Lothar Matthaus on Italia 90, the Bundesliga and THAT night in Barcelona 1999
JOHANNESBURG – German football legend Lothar Matthaus made a whirlwind trip to South Africa last week for the StarSat Bundesliga Experience.
The 1990 FIFA World Cup winning captain spent time conducting clinics at the Football Safehub in Diepsloot as well as in Balfour Park.
He also found time to engage with the media and our soccer writer Matshelane Mamabolo sat down with the man who broke his heart by denying his hero Diego Maradona a second successive World Cup title.
Matthaus spoke about Italia 90, the Bundesliga, THAT night in Barcelona 1999 as well as finding out what was it that Lothar did to be the star he was and many other matters football.
MM: What makes the Bundesliga such a strong league?
LM: There is very strong competition in the Bundesliga and our clubs play in beautiful stadiums filled with crowds of about 40 to 42000 spectators. There are lots of goals too, an average of more than three, which is the highest worldwide. Also, football is a family event in Germany and people don't mind driving 400 to 500 kilometres to go watch their teams.
MM: What's your take on the Bundesliga clubs' recent perfect first leg results in the Champions League and Europa Cup?
LM: I think it is a sign we have caught up because we were behind the other countries like the EPL who have the biggest money but not the best results Bayern and Leipzig winning in England is great for us. I am very happy with the results and I think Bayern will do well. They are not the favourites but they can win it. They need Manuel Neuer and Robert Lewandowski to be in good condition.
They have a very good coach who is highly experienced to win the Champions League. The good thing about Bayern is that they have peace on the field and around the field. To win the Champions League you do need to make headlines away from the pitch.
MM: Talking of Bayern and the Champions League in the same sentence must bring back memories of that incredible final of 1999 when you lost to Manchester United? You were substituted while the team was leading and then the miracle in Barcelona happened?
LM: That was a mistake by the coach to take me off (he laughs) I do not have the best memory of that night. We totally dominated that match and then they scored those two late goals. Building up to the final I had been playing as a sweeper but then I was used as a midfielder in the final. It was a very hot evening and by 75 minutes I was very tired because of all the running I had to do.
The coach changed me after 81 minutes. It is a change we had done in the past and it had worked. But not in Barcelona. It's football and I have to congratulate Beckham and United for the win. But till today, I do not know why they won. Of course I respect the result but... (he shakes his head).
MM: But you won the ultimate one, the World Cup. Tell me about Italia 90.
LM: The World Cup is the ultimate you can win. It is a win that stays with you forever. It is a tournament that comes once every four years and the best players and countries from all over the world compete. Unlike the Champions League that is played for every year and by just teams in Europe, this one is the ultimate and it was an honour to captain Germany to the title.
I had followed World Cups from when I was very young. And I was particularly fascinated by the 1970 tourbament in Mexico where Germany beat England and Italy. For 1990 we had prepared very well and we even had a few of our players in the Serie A so when we went there we already knew about the conditions.
MM: And your win, through that Andy Brehme penalty made Diego Maradona cry... How could you guys do that to El Diego?
LM: (laughs) that's football. He had his turn in 1986. It was our turn now. But I have great respect for him. We played against each other at the two World Cups and also at club level in Italy when I was at Inter (Milan) and I was at Napoli competing for the Scudetto.
Competition with him was always a highlight and sometimes we were direct opponents. It was such a big job to control him because at the end of the 80s he was the best player in the world. An excellent player.
MM: You were excellent yourself, so much so you are a living legend world wide. How does that sit with you?
LM: I love winning and I always played with passion from a young age. I had a brother who was four years older and was taller, bigger and stronger than me but I always wanted to be better than him. I am very competitive, not just in official matches but even at training and in any other games like chess. And for me, training was never over. I always had my own personal training after the club's ones.
MM: And you got you due recognition for your efforts. Like being the first winner of the FIFA World Footballer of the Year in 1991.
LM: The sport has changed my life. And I am very grateful. I see now that even the young kids know anout me because I am in FIFA 19 and 20 (games). They realise that I was good and they want to know about my story.
MM: You Would you go back to coaching?
LM: I love how I am involved in football now because I also have time for myself. Now it is 120 days football, 120 days family and 120 days holiday. Maybe if they make the situation completely perfect I could consider. But it will have to be national team only, not club. No more daily coaching job for me, because that kills you a little bit. You need all the support you can get at club coaching.@Tshiliboy