Just days after guiding Germany to a memorable title-winning triumph in Brazil, Philip Lahm dropped a bombshell over his compatriots by announcing his retirement from international football. All of Germany was still basking in the glory of their success at FIFA World Cup 2014, when the celebrated skipper announced that he was hanging up his boots at the age of just 30.
Our sportsmen, especially our cricketers, should learn from Lahm. He is still at the top of his game, something Lahm will certainly prove in the future when he plays club football for Bayern Munich. He was easily one of the best players at the 32-day World Cup in Brazil, rotating himself in the midfield and right back with an enviable ease. The fact that he is captain of a World Cup-winning side could have easily allowed Lahm to stay on maybe till the next World Cup to be held in Russia in 2018.
But great sportsmen don’t like to carry on once they’ve peaked. Lahm knew that he had reached his summit in Brazil and things will slowly go downhill for him in the future, at least in the national team which would be looking to blood youngsters for the next World Cup. He has quit for Germany while still at the top, still a super hero for his countrymen. That’s the way it should be.
“During last season I made a decision to end my international career after the World Cup,” he wrote in an open letter last Friday.
“I shared my decision with Germany coach Joachim Loew at breakfast on Monday. I am happy and thankful that the end of my national team career coincided with winning the World Cup in Brazil.
“I have been on holiday for the past three days and here have had the quiet and time to mentally come to terms with the end of my national team career. A heartfelt thank you for a wonderful time,” concluded Lahm, who has enjoyed a stellar career with Bayern Munich having led his club side to a Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble in 2013.
The German football chiefs were left stunned by Lahm’s announcement.
“Philipp called me this morning and personally told me the news,” German football federation (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach said. “Very quickly into the conversation I realised that it was futile to try to change his mind.
“He was not only an outstanding player in his 10 years with the national team but always a perfect role model. I thanked him for all that he has done for the DFB.”
Lahm’s decision even attracted comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I’d like to express my respect for what he achieved with the national team,” she remarked.
Football fans, not just in Germany but all over the globe, would certainly have saluted Lahm for what he achieved for his country on the football field and also because he opted to go out on top.
Such gestures are rarely shown by sportsmen in our parts of the world, who like to carry on even when they are well past their prime.
Anyway, I would conclude with a few comments on the FIFA World Cup 2014. It was certainly a rip-roaring success. The tournament had all the ingredients of a best-seller — twists and turns, upsets, heartbreak, tragedy and triumph. And in the end, the best team won through a wonder goal in extra-time by a baby-faced striker.