On Saturday, German Goalie/Evil Mensch/ Bad Ass Oliver Kahn will play his last professional game.
For non-soccer fans, this will of course elicit the typical response of "Who? What? Germans?" But for those of us in the know, this is a major retirement. Oliver Kahn is simply one of the best goalies in the World in the last generation or so.
Yahoo's Kevin Fylan sums up Kahn's achievements:
The 38-year-old, who moved to Bayern from his home town club Karlsruhe in 1994, retires after winning his eighth Bundesliga championship and sixth German Cup.
He was man of the match in the Champions League final victory over Valencia in 2001, was named best player of the World Cup in 2002 and world goalkeeper of the year three times.
Americans, like yours truly may say, "Yes, World Cup player of 2002--when he stoned the fucking Americans including a Tony Sanneh header that should have won the fucking game! That bastard! KAHN! KAAHHHHNNNNN!"
The Bundesliga isn't what it once was, but Kahn's achievements there are still impressive. After he retires, he will still get a dozen offers from teams playing in the top flights of their nations. I'm certain there are teams in England or Italy or Spain that could use an Oliver Kahn.
What made him special? Goalkeeper in soccer is unlike just about any position in sports. Hockey goalies experience some of the same thing, but so much of their play is reaction, and whilst soccer goalkeeping has that, it is a good deal more complicated as well. Soccer goalies are rarely praised for kick saves.
Kahn had almost preternatural quickness. His penalty kick saves, for example, show him jumping off his line diagonally with force you would not imagine someone could generate from a dead stop. Kahn organized a German defense that was at times brilliant, and at times fairly substandard. He took young, inexperienced defenders, and made them a quality backstop. You have to have played soccer to know what it means to a backline to have a confident goalie barking orders, and pushing the defense to shut down the attack in the right way. Germans are, by nature, organized, so the stereotype goes. Kahn made that bit of cultural legend ridiculously true. When Kahn was in goal, you didn't get many opportunities to beat his defense.
And when you did, you were dealing with a keeper who was quick, aggressive, and knew where you were shooting before you did. Kahn was (and really, is) one of the best readers of body language in soccer. I honestly can't think of a better stopper of the ball in Europe over the past 20 years than Oliver Kahn. You can argue for a couple of Americans, and a lanky Dutchman, but Kahn was the standard.
See below, bitte. Das ist einen Futtballspieler!