- Against Bayern, Friedhelm Funkel will experience his 1268th appearance in professional football.
- The Dusseldorf coach was his unpretentious nature long interpreted to his detriment – wrongly.
- Now, on the final leg of his career, the 65-year-old refutes all his critics with the Fortuna.
It happened last summer in Stahlhofen on Lake Wiesensee in Heino's beautiful Westerwald. A virus was rampant among the guests of the hotel, which included the licensing team of Fortuna Dusseldorf. How vicious, insidious and powerful this virus was, he proved that he was able to cross over to Friedhelm Funkel. Funkel, which is actually an impregnable fortress for pathogens of any kind, did not feel well, but nevertheless went to the training ground. A fatal mistake, as he says today. The next day he was promptly a little worse. In the evening in the test match against the Sportfreunde Eisbachtal his team had to do without him.
In the course of human history, this omission may not be one of the most important incidents, but in the life of Friedhelm Funkel it constitutes an exceptional event, a rarity like no other in his coaching career, begun in 1991. Since that day, when he joined Timo Konietzka's assistant in the first division side Bayer 05 Uerdingen, Funkel did not miss a game of his team for illness or other reasons, but in Stahlhofen it happened, this time he had to pass.
On Sunday at half past five but he will be guaranteed to be back when Fortuna Dusseldorf challenges Bayern. Funkel, 65, has no answer to the question of how many bets he will face in professional football: "I do not know that, but I always hear that: I'm close to 1300." In fact, the count will show the number 1268, beginning in 1973 with the first use as a player of Bayer 05 Uerdingen in the then second-rate Regionalliga West until the deadline in Dusseldorf, and this is a national record, which would have to cause Niko Kovac, for example, to step in humility and awe of the colleagues. One should beware of prophecies, even Bob Beamon's supposedly eternal long jump record was exceeded one day, but as far as Funkel's brand is concerned, even the record holder himself, who is completely unsuspecting, is ready to make a definite prognosis: "I dare to say: That's achieved no more."
To talk on the Fortuna office in the stadium Funkel wearing a dark blue shirt that dresses him well on the one hand and on the other hand is suitable to shame Heribert Bruchhagen. This had a few years ago, then as CEO of Eintracht Frankfurt, the claim that Funkel "make on professional youth" and put on shirts, "should actually carry 25- to 30-year-olds". Apart from the fact that the reproach was the only abuse that Bruchhagen knew he could bring against his highly valued coach, it is still an enormous charge, of course, to understand the sparkle immediately and brutally: "Heribert is only five years older than me – but in terms of clothing there are 30 years between us. " Incidentally, he adds, one could "mention that quietly in the report".
But of course one should also mention that never a discussion about fashionable preferences will separate these two men who have not only understood each other well during the five years together in Frankfurt.
In the meantime no one is astonished, Düsseldorf successes are recognized normality
The confrontation between the past and the modern is a topic that has long accompanied Funkel's coaching career, mostly in the form of prejudice to the detriment of his reputation. But nowhere is there any talk since he refutes all the reservations and anticipations with a miraculously easy hand with his late work on the Fortuna. The climber has not collected his 37 points with bricklaying football and a few corner and free-kick goals, but with a well organized offensive game that regularly attracts attention and even deserves some beauty award. After the whistle of the first leg in Munich, which ended thanks to the three goals of the lender Dodi Lukebakyo 3: 3, Funkel and his veterans Oliver Fink, 36, and Adam Bodzek, 33, stood together and were not only happy, but also a bit wondered.
In the meantime no one is astonished anymore, the successes in Düsseldorf are acknowledged normality. Recently, the Fortuna won on Schalke 4-0, dismantled Mönchengladbach within 16 minutes and recently stormed the Berlin Olympic Stadium. Never has sparkle, although he represents with his consistency an instance in German football, to influence such as Pep Guardiola or Christoph Daum or very transient phenomena such as the "concept coach" Uwe Rapolder. Therefore, it is now also very fair that he gets the applause in time on the final stage of his work, which was repeatedly denied him. Is not it a pity that he has never been entrusted with a top team all these years? Funkel does not quarrel, he prefers to give a wise answer: "Hermann Gerland and Peter Herrmann have recently said something nice to me: They would have liked to see if I had coached Bayern Munich, so I said: never came like that."