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Juergen Klinsmann - Crossing The Divide

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Tired of the muted atmosphere of playing amongst the aristocrats of Monte Carlo, Klinsmann shocked the world when he moved from Monaco to Tottenham Hotspur in 1994.
It's easy to forget that barely nine years ago, the arrival of a foreign player to an English club was still a comparative novelty, let alone a high-profile German player and key member of the team that denied England World Cup glory in the 1990 World Cup.
The arrival of Juergen Klinsmann, with his reputation as the "king of diving" - the cynical art of writhing in agony in reaction to innocuous or non-existent challenges in order to win free-kicks or penalties - was therefore greeted with both suspicion and hostility amongst the English press and his new club's fans.
Klinsmann, however, was fully aware of the reputation he brought with him. As one of the world's most skillful and prolific strikers, he was confident of his ability to win over English fans. Indeed, at a time when Spurs were blessed with attacking power that featured players such as Nick Barmby, Darren Anderton and Teddy Sheringham, Klinsmann shone, scoring six goals in his first six matches and quickly earning the adulation of the Spurs fans.
However, it was Klinsmann's good-natured sense of humour which won him the affection of football fans all around the country. When he scored his first ever goal in English football, he decided to celebrate his goal with a mock imitation of one his famous "dives", with ecstatic team-mates joining in as they slid along the pitch as if felled by ten defenders!
Klinsmann's lifestyle off the pitch also endeared him to the English public. His modesty and total lack of self-importance is best illustrated by one particular anecdote. In an era when most football players tended to arrive at the training ground in the latest flashy sports car, on Klinsmann's first day of training, his team-mates were astonished to see him trundle into the car park driving a battered old VW Beetle!
Having scored 29 goals in his first season at Spurs, Klinsmann was a popular choice as he was voted Footballer of the Year in 1995. But Spurs' failure to qualify for European competition was the factor which led Klinsmann to leave the club for Bayern Munich in Germany. If Spurs fans were disappointed to see Klinsmann leave, his return in 1997 towards the end of a disastrous season with the club facing relegation sealed his legendary status. Needing to beat Wimbledon in order to secure their safety, Klinsmann scored an astonishing four goals in 90 minutes to ensure Tottenham's future in the top league.
His affection for England is undoubted. In a recent interview he said, "I still feel a great affinity with the fans in England and the Spurs fans in particular, who were the best I ever played for. Many of the greatest experiences of my career were in London where I was very happy".
Klinsmann retired from football after Germany's exit from the 1998 World Cup. Ever the open-minded and adventurous individual, he moved to Los Angeles in the USA with his Californian wife where, despite speculation that he was going to play for the local Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy, he chose to enrol as a student at a local education college to develop computer skills and learn Spanish!
Klinsmann is enjoying his new-life and newly found anonymity. Occasionally he can be found joining in with the training sessions of local club LA Galaxy, much to the delight of their players and coaches. Club coach Robin Fraser commented that he was astonished by Klinsmann's class and humility. "He's one of the most respected soccer players in the world, but he played for our second team with the enthusiasm of an 18-year-old," Fraser says. "He went out of his way to help the players with whatever little advice he could provide, but he didn't talk down to anyone as if he's the great German player and we're the ignorant Americans. In my opinion he could be a wonderful resource for the development of American soccer."
But typical of the man, it appears that Klinsmann's curiosity will take him beyond soccer. When asked what he'll be doing in 10 years, he says he has no idea. "I'm actually glad that I don't know that," he says. "It would be kind of boring. I want to look ahead always, and never have more than a three- or four-year project. Now with the development of telecommunications, there are new jobs coming up every day, and I want to be open-minded for them."



October 2001, Michael Lee

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