Star Goalie King Kahn Retires | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 17.05.2008
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Star Goalie King Kahn Retires

Legendary Bayern Munich and Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who retires this weekend after a distinguished career between the posts, was given a perfect send-off by Bayern by beating Hertha Berlin 4-1.

Oliver Kahn

Retiring...but certainly not shy: Oliver Kahn will not go quietly into his retirement

Champions Bayern Munich sent off Kahn in style on Saturday, May 17, with a neat demolition of Hertha Berlin thanks to a hat-trick from Luca Toni and one goal from Franck Ribery, their two outstanding players this season.

The former Germany keeper accepted a brief embrace from referee Markus Merk, who is also retiring, and modestly acknowledged the applause as he walked off.

He returned after the final whistle to receive the championship shield, his eighth German title at the end of a 21-year career.

"I couldn't have asked for any more over the years," Kahn told reporters. "I just feel grateful my body held out for so long, and I was able to celebrate so many great successes at a club like this."

"I wanted to be the best"

Oliver Kahn says he knew his destiny from childhood onwards and lived his life accordingly to become one of the most loved or hated figures in German and international football.

"It was my vision from early on: I wanted to be the best goalkeeper in the world. The best goalkeeper in the world! The best!" he says in his upcoming book "I - Success Comes From Within" of which excerpts are printed in the Bild daily.

An Asian swing with Munich will see his last matches with the finale coming for good on May 27 in Kolkata, India, against local club Mohan Bagun. A testimonial match with Munich against Germany's national team wraps up the farewell on September 2.

Kahn, who turns 39 on June 15, quits after 557 Bundesliga games, with only Karl-Heinz Koerbel (602) and Manfred Kaltz (581) playing more matches in the top flight.

The 86-time capped Kahn almost single-handed led Germany into the 2002 World Cup final, only to blunder there as Brazil won 2-0. He saved three penalties against Valencia in 2001 to give Bayern the Champions League trophy, one of 16 titles he won with Germany's number one club.

Revered by some, hated by others

Bayern Munich's goalie Oliver Kahn

Kahn has had a love-hate relationship with fans

Kahn has been named everything from "Titan" (in Germany) and "King Kahn" (Fans in Asia where he is immensely popular) to "Son of a Bitch" (angry Spanish fans who he frustrated so many times in matches against Real Madrid, Valencia or Getafe) during his career spanning almost two decades.

He was pelted with bananas and a golf ball by irate German fans, left his pregnant wife for a new girlfriend and physically attacked players himself.

But everything he did and said in one way or another only underlined his unique dedication.

The bananas were thrown in reference to his almost gorilla-like stature from many hours spent in the gym and on the training field.

His motto is "never give up," according to his profile on the Bayern website. His characteristics are listed there as "impatient, disciplined, ambitious."

From Karlsruhe to the world

Kahn's career started at SC Karlsruhe where he played his first Bundesliga match in 1987 and was a regular starter from 1990 onwards. He then left for Munich in 1994 to become a legend.

Oliver Kahn pokes his finger into the face of Miroslav Klose, then of Werder Bremen

Kahn gets up close and personal with Miro Klose

The almost brutal attacks on Dortmund's Heiko Herrlich and Stephane Chapuisat, Leverkusen's Thomas Brdaric, or even a Munich team-mate at the time in Andreas Herzog made plenty of headlines.

Kahn names them "positive aggression, saying: "I often use my body language to show my team 'complete presence' - and to instill respect, or even better fear, on the opponent.

Others had a different view of these outbursts.

"He didn't bite me, but I was happy because this unique athlete had shown a weakness," said Herrlich of the 1999 incident.

Regardless of his antics there is no debate that Kahn was a superb goalkeeper who won or lost many memorable matches.

An icon in iconic games

The 1999 Champions League final which Munich lost in the final minutes against Manchester United. The 2002 World Cup final in Yokohama, where the images of him sitting against the right post amid celebrating Brazilians are a lasting memory.

Brazil's Ronaldo, right, runs away after slotting the ball past Germany's Oliver Kahn, right, to score the opening goal during the 2002 World Cup final

Ronaldo scored two past Kahn in the 2002 World Cup final

Munich's Champions League triumph in 2001, the remarkable Bundesliga triumph a few days earlier that year from Patrick Andersson's goal. Or even just a few weeks ago the UEFA Cup match in Getafe where Kahn raced into the penalty area in the last seconds of extra time and Luca Toni scored the deciding goal.

By then Kahn's image had already become far more positive, due to fewer outbursts and the wisdom of an elder football statesman.

Then-coach Rudi Voeller named the 2002 World Cup the turning point with Kahn allowing just one goal in six matches to the final, and his error then making him "human after all."

But Kahn showed the biggest greatness in his darkest career hour, being downgraded to Germany's number two behind long-time foe Jens Lehmann by coach Juergen Klinsmann just ahead of the home World Cup in 2006.

The entire nation expected him to withdraw from the team, but instead Kahn showed himself to be a devoted member of the squad and then even walked up to wish Lehmann luck ahead of the penalty shootout with Argentina.

Respect from friends and foes alike

Germany's goalkeeper Jens Lehmann (R) is encouraged by Oliver Kahn

Kahn showed his magnanimous side in 2006

"I heard what Kahn said. It wasn't advice, it was encouragement. This gesture impressed me immensely. It was absolutely honest, absolute greatness...I bow before this sporting spirit of Oliver Kahn," said goalkeeper coach Andreas Koepke.

Even Arsenal's Lehmann had a fond message for Kahn last Saturday in ZDF television.

"Despite all our rivalry, I have got to say that your attitude has always impressed me immensely. I could never lose the motivation to train hard because I knew there was somebody in Munich who was training even harder or equally hard with the aim of being the best.

"It helped me to improve and also deal with competition for a place at club level and I thank you for that and wish you all the best for the future," said Lehmann.

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