| Stefan Effenberg during the presentation of his book I Showed Them All in a Berlin bookstore Thursday. (Reuters)
Berlin: Former Germany midfielder and Bayern Munich captain Stefan Effenberg has angered the German FA, the country’s fans, the media, his fellow players and a host of coaches during a remarkable and very successful career.
But the Enfant Terrible of German soccer, who is back in the headlines because of the amorous exploits he describes in his new memoirs I Showed Them All, is unrepentant.
“I’m used to criticism from all my years as a professional footballer. The criticism is just there. It’s normal,” said the platinum-blond Effenberg, wearing a T-shirt with the motto “Be nice”, as he launched his book at a Berlin store.
Advance publicity has focused on racy photographs in the book of Effenberg and his partner Claudia Strunz, wife of former Bayern player Thomas Strunz, who found out about their affair when he read a text message from Effenberg on her mobile phone.
“But I urge my critics to read the book first, then see if they are still critical,” said the 34-year-old player, who has won three German championships, the German Cup twice, three German League Cups and one Champions League medal.
“I’ve always gone my own way, always swum against the tide. And I think I’ve reaped the benefits of this,” he said.
Tantalising excerpts of the book have appeared in the mass-circulation Bild newspaper, which used erotic black-and-white shots of the couple to publicise the serialisation on billboard posters.
In one picture, a blindfolded Strunz kisses Effenberg’s stomach while in another the pair sit in the bath showing off new tattoos done to celebrate their new-found love. Claudia Strunz’s tattoo contains a grammatical error, reading “Real Love Never Die” instead of “Real Love Never Dies”, but Effenberg says there are no plans to change it.
The recent publicity is nothing new to Effenberg, a Hamburg native who served an apprenticeship as a postal worker. He has rarely been out of the headlines during his career.
He played 35 games for Germany but coach Berti Vogts sent him home from the 1994 World Cup in the United States after he gave fans the unmistakable, raised middle-digit gesture, known in German as the “Stinkefinger”, after being substituted. He made a brief comeback in 1998 after Vogts was fired but his international career never really recovered.
Effenberg ended his Bundesliga career last month after repeated run-ins with VfL Wolfsburg coach Juergen Roeber and is now considering going to Qatar — he said he would decide in 10 days if he would make a move or not.
He also ran into trouble while playing for Bayern Munich, being criticised and briefly dropped last year after saying that many unemployed people in Germany were too lazy to look for work. Two years ago he paid a $75,000 out-of-court settlement after being charged with assault for hitting a woman in a Munich nightclub. Effenberg appeared in 351 Bundesliga matches for Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern and 19 games for Wolfsburg and played 56 Serie A games in Italy for Fiorentina.
He won three Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich and the German Cup as well as the Champions League, scoring eight goals in 38 Champions League appearances. He won the German Cup once with Moenchengladbach in 1995.
In I Showed Them All, Effenberg criticises Lothar Matthaeus for his attitude in Bayern Munich’s 1-2 dramatic defeat by Manchester United in the 1999 Champions League final, calling the former Germany captain “a real quitter”.
He also attacks Matthaeus for letting Andreas Brehme take the penalty that sealed Germany’s 1-0 victory over Argentina in the 1990 World Cup final in Rome.
His publishing company said there had been 125,000 advance orders for the book for an initial print run of 250,000 and a second printing was planned.
As well as commentating on football on television, Effenberg has a new project to become an artist and said he planned an exhibition of paintings in Hamburg next year. “It’s like this: if you do something, such as painting and it’s fun and your friends like it and tell you to keep it up, then why not'” he said.