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Interview with Stephan Lehmann and Giovane Élber

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© Fotos: Roderick Aichinger

This summer, legendary striker Giovane Élber and stadium announcer Stephan Lehmann will celebrate milestone birthdays. Élber turns 50 on 23 July, Lehmann 60 on 23 June. The two fan favourites have already raised a glass with club magazine "51" in a beer garden and chatted about spine-tingling moments in front of a large crowd – here's an excerpt from the conversation.

Stephan Lehmann and Giovane Élber - The interview ––––––––––––––––––––––––-

Stephan, how grateful are you as a stadium announcer for a character like Giovane Élber?
Lehmann: "Infinitely grateful. You can't get any better than a character who scores a goal straight from the corner flag or wraps himself in a rug during his goal celebration: You could always tell, Giovane, that you played football because it came from deep inside you, you always saw it as a gift."

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What was your favourite Élber goal?
Lehmann: "It wasn't one of his best goals, like the Goal of the Year in 1999 from the corner flag against Rostock - but for me it was one of the most emotional Bayern goals ever. In the Estádio Bernabéu in Madrid..."

Élber: "Ah, my spine is tingling..."

Lehmann: "... semi-final first leg in the 2001 Champions League: Giovane scored the only goal of the game with his left foot, which laid the foundation for reaching the final. We almost tore down the stands out of sheer joy."

Élber: "I had had knee surgery twelve days before, but I was determined to play. Ottmar Hitzfeld said: 'Maybe in the second half, Giovane. We still have the second leg.' I said: 'Coach, I've trained well and I'm in fine form. Let me play, like always!' In the second half, I got the ball out of nowhere, turned, shot straight at goal - and it went in. From 20 metres at the Bernabéu!"

Lehmann: "And then you kissed your knee (laughs). I don't think Iker Casillas was expecting you to just shoot. You surprised him."

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Here's to you, legends! Élber turns 50 on 23 July, Lehmann 60 on 23 June.

Do you actually hear the stadium announcer after you score a goal?
Élber: "At that moment, you don't hear anything. Not even the fans celebrating. But then you get: 'GOOOOOAL! With the number nine: Giovane ...' You hear that, it goes right under your skin. Or even when you're waiting to walk out onto the pitch before the game, you hear Stephan announce the line-up and think to yourself: "Wow!"

Lehmann: "I started as the stadium announcer in 1996, Giovane arrived in 1997. We had some great years together in the Olympic Stadium. The Allianz Arena only opened in 2005."

Élber: "The Olympic Stadium was my home. But there was one game where I was sad to have scored a goal there."

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In November 2003 with Lyon against Bayern?
Élber: "Exactly. And Stephan had to announce it: 'Goal for Lyon! With the number nine...' And then the whole stadium roared: 'Giovane Élber!' That was spine-tingling!"

Lehmann: "It didn't surprise me at the time that the Bayern fans would react like that. Giovane was always everything: a gifted footballer and someone who, away from the pitch, would stop when someone spoke to him, even if he didn't have much time at that moment. You really never gave the impression that you didn't care about the individual fan."

Is it easy to scream the name Giovane Élber into the microphone?
Lehmann: "Oh, the name is like a wave: GI-O-VA-NE! And Élber rolls off the tongue well too."

In 2001, after September 11, Giovane formed the dove of peace while celebrating a goal. So there's also a serious side to you too, Giovane?
Élber: "That was against Freiburg when we won 1-0. In the dressing-room, at the hotel, we'd only talked about the USA - but we had to play."

Lehmann: "The world was in a collective state of shock."

Élber: "Actually, I didn't feel like playing football at all, but I couldn't not do something when I scored. And then I made a dove of peace."

Lehmann: "Moments like that, when even Giovane Élber, the joker, is completely serious, are particularly memorable. I feel the same way about the 2020 Champions League final in Lisbon: pandemic, playing behind closed doors - a final like that with no spectators! I remember both of us looking into that empty space and thinking of what would normally be going on there."

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The perfect place to drink a toast to two milestone birthdays: The Paulaner Nockherberg in the heart of Munich.

You really made a racket in the stands. The delegation from Paris was quite surprised.
Élber: "After the game my voice was gone."

Lehmann: "We said to ourselves: we're going to do the Südkurve now! And then we gave it all we had. I heard afterwards that people at home could hear us very well on the television. 'Hurrah, hurrah, Bayern are here'!"

Élber: "We live for this club. And we wanted the players to hear they were not alone."

Giovane, do you remember the first time you played in front of a really big crowd?
Élber: "That was in 1991 with Brazil in the final of the U19 World Cup against Portugal. 128,000 spectators in the old Estádio da Luz in Lisbon! It took me some time to get into the game - and then I missed in the penalty shoot-out. We lost 4-2. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole."

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What was it like for you, Stephan, to stand on the pitch in the Olympic Stadium for the first time?
Lehmann:"August 1996, Matchday 2, home game against VfL Bochum, final score 1-1. I died a thousand deaths! Terrible! Huge! I was experienced with a microphone, but still doubly and triply afraid of making a mistake.

Élber: Did you rehearse at home beforehand?

Lehmann: "No. You can't do that. I knew you have to be thrown in at the deep end. But I was lucky. When I was introduced as the new stadium announcer before the game, the Südkurve gave me a really warm welcome."

Élber: "I heard you haven't missed a single home game since then. How do you manage that?"

Lehmann: "In the meantime, because of Covid, that's no longer quite true. In April 2021, I had to sit out the home game against Leverkusen, which was played behind closed doors. But actually I have a robust nature. Of course you get the odd cold, but that's not a problem. Over 26 years I've actually only missed one game."

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You're both legends for the fans. What does that mean to you?
Élber: "You can't dream of something like that. I was in Paris recently and met people who still wanted to have a photo taken with me so long after my playing days. They talk about my goals, my white boots, the beer shower I introduced in 1998. The fans could sense that football wasn't just a job for me. It was my passion. And I tried to do my best so the fans would go home after the game and say: it was nice to see Giovane on the pitch."

Lehmann: "To me, the term legend means you've stayed true to something for a long time, you've seen it through and you don't immediately throw in the towel when something isn't going so well. On the other hand, I think to myself: Damn, I'm getting old (laughs)!"

Élber: "The nicest thing for me is the fans voted me into the FC Bayern team of the century. In 100 years, there have been so many great footballers who have played for FC Bayern - and then you're chosen by the fans, alongside Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Stefan Effenberg... I'm really delighted by that. Here in Brazil, you just get into a museum when you die (laughs)."

You're both sitting here on the occasion of your birthdays. What are your wishes for your special day?
Élber: "I wish myself good health, that's all. And I wish the same for FC Bayern. That it remains a healthy club. That's the foundation for the club to continue winning lots of titles."

Lehmann: "Health is really the most important thing. I also wish for peace in the world. And for FC Bayern that on whatever path it takes, including internationally, it never neglects its traditional values and its origins. A club like FC Bayern is about more than the pursuit of maximum profit."

In the FC Bayern members' magazine "51", Thomas Müller talks about his journey at FC Bayern and his way of life: