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The eye of the 'Tiger'

Hermann Gerland by his former players

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Illustration: Miguel Dente

Hermann Gerland celebrates his 67th birthday today, Friday - fcbayern.com wishes him all the best! The man celebrating his birthday coached juniors, reserves and pros at FCB for 25 years. A school for life - hard, but warm, as eyewitnesses tell. 

Zvjezdan Misimović (at FCB from 1997-2004)

"When we became champions with Bayern's U19s, Hermann Gerland came to us in the dressing room. He didn't congratulate us, he just said: 'I'll make you run!' That was our first meeting. Before the first game under him, he said to me that I would only play on Sunday if I weighed less than 80kg. Since I couldn't get my weight down, I didn't even show up for the game. The next day, the 'Tiger' asked where I had been. I said: 'Coach, I was only supposed to come when I was under 80 kilos!' He made me run the whole training session.

Once, at an away game in Darmstadt, he sent me to warm up. I had a ball boy give me a ball and started to dribble. Just as there was a second of silence in the stadium, Gerland shouted across the pitch: 'Who gave Fatty the ball?' That was typical of him. He was the right person in the right place. With talent, it's incredibly important to keep them grounded in reality."

Ralph Hasenhüttl (at FCB from 2002-2004)

"When I came from Fürth to FC Bayern's U23s in 2002, Hermann Gerland had made precise inquiries: He was looking for a seasoned player, asked about my character, whether I was still fit, whether I could still score goals, whether I could still run. I was fit, I scored goals, but if I had known what he meant by running... It turned out to be two great years. He taught me what you have to bring to a big club. The mentality, dealing with talent and budding top stars, and to this day I use sayings of his: 'Luck is always skill, bad luck is always inability' or 'FC Bayern's philosophy: win games'.

Hermann gets to the heart of football, and his directness has been good for many prodigies. He wanted to help. Those who accepted this help and endured this tough love approach ultimately rose to become the very best: Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, David Alaba - the list goes on. I know of no other coach in German football who has produced anywhere near as many world-class players as Gerland. That's no coincidence. With him, there was no comfort zone. We had an incredible team back then - I ended up playing with Christian Saba as a centre back because up front, Zwetschge Misimović and Paolo Guerrero were scoring goal after goal.

Once he was nominated for 'Munich Coach of the Year' - he didn't need anything like that. I was just lying on the bench with the physios when he came in and said: "I just turned it down - but if I can get you to run, I'll take it after all!' I still remember how we made a fool of ourselves once at an indoor tournament - we lost to the actors from the movie 'The Miracle of Bern'!  The tournament wasn't over yet when we were already on the bus. Gerland had us run around a lake three times as the sun set. One lap was 12km; and the only way to shorten it was to swim.  For me, Gerland stands for pure football passion. In his free time, you always saw him in the stands. He follows up on every lead and knows about everything. For me, Hermann Gerland will forever be a face of FC Bayern."

Diego Contento (at FCB from 2005-2014)

"Hermann Gerland was my mentor, my adopted father. First he brought me up to the reserves and then up to the pros. He knows exactly how to deal with talent. That sometimes, you have to be tough in order to get the best out of them. He's a special guy who you have to get really used to. He used to call me a "fool". He always told me that I had to work harder. I still remember how happy he was for me when I scored my first goal for the reserves. I had only been with the team for four days. That was a great moment between us. When we see each other today, we're happy. It's a shame he's leaving. Hermann Gerland is a legend."

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