Klaus Augenthaler Interview

Klaus Augenthaler: “Bavaria is Bavaria. This is where I belong.”

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© Photos: Magdalena Jooss

Klaus Augenthaler made 552 appearances for FC Bayern, securing his place in the club's Hall of Fame. The club legend turns 65 this Monday. To mark the occasion, the 1990 World Cup winner spoke in an interview with members' magazine '51' about his ties with home and his journeys for and with FC Bayern.

Interview with Klaus Augenthaler

Klaus Augenthaler, you live on Lake Ammersee. What significance does water have for you?

"I grew up in Vilshofen, where the Vils flows into the Danube. That's left its mark on me. In the holidays I more or less only went to the water. The father of a friend was a professional fisherman. We camped in the garden and at four or five in the morning we went out with the outboard motor to put out the nets. Fishing has stayed with me."

Klaus Augenthaler, Ammersee
Klaus Augenthaler calls it "Platteln" when he skips stones over the water.
People have always heard the Lower Bavarian in you...

"... and in my early days in Munich not everyone understood me [laughs]. The dialect I grew up with is also really tough. In my first training camp, I was in a room with Jupp Kapellmann. He came from North Rhine-Westphalia and said to me: 'First learn German'. I then tried to express myself more clearly. Recently I had a nice experience in the zoo. I heard people speaking Lower Bavarian everywhere. It made me feel at home right away."

Thomas Müller first bought himself a Leberkässemmel after the 2014 World Cup. "Then I was back home," he said. When do you feel at home again after a week in Brazil?

"As soon as I land at the airport in Munich and have Bavarian soil under me. I felt that way when I was a player and also later when I was a coach at Wolfsburg or Leverkusen. I have to say that no matter where I've been in the world, people have been friendly everywhere, I've seen beautiful things everywhere - it's just that Munich is Munich, Bavaria is Bavaria. This is where I belong."

What is different here?

"The quality of life. I find life in Bavaria more comfortable, less hectic. Even when I'm stuck in a traffic jam, it feels more pleasant here than elsewhere. If it's good, it's good. If it's not good, it doesn't matter. You have to be able to wait, they say in Bavaria."

Klaus Augenthaler Bayern
When did you realise that the world was bigger than Lower Bavaria?

"The first time I saw anything of the big wide world was with the national youth team. We were in Sweden, Denmark... and once at a tournament in Dushanbe, almost in Afghanistan. It was 25 degrees one day and 15 centimetres of snow the next. It was my first big flight. First to Moscow and then another four hours on a propeller plane. Everything was shaking, there was a man sitting in front of me who had chickens with him. I felt so sick [laughs]."

For the FC Bayern Youth Cup and the World Squad, you were in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, China, Nigeria... What impressions do you bring home with you?

"I'm always shocked by the conditions under which far too many people have to live. In Mumbai, we were in the neighbourhood where the film 'Slumdog Millionaire' was shot. We were allowed into a family's house, or rather hut - you never forget that. Or in China. There we travelled through the country on the high-speed train and saw the rice farmers, poor old men and women - and then you come to huge cities where 10-20 million people live and are screened. There are cameras everywhere."

What do these experiences do to you?

"When you come home after two or three weeks, you're humbled. And you see how well we are doing. I often think to myself: why get upset about every little nonsense? Be happy if you get up healthy every morning, even if one thing or another hurts. But then a week and a half later I'm grumbling again when I'm driving. That's how we humans are."

How do you feel when you see how unfair the world is?

"You feel helpless. In Africa, two million children starve to death every year, I was told. A lot of money and food is donated, but because of corruption only a fraction of it reaches the people."

Klaus Augenthaler Ammersee
Augenthaler's new home: Lake Ammersee in the heart of Bavaria.
It was much easier to fight back on the football pitch. You liked to make your mark there. Your bull gesture in the semi-final of the European Cup against Real Madrid in 1987 is legendary.

"A Spaniard straddled me at chest height. That was over the top. When I got up, I showed the Madrid players the horns. I wanted to say we're not at a bullfight here."

How was the message received in Madrid?

"There was a nice reception in the return match at the Bernabeu. Iron bars flew onto the pitch. I saw red that game."

After a slap on Hugo Sanchez…

"I didn't hit him very hard [laughs]. It was just a slap on the back of the head. But the linesman saw it. Red card. I thought 'oh no'. We were 1-0 down. We'd won the first leg 4-1, but we would've been out if we'd lost 3-0. And there was still an hour to play. I had to go into the dressing room, I didn't see any more of the game. I sat there all alone, listening to the 100,000 people in the stadium screaming every five minutes. I almost went crazy. At some point I turned on all the showers so I couldn't hear anything."

Klaus Augenthaler
You made it to the final, the second European Cup final of your career - and again it wasn't enough. Are you still sad about losing?

"I'm not moaning now when I see the titles on my autograph card. But of course it wouldn't be bad if there was another European Cup win on it. The 1982 final against Aston Villa was one of my best games, but my opponent, of all people, scored the decisive goal. I was suspended against Porto in 1987 and had to have a disc operation anyway. All in all, I'm at peace with myself. I've experienced many titles and finals and enjoyed my time as a player to the full."

Was the 1990 World Cup title consolation for missing out on those European Cups?

"What does consolation mean? I was almost 33 at the time and knew that was my last tournament. And then we became world champions! You can't achieve more than that."

Why did you later become a coach?

"When I stopped playing, I had job offers, including from adidas. But I asked myself is this your world? What do you actually need? And it quickly became clear to me that I need the grass. I'm still grateful to Bayern today that the club made it possible for me to get my coaching licence. When I had finished, Fritz Walter from Kaiserslautern called me and said that they wanted me as a coach. I thought Lautern? Now? Right away as head coach? I almost didn't dare say no."

Klaus Augenthaler Ammersee
Augenthaler was a player, captain and coach at FC Bayern. He also won the World Cup in 1990.
So, you stayed in Munich.

"I looked at it like this: When you've finished your apprenticeship, you can't get your master's certificate straight away. I wanted to learn first, gain experience. So, I stayed with Bayern as an assistant coach for another five years. Only then did I feel mature enough."

You went to Graz in 1997, then to Nürnberg, Leverkusen, Wolfsburg. Do you still need the grass today?

"Yes, unfortunately [laughs]. Because now everything hurts. I have an artificial hip, no cartilage left in my left knee - but then I play 15-20 minutes with the Legends again. Or when we train with the World Squad, I also play in the circle. In Thailand, we were on the pitch for three hours at 40 degrees, after which I was exhausted for two days. But when I see a ball, I just have to hit it - it just won't go away."

You once said that as a player you only thought red and white...

"... and that is still the case. I'm still happy and grateful to be employed by Bayern. The World Squad project in the last two years was a unique experience. I enjoy working with young players. I'm also interested in learning about the boys' backgrounds. Many come from difficult backgrounds."

Now your 65th birthday is coming up. Will there be a big celebration?

"I don't think I will celebrate big. I remember when my grandfather was 56 or 57, he was an old man to me as a child - and now I'm turning 65! I want to grow old, but only if I stay fit in my head and am not frail. That's my wish. Udo Jürgens sang 'Life begins at 66' - I'm taking that as my motto now. And I'm not even going to be 66 yet."

The complete interview with Klaus Augenthaler can be found in the September issue of '51'

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