A multifaceted personality

Lutz Pfannenstiel (second from left) and Bachirou Salou (left), former Borussia Dortmund and Togo international, during a Climate Kick campaign in Africa.-JAN VAN DER VELDEN Lutz Pfannenstiel (second from left) and Bachirou Salou (left), former Borussia Dortmund and Togo international, during a Climate Kick campaign in Africa.

Apart from his love for the game, which saw him turn down a lucrative contract with Bayern Munich when just 19 and travel all the way to Malaysia to play regular first team football for Penang FC, Lutz Pfannenstiel has now trained his guns against the evil effects of climate change. By Ayon Sengupta.

Journeyman Lutz Pfannenstiel is well known for donning different garbs and the one time “global goalkeeper” is now trying his luck as a “global crusader”.

After spending 101 unfortunate days in a Singapore prison, the former German under-17 keeper figured out the frailties of life and decided to concentrate on more meaningful pursuits. “Those days in prison were awful but I came to realise the fickleness of life. I was living a high life there, being an Armani model and then came the judgment. I was booked for underperforming in games which we had actually won,” he recalls. “I came out after 101 days and became a better person. It was the toughest time in my life but also the time when I learnt the most.”

Lutz, now a global scout for Bundesliga club Hoffenheim, was in Mumbai recently to conduct the ‘Art of German Goalkeeping’ course, organised by the All India Football Federation in association with the German Olympic Association. This course was for the Indian goalkeeping coaches.

“A goalkeeper is a team player and, at the same time, a lone warrior. The role of the goalie has evolved remarkably over the past few years. He just can’t be saving shots now but also direct play. Victor Valdes does it brilliantly for Barcelona, Manuel Neuer for Bayern and Germany. He has to be the motivator of the side,” he says. “Goalkeeping coaches too are not like normal coaches. You see Jose Mourinho, he perhaps has never kicked a football. Arsene Wenger, again, was not a great player. But they are world class coaches. But a person who cannot kick the ball properly cannot be a goalkeeping coach. In training you need to shoot the ball perfectly and around chest height for your goalkeeper to get good practice.”

He was here to give his 28 disciples in India a sneak peek into his bag of experience, thus making them more suited to impart the “right knowledge to their wards.”

And considering the fact that Lutz has earned the astounding distinction of plying his trade in all six FIFA confederacies, spanning across 25 clubs in 13 countries, his experience has to be wide and far.

Apart from his love for the game, which saw him turn down a lucrative contract with Bayern Munich when just 19 and travel all the way to Malaysia to play regular first team football for Penang FC, Lutz has now trained his guns against the evil effects of climate change. “I was one of the first European players to go and play in Brazil and the media and public attention there made me aware of our (footballers) position. I want to use football as an engine to fight against global warming. Footballers are still one of the best role models in today’s world and we can reach out to the youths in the street as well as the professionals in corporate boardrooms,” he says.

His foundation, Global United, has players like Pavel Nedved, Aldair, Cafu, Zinedine Zidane and Lothar Matthaus in its ranks. The group plays charity games across Europe and Africa raising funds and awareness about global warming.

The unusual German has already stayed in an igloo in February, in Ruhpolding, during the Biathlon World Championship 2012, trying to raise his voice above the regular canter. His stay was streamed live, bringing in worldwide attention to his project. Next step for the climate crusader is the Brazilian rainforest in February 2013, where he plans to spend a week in a tree house, drawing the attention to the indiscriminate destruction of the forest land due to unscientific logging, plantation and mining. In between he was in Pakistan during the recent floods, working in the ground and funding rehabilitation projects with his Climate Change Victims Relief Fund.

Well read on the subject, Lutz is aware of the problems we are facing in India because of the ever ominous politician-corporate nexus in the fields of realty, infrastructure and mining development, which has systematically robbed the country of its forest cover, over the years. He plans to host a charity dinner, ‘Colours of India’, in Munich and is in talks with Indian NGO Magic Bus in this regard. He is also in the lookout for more partners here to finance a football match and thus increase consciousness. “We are planning to come to India for a Climate Kick (it’s the name of their event week) and we had discussions with our charity partner in India, Magic Bus,” he says. “We have had talks with Indian companies and the outcome has been positive. We had several requests from India about possible partners and we are open to have further meetings and building partnerships to set up a Climate Kick, possibly in Bangalore.”

Ever eager to do the unimaginable, we shouldn’t be surprised to find Lutz either making a home for himself in the glaciers of the Himalayas or the marshlands of Sunderbans, in the near future. He might pick the hint from here and we know for sure that those places can do with all the helping hands it can muster.