By- Oma Akatugba
We had met after a game in his club’s stadium. A fantastic coach, his knowledge of the game was absolutely overwhelming. He has travelled far and wide, in his pursuit of football players and making them better professionals.
Uwe Erkenbrecher, 65, a German football coach has spent 32 years in football. A former footballer who never really cut a teeth professionally, he diverted his attention to the discovery of players and making them better.
In our chat, he agreed that he was not a fantastic professional.
”I used to be a professional player in the first and second divisions but I was not a very good professional footballer.”
His passion for the game ensured he would vie for a degree in Sports. After his degree, he has worked in 21 different clubs and has quite a geographical reach.
”I enrolled for a diploma of sports in Cologne in the 70s and I started my coaching career afterwards. I’ve been to 21 different clubs. I worked 9 months in Indonesia, 1 year in Estonia, 5 months in Iran, and I worked in Germany in different jobs. I’m still here for football. It’s a long time.”
A natural, he said his natural affection for football was not out of the blues.
”It was not my plan to live football. I started playing football at 6 years, and I had a man who brought me into football after speaking to my parents. He was at Hacken, Western Germany. My father was a customer of the manager. He agreed and I started football. I didn’t go to football, football came to me.”
Uwe helped German Bundesliga side, VFL Wolfsburg to gain promotion to the second division of German football, just after taking them into the third division. He believes that’s the finest moment of his career as he brought the club from nothing and made them start a reign in the country’s football.
”Wolfsburg were in the third division, and I brought them to the second division in 1992.
”1997, I was coach of the U-23 and they were in the first division. 13 years, they were in the second division but since then, they never went down again.
”There was striker who scored 23 goals in the 3rd division, and few games to the end of the season, he scored 9 goals in 6 games. In the second division, he scored 21 goals.
”Our rise was going fast. I’ve had chance to go to the first division. We played 2-2 against Gladbach.”0
It’s been very nice to be in this job. Football is not just football, there are many things behind it. It’s an all encompassing sport. Football like sports bring people together.
I like to be everywhere. Everywhere is uniquely different and special. You can put me anywhere and I’ll do well. The whole world is interesting.
If you have talent for football, that’s not an accident. We have a football god perhaps who helped me come to this part.
I played 8 years for Bremen, 5 years with the junior and 2 and a half with the seniors. Then I played for Eintracht Braunschweig in the second division.
In the 70s there was no manager or agent. After high school, I thought it’s good to go to the university and I headed to Cologne for my tertiary education. It brought a new path in my life.
We have German High School of Sports. My wife was in track and field, I was in football, tennis and we met for the first time through sports. I like to jog, go hiking, I’m all about sports.
My family is all sports. My eldest son works for Sky as a professional Bundesliga reporter since 9 years now. He lives in Munich. His name is Yannick.
I tell my players you don’t need examinations, but you need football examinations. Good education.
Germany brings young kids to academies and they have to go to school, make good grades, and be free for sports.
You need to be realistic. We are playing in the 5th division. The academies, first and second division, they have so many players, physios, doctors, everything.
If you are not in the circle, you’ll not make it in football.
When we take players, we help them with good jobs, and if you don’t do the jobs, you won’t make it.
Between 18-30 and 33, you build confidence for yourself, and build a life for yourself later. A sportsman with education thinks differently, very differently.
I tell my boys to be fair, love football, see the other side and and do something else too.
Mentality of Players
Football is universal. The players are the same everywhere. The mentalities are different however, but it is learnt later and that’s where education comes in. If you are in touch with players, and they give their best, players are the same.
Also in track & field, you can have some people very good. Japanese used to do well in table tennis, and now they are better. The improvement is gradual. Initially, you don’t see a difference but you’ll see it with time.
Black players are more emotional and I think we in Germany like to have plan for family.
We are very stubborn in Germany. Africans are not that stubborn. You have to bring the players down, convince them and say you can’t lose everything in one week.
Take time and have patience.
At Wolfsburg, we had a guy, a wonderful attacker. Wolfsburg were in the third division, and I brought them to the second division in 1992.
1997, I was coach of the U-23 and they were in the first division. 13 years, they were in the second division but since then, they never went down again.
There was striker who scored 23 goals in the 3rd division, and few games to the end of the season, he scored 9 goals in 6 games. In the second division, he scored 21 goals.
”Our rise was going fast.
”I’ve had chance to go to the first division. We played 2-2 against Gladbach.
I don’t follow football. I’ve seen too much football. I go to the Bundesliga two times in a half season. Just to add to my tactics, and do better as a coach.
What Does He Look Out For In Players?
”Very important for me is the speed. I have 8 players in my team with good pace. I see technique of a player. If technique and speed works together, I see good basics. I see man to man attacks.
”Football is very complex. Your experience after years help you 100%. To find techniques, speed, long endurance, tactics, anticipation.
”You see new things in football. If I see 40, 50 minutes of a game, I’m done.”
Differences In The Places He Has Worked
”Estonia is organised. Indonesia is crazy and different. Iran has a problem with its political situation. They close stadiums anyhow, and they can’t communicate in English.
”You try to understand mentality. We are time conscious in Germany. Different cultures in different people.
”I have had a good player from Gambia. I was sometimes in touch with African players.
”As coach, it’s important to work everywhere they like football. Where they use techniques, programmes, show them how to train. I don’t like women football although.
”I’m open to go to Africa for coaching training and pour my experience out. I’ll never say no to such opportunities. If the money is good too, I will go.
Players & Training
”My players are more amateurs. We train 5:45. The 5th division in Germany is for small money.
On if he knows Super Eagles Head Coach, Gernot Rohr;
Erkebrecher said; ”I know him. He was a right winger in his days, about my age.”
”Racism is not a problem in football, it is a problem in our communities. We mix everything together and everybody is shouting. We’ve never had it this bad, but I don’t see it as a problem. In Germany, it’s not easy. So many people are coming in and it’s not easy for them.
”I think many fans feel strong in a group, and abuse racially. Individually, they can’t do anything.
”We get too many wrong information. People are easily manipulated. I’m educated and liberal and I can think for myself.”