iN HiS GloRy dAyS, GERMANy'S ACE dRibblER, piERRE "litti" littbARSki, HAd HiS SiGHtS SEt fiRMly oN tHE bACk of tHE NEt witH uNStoppAblE RESultS. Now HiS GoAl iS to pASS oN HiS SkillS to tHE NExt GENERAtioN AS HE pRoMotES A viSioN of footbAll AS A poSitivE GlobAl foRCE. TEXT BY CHRISTIAN DIGBY-FIRTH PHOTOS BY RAmI HANAFI AND ImAGo SpoRTFoToDIeNST s Pierre Littbarski sees it, "all the world loves football." There was certainly a time when fans around the globe couldn't get enough of his dazzling performance on the pitch. Scoring a remarkable 116 goals for FC Köln and 18 for the German national team in the 1980s, netting more when he moved on to French and Japanese clubs "Litti" Littbarski's career total of 153 goals stands high in the record books even today. With an international career and following behind him, Littbarski is in no doubt about the game's role and his own in promoting better understanding in a fractured world. Regularly breaking off from his coaching job at VfL Wolfsburg, he jets 9,000 kilometres to Japan to teach young hopefuls at a leading Yokohama sports academy. StAR SEARCH "[Coaching] is a totally different experience and I just love passing on my skills to the youngsters. Most important: we all have a lot of fun. I travel to Yokohama as often as I can four times there and back in one recent month," he says. Based on an integrated concept of intensive playing and learning, the Yokohama academy enables boys to obtain school diplomas in their studies while also giving them an opportunity to develop their game potentially to a professional level. Several graduates have gone on to play in the Japanese J1 and J2 Leagues, and the academy has done much to raise the profile of football in a country that traditionally puts baseball at the head of its national sports. a "My favourite TV programme is the X-Factor, and teaching the boys is a bit like that", Littbarski says. "I try to give them hope, show them that success can be theirs, but also tell them the truth. Just like Simon Cowell. Because the fact is that some are going to make it but others need to consider their options." Littbarski's main piece of advice for today's young people is to not fear the possibility of mistakes. "Keep studying and search for different directions in life. Same thing on the pitch: don't look back, look forward to the next chance to score," he says. A kiCk ovER tHE wAll Fifty-year-old Littbarski grew up in 1960s Berlin. These were grim times for the divided city, with the Wall recently erected and post-war deprivation still widespread. Littbarski says that his grandfather inspired him to pursue football as a career option. "He was my first big fan", he says, "buying me a decent football, taking me to matches and always, always encouraging me. Even so, I was only about five years old, quite shy too, and not exactly the tallest kid on the block. And the local lads could be scary. "But then I discovered an amazing thing: with a brand-new ball at my feet and a little fancy footwork, I was instantly accepted, one of the boys. That was my first taste of how football brings everyone together in the love of the game and I still believe it." A GlowiNG lEGACy Litti's star rose rapidly. Signed by FC Köln at 18 and West Germany Under-21s a year later, he was part of the national team from 1981 to 1990. Playing as winger or attacking midfielder, Pierre made a total of 73 appearances for his country and earned 93 caps. Among many high points in Littbarski's career is a victory in the 1990 FIFA World Cup when, following successive nearmisses in 1982 and 1986, he finally lifted the trophy after Germany conquered Argentina in Rome. At club level, an equally proud moment saw him scoring the decisive goal in a nailbiting 1983 10 victory by Cologne against local rivals Fortuna. In 1985, his goal against Werder Bremen was crowned Goal of the Year an unforgettable play that showcases Pierre's dribbling genius and can still be marvelled at on football websites. lifE oN tHE pitCH Characteristic of his unassuming nature, Littbarski can scarcely recall what he's done with his many medals and cups. But there's one trophy that does have pride of place in Littbarski's home: a simple turf cut from the Stadio Olimpico pitch in Rome, the scene of his World Cup triumph. "It means everything to me", he says. "After all, I've spent my whole life on the grass. And in the end, that experience is the one thing really worth treasuring." After he hung up his boots in 1997, Littbarski forged a new international career as an in-demand coach and manager across the globe. In 1998, he joined Cologne teammate Yasuhiko Okudera (the first Japanese player to play professionally in Europe and a man often described as "Japan's David Beckham") to help form Yokohama FC. Under Okudera as president and himself as manager, Yokohama quickly rose through the lowly Japan Football League and was promoted to top-flight J League first division in 2006. Coaching stints followed in Australia, Japan again, Iran and Lichtenstein until, in June this year, Litti came home appointed assistant coach of German club VfL Wolfsburg alongside manager and fellow footy superstar Steve McLaren. "This return to the Bundesliga is a dream MARCH 2011 blUe Wings 61 ENG
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