Today I'd like to write about a story which only the beautiful game of football can write. It's about a journey in life...
In January 2009 the second team of German Bundesliga giants FC Bayern Munich once more visited Kolkata as part of their preparations for the return leg of the German third division. And in Holger Badstuber and Thomas Mueller two boys were part of the squad who are now travelling with the German national team to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
What a career the two boys have had since their Kolkata journey. I remember being asked while down in India if this is really a quality side that Bayern Munich have send to Kolkata. In their two matches against East Bengal Club, a 1-0 in the first game and then a 5-1 trashing in the second match was prove enough. Still those questions were asked, but now there is even better prove of this fact with these two players less then 17 months later going on to play a FIFA World Cup.
When new coach Louis van Gaal joined the Bavarian giants last summer the duo of Holger Badstuber and Thomas Mueller were regularly training with the senior team and they had a real chance of being part of the main 17/18 player squad whom van Gaal would mainly use during the course of the season as one knows that the Dutchman has an eye for talent.
In the pre-season friendlies Badstuber would regularly play in the heart of defence alongside Daniel van Buyten as the club had sold Lucio to Inter Milan and Martin Demichelis was still injured. As the season progressed Demichelis came back into the team, but Badstuber remained part of the first eleven as he moved into the left back position. Thomas Mueller meanwhile was the utility man upfront, able to play on both wings, in the centre as a withdrawn striker or even upfront as the lone striker. He started the season as striker no. 5, but ended it as the only striker to play through all season.
One would have never thought that this duo would be part of this seasons core Bayern team that would go on to win the German Bundesliga and Cup titles plus reach the UEFA Champions League final.
This did not go unnoticed with the German national team management. Thomas Mueller got his first call-up for the friendly against Argentina in March 2010. But for Badstuber it looked unlikely that he would get a call-up for the FIFA World Cup with other options available. But the biggest strength of both players is the fact that at their young age they can play in numerous positions. Both players were called into the 27 member provisional squad and then also made it into the final 23.
And like their Bayern team mates they joined late due to their Champions League engagement, but still they were in the thick of action impressing in training.
Germany has a problem in the left back position if captain Philipp Lahm plays on the right and this was a chance for Badstuber to impress the team management. He did it in style against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mueller meanwhile was tipped to start this game, but had to warm the bench initially. He came on in the second half and impressed everyone with his positive approach. And now it looks likely that both Holger Badstuber and Thomas Mueller could make the starting eleven against Australia on June 13.
Still there is added pressure on Thomas Mueller then he will be wearing the legendary No. 13 of his godfather Gerd Mueller, who won Germany the World Cup in 1974, plus has inherited the number from injured captain Michael Ballack. Still this doesn't bother the youngster who just goes out and plays football.
It's surely an impressive journey these two players have had since they were in the "City of Joy" in January 2009. And surely Kolkata will wish these boys all the best in the tournament and would hope to see them again sometime in the future. But then maybe as international superstar.
And this is proven by the statistics
- 21 year old Holger Badstuber went on to play 33 of the 34 Bundesliga games, 49 official games overall.
- 20 year old Thomas Mueller played all 34 Bundesliga matches scoring 13 goals, while playing 52 games overall in which he scored 19 times and had 17 assists.