Created on 26-05-2008 at 00:00 AM
A feature of Bayern’s Asia tour to Jakarta, Bali and Kolkata has been a vast camera and autograph book-wielding throng hotly pursuing Oliver Kahn, desperate for a handshake, signature or snap. Kahn frenzy has hit a new zenith in the West Bengal capital, where his every public appearance has prompted the formation of a mighty scrum of well-wishers and media representatives.
The reason for the tumult gripping the East Indian metropolis of 15 million is Tuesday’s friendly between Mohun Bagan AC, Asia’s oldest club, and the touring Bayern team (Kick-off 2.45 pm CET, live in German on n-tv, highlights with English commentary on FCB.tv). The match is the last of Kahn’s illustrious 20-year career as a professional footballer.
Huge crowd expected
The setting for the three-time world goalkeeper of the year’s farewell could hardly be more sumptuous. The 120,000 capacity Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, the second-biggest sports arena on the planet, is expected to sell out for Tuesday’s game, producing the first full house for eleven years. Mohun Bagan normally attract an average attendance of around 20,000, but the giant keeper’s last outing is a different matter altogether.
The prospect of the monstrous crowd largely prompted by the Bayern captain’s presence has not passed the 14-year FCB loyalist by. “The chance to play for the last time in front of so many people is certainly out of the ordinary,” commented the 38-year-old, accustomed like all his team-mates to crowds in the region of 70,000 at most.
”I want to say thanks for the enthusiastic welcome,” continued Kahn, as the hosts prepared to mark his final match by presenting him with a gold trophy studded with 8,640 diamonds. “Seeing players of Oliver Kahn’s calibre is a rare privilege. We’re very grateful,” commented Utpal Ganguli of the West Bengal FA (IFA). Kumar Shankar Bagchi, representing promoter and lead sponsors Bengal Peerless, said he was “very proud that Oliver Kahn’s farewell match is taking place in Kolkata. I don’t believe we’ll stage another such game in the foreseeable future.“
”Many countries around the world would be delighted to have this match,” observed Uli Hoeneß, as much in the dark about Tuesday’s opponents and Indian football as the rest of the tour party. “We’re curious to see the standard of the game here,” Kahn confirmed. What is known is that Mohun Bagan are one of the vast nation’s most successful clubs, although they finished the inaugural all-India I-League season in fourth spot out of ten clubs.
From the penalty spot?
Both Bayern and Mohun Bagan will be without several regulars on Tuesday due to international call-ups, although the European visitors in any case start as favourites. “I’m certain our team will give it their all one last time before the holidays,” Hoeneß declared. Michael Rensing echoed the manager’s comments: “We’ll be taking this game very seriously. We want to win again and avoid injury. Then we’re off home and on vacation.“
Kahn’s career has featured almost everything imaginable, but Tuesday is his last chance to score a goal. Perhaps the opportunity might arise after a free-kick, penalty or a corner, the skipper mused. “If the referee was to award a penalty, we might have a problem deciding who should take it,“ Hoeneß quipped. But whether or not he gets his name on the scoresheet for the very first time, Kahn can be sure of ecstatic cheers right throughout he final act of his long and trophy-laden career.