact the country’s developmental structures going forward.
“It’s very good because it comes from professionals; it’s easier for the boys to understand.
“It also helps them in match situations. We learn a lot of things. To be coached by former players who’ve played the game at the highest level means a lot.”