I didn’t know where I was going to end up when I started thinking about the idea. I really can’t say just how it felt. Rumors are rumors. The professional sporting world, particularly that of European football, is the only place likely filled with more vicious and unfounded rumors than a high school.
I opened my phone on a Saturday. Or a Sunday. All I know is that I had overslept. Felt great to sleep in. Except it was immediately ruined. Schweinsteiger to Manchester United. Twitter invaded my quiet morning. My favorite professional footballer of the past decade was leaving the only club he had ever known.
17 years is a long time to do just about anything. If I think about what I was 13 years ago, I almost start to dry heave and have panic attacks. What a mess that dude was. I’ve held my current job for just over three-and-a-half years. A full decade and then some short of 17 years. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have the same employer that long when every mega-rich company on the planet which specialized in the skill I have wanted to pay me insane amounts of cash to be in their employ.
Schweinsteiger is gone. I’ve loved, inexplicably, Bayern München for nearly two full decades. My mother is German. Was born there, raised there. Upon visiting family in the mid-1990s, I happened to catch some soccer. I probably meant to be a Bayer Leverkusen fan. They were in their peak days of football power. Being about 12-years-old at the time, it was fairly easy for me to mistake Bayern and Bayer.
I never had a chance to watch the 1999 or 2001 Bayern teams in their glory. I only played as them in my FIFA video game on my PC. By 2002, I was fully on board with all things German football. I remember staying up to watch the World Cup Final of Germany and Brazil. Even a broken hand barely slowed our sacred Number One, Oliver Kahn. Ronaldo can count his lucky stars for that.
The changing of the guard happened in that time between World Cup tournaments. In 2006, the new guard of German football had begun to take shape. Among them, Schweinsteiger. And his performance in the 2008 Euro.
Schweinsteiger, Der Fußballgott, was the vice-captain that Lahm always needed. They both helped to anchor a Europe conquering Bayern München and world-beating German National Team. Reckless in youth and heroic in his eventual maturity on the pitch.
Schweinsteiger: Bundesliga Champion.
Schweinsteiger: Deutscher Pokal Champion.
Schweinsteiger: Champions League Champion.
Schweinsteiger: FIFA Club World Cup Champion.
Schweinsteiger: FIFA World Cup Champion.
One of the most capped players in the storied history of Bayern München. Oft-associated with the legend of club and country, he came up through the youth system and helped guide both back to the top of the mountain.
He is now 30. Nearing the end of his stellar career. Always, we have been lucky to call him ours. But now, we cannot. But, this seems to be more than just football for Schweinsteiger.
Not only has Schweinsteiger gone abroad, adding his name to the list of legends to wear the jersey of Manchester United, but he seems to be distancing himself from what he once was in his personal life as well.
Schweinsteiger split with long-time girlfriend, Sarah Brandner, in favor of tennis star Ana Ivanovic. I don’t care to know details of any party’s personal life involved. But, the changes seem strikingly similar. Both attractive women, Brandner is decidedly of a stereotypically German appearance, while Ivanovic, who is Serbian, is distinctly not that.
Changes happen in all areas of life for all us at some point or another. Schweinsteiger has seen the writing on the wall for his playing days. He has elected to go abroad. And perhaps something greater was at play mentally for the All-World midfielder. Maybe, the legend had grown too heavy for his back to carry and he needed to cut clear of what he had become. Maybe Der Fußballgott had grown tired because he had become Der Fußballgott.
This isn’t a dating service. I’m not a psychologist. But I am a fan. And the player I support most has left the club of same standing.
I’m not too old for disappointment. As a fan, I’ve grown. 17 years ago, I would have cursed the name Bastian Schweinsteiger. But, 17 years have passed.
The boy I cheered for and the boy I was have come to know the inescapable sadness that comes with the end, as with all things.
Sports are a small part of life, but they can make life sweeter. I’m thankful for all the years and will always remember Der Fußballgott.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)