What is a legend?
Does winning define a legend?
Building on the above questions, what would an individual’s first thoughts be when he thinks about a World Cup Legend? The first images that flash by the mind are those depicting the player raising the illustrious WC Trophy in his hands. Obvious logic takes over when categorizing a player as a World Cup legend, he has to have won a World Cup trophy.
History however has shown the world exemplary examples of individuals standing up and being greater than life. Individuals rising against the odds and showing the world that winning is not everything. That winning is but a reward for the consummate demonstrations of skills in their respective arts and that thankfully we don’t live in a world where rewards are the only premise for acceptance of an individual extraordinaire.
One such example of an individual fighting the odds, becoming a leader, not just that of title but of devotion, of selfless dedication towards a greater good is that of the Former German Captain Oliver Kahn.
Flamboyant and brash are the characteristic traits that most experts have used to define the Former German keeper Oliver Kahn. The words reciprocated on and off the field, preventing Kahn from ever being a subject of fondness even in his homeland.
Amidst being subject to these criticisms, something that was never in question, by fans and critics alike was the unnerving and solitary dedication of Kahn to give his everything for Germany every time he stepped out on a football pitch. A trait that rewarded the German Captain with 4 Bundesliga, 1 Champions League and 1 European Champion winners medal as he entered the 2002 WC Finals in Korea/Japan.
The German team for the 2002 WC lacked the flair to be considered as favorites. Composition of the squad featured a majority of ageing and rather inexperienced players. This was highlighted in the qualifiers building up to the World Cup as the German team managed to score a total of only 19 goals in 10 games. The WC finals proved no different as Germany showcased a string of poor performances as they narrowly edged Paraguay, United States and South Korea with one goal margins. These performances however shared one common denominator, the phenomenal performance of the German captain. Teams failed to bypass the strength, athleticism and pure genius of Oliver Kahn as the German Team conceded just one goal entering the Final against Brazil.
Kahn himself entered the Final against Brazil with torn ligaments in his right ring finger and ended up conceding twice, both goals scored by Brazil`s prodigious center forward, Ronaldo.
“There’s no consolation in such moments. I’ll have to live with my mistake. But it’s not all bad. It was my only mistake in seven games. It’s doubly bitter. But it’d be totally ridiculous to say that everything is crap. We’re the World Cup runners-up and we’ve put German football back where it belongs, as one of the world’s best.” said the then 32 year old after the final defeat.
After the match ended a distraught Oliver Kahn was seen sitting on support of the goal post realizing what could’ve been but what couldn’t be. The German captain however refused to blame his injury and accepted his mistake.
His words “we’ve put German football back where it belongs, as one of the world’s best” have reciprocated through the years as Germany has risen as one of the most powerful Football Nations over the past decade.
Kahn was awarded the Golden Ball for his heroics in the World Cup Finals of 2002 and became the first Keeper in history to receive the award. After the WC, Kahn went on to win a further 4 more Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich. He announced retirement from the German National Team on the eve of the 3rd place playoff against Portugal in the 2006 WC Finals in Germany.
The German National Football Team has always been represented with exceptional Keeping Talents throughout history but the football world will forever remember Oliver Kahn as a leader of men, a Goalkeeper extraordinaire and a FIFA World Cup Legend.