It’s doubtful that Christian Streich will be making much of a fuss this weekend when two anniversaries converge. His 55th birthday on Thursday and his 250th Bundesliga game in charge of Freiburg are however worthy of note as one of the most popular and charismatic figures in German football.
Hoffenheim’s decision to sack Alfred Schreuder this week was yet another example of the fickle nature of football and the transient nature of the modern coach. Indeed, this season in the Bundesliga, seven of the eighteen coaches who started the season have been fired. Christian Streich at Freiburg is footballing anomaly.
An unlikely hero
The Breisgauer have taken a different approach to the ‘hire and fire’ method of many Bundesliga clubs, perhaps because in Christian Streich, they have the very best trainer suited to them and they 100% appreciate what they have. Back in 2011 when they took the difficult decision to sack Marcus Sorg, they took the brave option of handing the reins to the departed trainer’s assistant. Yes, he knew the club inside out having been a player, coached the U-19 team for 16 years and been assistant to both Robin Dutt and Sorg, but with Freiburg mired in the relegation zone, the Streich choice was a gamble.
It was a gamble that paid off at the time continues to pay off for the Schwarzwald club. Streich guided Freiburg not just to safety, but a highly respectable 12th place finish. The next season they soared up into the heady heights of 5th– their highest-ever placing and achieved European qualification.
2014-15 saw relegation, but there was never really any question that the club would part company with their coach (as so often happens) and Streich duly led them back into the Bundesliga at the first time of asking and they have established themselves there ever since. Freiburg are a club of very modest means in comparison with the rest of the league, but year on year, Streich gets them playing and relegation has rarely threatened.
The Freiburg way
You only need to look at the SC Freiburg alumni list so see the recipe that the club have enjoyed so much success with under Christian Streich. Max Kruse, Roman Bürki, Matthias Ginter, Vladimir Darida, Vincenzo Grifo, Caglar Soyuncu, and many more have risen to prominence at the club under Streich’s tutelage, before moving on to ‘bigger’ clubs. The ability of the club to constantly lose key players, while bringing in new blood that matches the trainer’s specifications is key.
Speaking in an interview back in January to t-online former Freiburg midfielder Grifo had nothing but praise for Streich. “I learned everything from Christian Streich. He always saw something in me and shared his strength and knowledge with me. It was he who made me always strive for the best in me. Without Christian Streich I would not be the person I am now.
“You can ask any soccer player who played under him about Christian Streich and everyone will answer that he is a father figure. He has an incredible instinct. He always knows how and what to talk to whom about. These private conversations and moments make him a great trainer.
“Freiburg and Streich – that just fits like a fist on the eye. The coach has been with the club for such a long time that he knows the whole environment and its automatisms inside out. So, he knows how to work with players in Freiburg in order to develop them further. That’s why I think: Of course, no other club suits him so well – but why shouldn’t he be successful elsewhere? He is so solidly human that he would find his way anywhere. On the other hand, he loves Freiburg too much to change this beautiful city for Manchester.”
Straight from the horse’s mouth.
It is not just in the environs of the Schwarzwald Stadion that Streich is loved. His personality and enthusiasm make him an admired figured throughout German football. Aside from his extremely thick southwest accent, which makes him difficult for non-natives to understand, Streich is a highly relatable guy. His passion and theatrics on the sidelines match that of the everyday fan, while his dead-pan interviews and witty quotes are always likely to provide a laugh.
When asked once why his side had not ever picked up a single point against Borussia Dortmund, he answer was to the point- “We always lost.” Whether he is comparing life at Freiburg to buying mustard in a supermarket, speaking out against humanitarian issues, or getting decked by a rampaging Frankfurt defender, Streich is always good for an amusing headline. There is (like Jürgen Klopp) substance behind the personality and it is for a good reason that he’s the Bundesliga’s longest serving coach and now ranks ninth overall in Germany for matches with one club (Otto Rehhagel tops with 493, while ex-Freiburg trainer Volker Finke has 390).
So, it’s happy birthday, congratulations on the 250th Bundesliga match, and here’s hoping we get to enjoy Christian Streich doing what Christian Streich does for many more years.