Michael Sternkopf: The strength to talk about weakness
Michael Sternkopf underwent treatment for burnout in 2011. Players rarely take this step during their active career, fearing pressure and failure. But it was only through this step that the former Bayern player could spark change after his active career. Today *Sterni*talks frankly about his problems at that time, helping others struggling with the syndrome. The former FCB midfielder turned 50 on Tuesday 21 April. Sternkopf talked about his active career, his burnout and his life today in an interview with club magazine 51.
Michael Sternkopf interviewed
Michael, how do you live today?
"I've been living near Gießen for 15 years. I give talks in communities, at clubs and schools, I tell my story, I talk about pressure to perform, fear of failure and my burnout. In the past I only felt good and valuable when I performed well, so it's important to me to communicate to kids they're loved and valuable, regardless of success or performance. We as parents are responsible for that."
You underwent medical treatment in 2011.
"I thought I needed a break of four to six weeks – it went on for almost seven years. I was at the clinic for six weeks. The only ones who remembered me and offered help were Uli Hoeneß and Alfred Eyrich from adidas. It still gives me goosebumps when I think back."
Hoeneß had brought you from Karlsruhe to Munich for a Bundesliga record fee of 3.4 million DM.
"And the public expectations were correspondingly high. I struggled with injuries in my first year, making only 11 appearances. I'd only had success up to that point. When I wasn't successful I felt bad and worthless, I couldn't live up to my potential any more, the pressure grew and grew. Then I read in the newspaper I was a failure. I wasn't mentally strong enough for that."
Is there anything you'd change in hindsight?
"Maybe I should have stayed at Karlsruher SC for another year. I wouldn't have joined Bayern as a talent but as an international then. But who knows, maybe I would have sustained injuries at KSC and the transfer would have never happened. I wouldn't want to miss my five years at Bayern in any case, it was a great, instructive time. My heart has been red to this day."
Which match do you remember best?
"A friendly in Sevilla in September 1992 – with Diego Maradona! It was the gold standard for me back then. I'll never forget how he took to the pitch to warm up, as the last one, his shoelaces untied. I hardly warmed up then, I just watched him juggle the ball on his shoulders. We lost 3-1 but it was an unforgettable experience."
Sternkopf was a starter in Bayern's cup match against Schalke in 1993. This and more incredible knockout games from 1990 to 2000: