FC Bayern – Miasanrot Advent Calendar, Door 10: Arjen Robben
On 5 June 2022, a man wearing shorts and a jacket with the words “Trainer” printed on it enters the premises of the Düsseldorf club TSV Eller. The situation is nothing out of the ordinary, after all, an international youth football tournament is taking place here today on this cloudy Sunday. The man has not come alone either, he is accompanied by a group of 13-14 year-old boys, whose coach he is. The man, who is greeted warmly by the local club management, is Arjen Robben.
Everything there is to write about Arjen Robben’s career and his exceptional place in the history of FC Bayern has been written, here on Miasanrot as well as elsewhere. But what has Mr. Wembley been doing since the end of his active playing days?
After Robben had eventually called time on his professional career, he built a house in the town of his birth Groningen and asked the local football club with the funny name “Be Quick 1887” around the corner if he could volunteer as a youth coach. He has now been coaching his son Luka’s youth team since the 21/22 season.
His job: voluntary work. His commitment: Robben-like. His attitude: unpretentious. Probably no one in the small club would have blamed him if he hadn’t travelled with them from Groningen to the working-class district of Düsseldorf (“In Eller stirbste schneller”, (in Eller you have an earlier death) they say about this corner of the state capital) to stand around here on a village square in a light drizzle and look after the boys. But when Arjen does something, he does it right. I was lucky enough to have been informed about the prominent guest in the south of Düsseldorf from two unrelated sources – and so I believed it and went straight there, saw him immediately on the edge of the pitch, engrossed in conversation with coaches from the other clubs. One of them, the normal one. Nearby, I recognised his parents. They too had travelled the 270km distance to watch their grandson kick and their son perform in his new coaching job.
It was a surreal situation: while Arjen Robben was trying to concentrate seriously on his duties as a youth coach, putting up cones and supervising his team’s warm-up, the spectators present and the other youth teams were abuzz with excitement. When a ball rolled over to him from the neighbouring training ground, Arjen passed it directly back to a boy. The boy erupted in glee, shouting to his friends: “boy, I played tiki taka with Robben!”
Then his team’s first game began. Arjen highly attentive on the sidelines, intervening again and again with commands and gestures. Notable: all of this exclusively positive and appreciative. Anyone who misplaced a pass was cheered up, anyone who had a successful action was praised loudly.
There was no “Alleinikov” (one going alone) here, no self-centered guy wanting to shine more than anything else. I was happy to see the true “private” Arjen Robben. A Robben who puts his experience at the service of a youth team and obviously doesn’t see this coaching job as a nice pastime, but as a task to be taken seriously.
As the game progressed, the excitement of the spectators gradually subsided: there really was no “star” on the sports field at Vennhauser Allee, but a normal youth coach, one of many. After the final whistle blew, he joined players, parents and spectators in the queue at the cake buffet.