Created on 08-04-2008 at 00:00 AM
Oliver Kahn has made 139 European appearances to date, claiming winners’ medals in the 1996 UEFA Cup and 2001 Champions League, and has played at least once in practically all the continent’s major stadiums. He has kept goal no fewer than six times at the Bernabeu in Madrid, the very city where the 38-year-old faces potentially his last European match, when Bayern travel to face suburban outfit Getafe CF at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez on Thursday.
“My last match is approaching fast, whether on Thursday or in five weeks, so it doesn’t bother me at all,“ a thoroughly laid-back Kahn insisted on Tuesday, refusing to be drawn further on the subject despite persistent questioning from reporters: “If that’s it in Getafe, that’s it. It won’t kill me after 20 years in the game.“
Seasoned Kahn observers in the Säbener Strasse press corps were close to astonishment on hearing this reply. Following the 1-1 draw in Munich last week, and just two days ahead of the do-or-die return, the media had been expecting a more strident rallying cry from the Bayern skipper.
As it turned out, there was a simple enough reason for the keeper’s relaxed air. Kahn simply does not believe Thursday will be his final outing on the continental stage. “It definitely won’t happen, it won’t come to an end there,“ he intoned. The players were fully aware of what was at stake, and had collected a real boost from Sunday’s tenacious victory over Bochum, “so there’s no need for me to come out in public and stoke the fires.“
The keeper reported intense concentration among the players, both in the dressing room and on the training ground. “We want the triple, but if you put yourself under too much pressure, you can shoot yourself in the foot,“ Kahn argued, another reason for his consciously relaxed approach to “a final of sorts on an away ground.“
Kahn dismissed the idea that the Spaniards were still the underdogs. “It’s absolutely a meeting between evenly-matched sides.“ Getafe’s victories over Real, Barcelona and Tottenham indicted “this isn’t some kind of district league outfit, they’re a really good team. It’ll be a fierce battle.“
For Kahn more than any other player, the trip to Getafe marks the beginning of a climactic final few weeks. The keeper is looking forward to it: “I’m just grateful the season’s going the way it is.“ And for all his outward calm, the 38-year-old will certainly have marked the date and place of the final - 14 May in Manchester – in his diary.