Home » Savior at 70? Why FCK is reactivating Friedhelm Funkel

Savior at 70? Why FCK is reactivating Friedhelm Funkel

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Savior at 70?  Why FCK is reactivating Friedhelm Funkel

A few weeks ago, when 1. FC Kaiserslautern had just released its coach Dirk Schuster, Friedhelm Funkel was sitting in a restaurant on Fuerteventura. He celebrated his 70th birthday there with family and friends. Now he chatted via video link with the journalist Arnd Zeigler on his TV show.

He talked about his career as a player and coach, about his various positions at various clubs. And he talked about how, even after more than 50 years in professional football, he still feels the desire to work as a coach. “I don’t want to sit in an office, I want to be on the football field,” said Funkel. “I want to let it rain, let it snow, let the wind blow around my nose.”

This Wednesday, when 1. FC Kaiserslautern had just released its coach Dimitrios Grammozis after just 72 days, Funkel was back on the football field. In the afternoon he led the training session at the relegation-threatened second division club in Kaiserslautern. He didn’t get wet at first. But he must have still been happy. As the club had confirmed just a few minutes earlier, Funkel is the Red Devils’ new head coach. Co-coach Matthias Lust complements the existing coaching team. The club initially did not provide any information about the term of the two’s contracts.

Funkel brings three things with him that are often particularly important to floundering clubs like FCK, which recently slipped into the relegation zone. Firstly, there is the experience. He looks back on more than 1,100 games as a coach and player in the first and second Bundesliga. That’s more than anyone else.

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Secondly, because Funkel played many of them in the fight against relegation and was often successful, he built up an aura as a savior. Someone from the “firefighter” trainer category who, once the flames have been extinguished, has often managed to restore the almost burnt down property. He was promoted to the Bundesliga six times as a coach. That is also a record.

And then, thirdly, there is what is often referred to in football as the “stable smell”. Funkel was once a player in Kaiserslautern and played a total of 89 games in the early 1980s. This included a 5-0 win against Real Madrid in the UEFA Cup, in which he scored two goals. That was almost 42 years ago, but it is still unforgettable on and around the Betzenberg.

Now he is trusted to stabilize the team, which has been completely unsettled after nine defeats in the last ten league games. On Sunday (1:30 p.m. / in the FAZ live ticker for the second Bundesliga and on Sky) it’s all about points in the fight to stay in the league in Nuremberg, and at the beginning of April there’s also a chance for a title in the semi-finals of the DFB Cup.

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Funkel’s last rescue mission to date was almost three years ago. At that time he managed to stay in league one with 1. FC Köln in a seemingly hopeless situation. Nevertheless, his signing by FCK seems as surprising as when Hertha BSC brought in the then 73-year-old Otto Rehhagel in the spring of 2012. It was no longer possible to prevent relegation from the Bundesliga. But if Funkel is now wondering whether a 70-year-old can really be the right coach for a modern football team, Rehhagel at least had the right wisdom at the time. He said, “Modern plays whoever wins.”

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