“Didi ... shoot, go on shoot, score” – “Come on Herbert, get to it, fake to your right, and then dribble past him on the left, go on!” – “Willy, stop sleeping back there, shore up the defense!” To this day I remember my dad lovingly but powerfully brushing us aside during our countless games of beach football – with his “off” arm, which is what we kids called the stump that was all that was left of his right arm, a warning of what the war had done. He really egged us on. A man who was a football fan all his life. Probably we brothers were born with a ball?! Like other kids, too. Always in contact with the ball, with our feet, hands, head or body – touching it, juggling with it, passing it back and forth, dribbling, scissors kicks. Football, handball, basketball, volleyball, tennis. It didn’t matter which, as long as there was a ball in play! We spent most time of all playing football. Usually in the street back in Bochum, wirh neighboring kids and friends, later in the school team or for a club. Frequently on the beach when on holiday in Holland. From as soon as we could walk until well into puberty. Unforgettable moments of joy and passion. And, of course, the tears flowed, that was part of it, we were learning for life. Even if we didn’t realize it at the time.
Without thinking twice, we played with children from other countries and had no problems making ourselves understood. “Why speak? Together we’re a strong team and have fun!” was our motto. Be it with children from elsewhere during the holidays, or with children whose parents were Polish, Italian or Greek migrant workers or miners in the Ruhr region. A football brings all souls together as one.
The great time I had with my brothers as a child and a youth is quite unforgettable. We were all three of us good athletes, were forever laughing, boisterous, out practicing. Willy his dives as a goalkeeper, Herbert his precision crosses, and me the center forward my perfect shot. Great shots on goal that no one could get to, best of all turning into the ball after another precision cross – that’s what we tried and tried again.
My approach was defined by that legendary sentence uttered by Borussia Dortmund’s Lothar Emmerich, the leading goal scorer in 1966, who made football history with Sigi Held as the “Terrible Twins”, so massively unstoppable were their one-twos. “Give me the ball!” he yelled vehemently to his teammates. “Faced with a great one-two no defender has a clue!” No one knew that better than Emmerich. Fighting passionately to the very end. Always playing fair and never losing sight of the goal. Winning by playing as a team, even when things looked hopeless! That has been my motto in life ever since. And especially as a doctor in times such as the present.
© Dietrich Grönemeyer 2021-12-03