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Kolkata to witness Bayern’s change of guard

sports Updated: Mar 19, 2008 22:58 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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The All India Football Federation (AIFF) willing, Bayern Munich's visit to Kolkata wouldn't be the only bit of history associated with the trip. The Salt Lake Stadium should actually see a change of guard. One where Oliver Kahn would hand over the goalkeeping reins to the young and promising Michael Rensing.

HT had reported on March 13 that Rensing, 23, would be part of the squad that will spend three days here and play Mohun Bagan on May 27.

Martin Haegele, the club's head of international affairs, confirmed that on Wednesday and said Kahn would help prepare Rensing for the responsibility by "letting him play a few minutes in the match."

Having joined Bayern in 2000, Rensing has risen through the ranks to succeed the man called King Kahn in southern Germany. Rensing has got starts and even replaced Kahn, once after injuring him during pre-match practice, but it will only be post-Kolkata that he will be on top of Bayern's pecking order.

Haegele also confirmed that Uli Hoeness, now general manager at Bayern and a former World Cup and European championship winner, will be part of the delegation. As a club official, Hoeness isn't as high-profile as Franz Beckenbauer and Karl Heinz Rummenigge (who too could come to Kolkata) but his contribution is as important if not more.

As a striker, he was part of the glamorous 70s Bayern side which had Sepp Maier and Beckenbauer among others. Hoeness, the sole survivor in a light aircraft crash in 1982, played 35 times for West Germany and joined Bayern as general manager in 1979 following a career-ending injury.

Developing Bayern's home stadium, the Allianz Arena stadium in the Munich suburb of Frotmanning, was one of Hoeness's projects.

Hoeness has supervised Bayern's emergence as a financial power in the football world and a club with a membership of over 100,000.

Haegele also said Bayern would hold a coaching clinic with school children and the best from there will spend time at their youth academy, meet first team players and visit the Arena.

Bayern will also have a fan shop, perhaps the first of its kind of a top international football club in India, at a shopping mall being built here by the Bengal Peerless Group, its managing director Kumar Shankar Bagchi said. The shop is likely to be inaugurated in September.

Bayern's visit, according to a message from chairman Rummenigge, is carrying forward a promise he made in "December 2005 when FC Bayern won the Eefa (IFA) Shield.

I had promised the fans that some time in future the real stars of Bayern will play here. We stay to our promise and on May 27… the announcement will become real.

"We are very proud to be the first top European club to play in India…. A partnership and friendship between Bayern and the huge Indian football family is very important and we are ready to develop football in India," the former West Germany captain said.

For that to happen though, an AIFF clearance is needed. Last Wednesday, the AIFF said it did not know of this trip.

Now it does but the clearance is still pending. Time will tell whether India's apex football body lets an opportunity of a lifetime pass it by.

Kahn intrigued with Kolkata farewell

In a grey T overlooking a training park, Oliver Kahn spoke through a translator to Bayern Munich's television channel about playing in Kolkata and visiting India. The footage was shown at Wednesday's media conference where Martin Haegele, Bayern's head of international affairs, spoke of the Bundesliga leaders' India trip. Over to Kahn:

Oliver Kahn, did you ever imagine that your last match as a professional would be in India?

Definitely not. I was mentally prepared for Berlin (perhaps because the German Cup final is traditionally played there). There is also my farewell match in September. Obviously I am intrigued at playing in front of such a large crowd.

Have you ever played in front of 125,000 people?

I will have to think.. In front of 100,000 for sure but 125,000 will be a first.

You are rated a superstar in parts of Asia and Japan but what do you know of India?

Yes, I have been to many places such as Japan and South Korea but I am excited at the prospect of getting to know India as I have heard they are really passionate about football.

Could you see yourself seeking out the best keeper in India?

(Laughs) Why not? India has a huge population like China but it is yet to be explored.

Are you looking forward to the Asia tour?

Certainly. We will be missing a few players but we’ll be putting up a very good team. We’re going there to enjoy ourselves so I think it will be a great farewell tour.