Michael Ballack: Ciao Capitano!
As Michael Ballack brings the curtain down on a sensational career, writer Prasanna Mainkar looks at his international career and assesses whether he deserved more
Michael ballack – at the age of seven years started training for football – who knew he would become one of the most successful captains for his country one day. He debuted for the German national team at the age of 22 and was instantly a crucial part of the side which starred greats like Oliver Kahn and Oliver Bierhoff. Alongside Dieter Hamann and Bernd Schneider, Ballack was one of the key players in Germany’s astonishing run to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final.
“His goal tally was sensational. He has developed enormously. He not only scored the crucial goals but has also learned to shoulder responsibility.” – Rudi Voller told Michael-Ballack.com, on Ballack being voted The German Footballer of the year 2002.
Following the Euro 2004 debacle – Germany succumbing to an exit in the group stage itself, the then coach Jurgen Klinsmann appointed Michael Ballack as the new Deutsch Captain. As a captain, Ballack proved influential on field and dominated the midfield play scoring goals freely and consistently. He led the country with great distinction when they hosted the World Cup in 2006 and finished third.
“He is very important for our team always and he did a lot of special things in this tournament. He was our leader and he represented the team and Germany superbly.” – Joachim Loew told the Metro, on Ballack after losing the Euro 2008 Final to Spain.
Ballack is still unforgotten for the missile like free kick against Austria which put the Germans through the group stage in Euro 2008. Adding to the heartbreak of losing in the World Cup 2002 Final was losing Euro 2008 Final.
Ballack would however love to forget the happenings before and after the World Cup 2010. Firstly, being ruled out of the tournament with an injury and subsequently losing his captaincy permanently to the temporary captain Philip Lahm. Also, he missed out on a landmark 100 caps for the national team and was then informed by coach Joachim Loew that he wasn’t going to feature in the team’s future plans.
To set the sun on his career, he was offered to reach his 99th cap and then play a final match for his country in a friendly by the DFB, which Ballack declined claiming “It felt like charity” Even after announcing his retirement last year in October, he was denied a farewell game.
In his tenure, he won a number of personal accolades, however he was always denied a chance at glory with the national team. After having served his country for over a decade, couldn’t he have had a better end to his international career? Was it fair to exile him from the squad just so to assemble a new younger team? Didn’t he deserve to be given the free will to give up his captaincy or be asked respectfully to step down? Was this disrespect? Or just severe mis-timing and bad luck? Its arguable.
Ballack recently announced that he would be hosting a farewell match in June and has resolved his dispute with Loew by inviting him.
“I want to say goodbye in an honourable way to colleagues and fans and to thank those people who developed me, supported me and challenged me in my career.” – Ballack told the Daily Mail, on his decision for hosting a farewell match for himself.
No doubt Ballack is a German legend who deserved a better ending for his playing days.
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