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Reaching new heights

Berlin: Oliver Kahn, whose superb reflexes and raw determination inspired Germany’s World Cup revival, could reach new heights by becoming the first goalkeeper to receive the Fifa Player of the Year award.

The Germanis the first goalkeeper to be shortlisted for the prize since its introduction in 1991. Making history would be nothing new for the 33-year-old Germany and Bayern Munich skipper, already the first goalkeeper to have won the Golden Ball award for the best player at a World Cup.

The World Cup final turned into a nightmare for Kahn, whose blunder enabled Ronaldo to open the scoring.

King Kahn, as the German fans like to call him, not only stopped everything thrown at him but also proved a great motivator, saying from the start of the tournament that Germany, regarded by many as below par, had the right to be ambitious.

Once a frail teenager with limited skills, Kahn was regarded as average in his early years and had to wait patiently while first Bodo Illgner then Andreas Koepke kept the Germany job.

Kahn, who was obsessed with perfection from an early age and used to wake his father up on Sunday mornings because he wanted to train, became his country’s undisputed number one only once Koepke had retired after the 1998 World Cup in France.

Not unlike Peter Schmeichel with the same massive frame and shock of blond hair, Kahn, who hardly ever smiles even when he cracks a joke, replaced the former United and Denmark great as arguably the world’s best goalkeeper with a fantastic season at Bayern last year.

For years a discreet family man, he started to change after Bayern’s Champions League triumph. Wearing designer clothes and sporting a fancy haircut, he appeared frequently in television shows and advertising campaigns. He also bought a Ferrari.

“I think he’s lost it a bit,” Schalke midfielder Andreas Moeller said of Kahn before the World Cup. Since that statement, Kahn has crashed back to earth but his revised image as less than superhuman has not necessarily done him any harm.

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