Football is generating billions through television money and sponsorship, but most sporting associations and clubs have to fight for the funds to guarantee the basic requirements for their talented youngsters.
I want to make my contribution to changing this because I have experienced the importance of having the necessary support and role models.
When I joined Bayern Munich and visited the famous Säbener Straße for the first time, I was impressed by the size of the training ground, by the pitches, by the famous shirt and, of course, by being so close to the professionals. I was allowed to train right next to the players whose games I watched every weekend, I had the same emblem on my breast and kicked the same ball.
I got closer to the dream I shared with probably most of the boys in the Munich region – a career at the great FC Bayern. I started off by taking small steps to make this dream a reality by playing for the Uner-15s, the U17s, the U19s. I noticed the growing attention at school, for example. This increased my motivation and helped me to stay focused during difficult periods.
Competitive sport demands a lot from yourself, and not just physically. If you want to make it to the top you need assertiveness, endurance and discipline. This is not always easy between the ages of 12 and 17. This is why you need support from your family and friends, but mainly from the club or association, and this is what I experienced at Bayern from 1995 to 2004.
The frequency of training was constantly increased. A lot of time was invested in teaching us different systems. The positions were described in as much detail as possible. Every trip to a game was planned very well. The housing was good, the food as well. Nothing was missing. We were taught that this comfort is not natural at all and that we have to take responsibility, too.
The luxury was only possible because football had this big status and Bayern could invest in qualified staff, in equipment, football grounds, medical care.
These cornerstones bring success and influence athletes. This is what youth work is all about: leadership, education and support for character development.
I don’t think that there is an area where the correlation between effort and success is as obvious as in sport. And I am convinced that the experiences of sportsmen have an enormous value, it doesn’t matter if it is football, boxing, swimming, gymnastics or rowing. They build your character and produce personalities who can be role models for a lot of young people and provide them with the direction and motivation to go their own way.