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After Kolkata Knight Riders, Horn to work with Germany

Manager Bierhoff has been coordinating with legend
Mike Horn, in the city, on Tuesday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Three years after playing a behind-the-scenes role in India’s cricket World Cup-winning campaign, explorer Mike Horn, regarded as an institution, will be trying to help Germany regain the soccer World Cup.

The 47-year-old is a motivational guru of sorts, who draws heavily on his experiences.

Horn, who arrived in the city on Tuesday, after a successful expedition to Mount Makalu (fifth-highest in the world), has come on an invitation from the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Last month, Horn spent about a week with the Knights in the UAE, before IPL VII got underway.

Horn spoke to The Telegraph, at the ITC Sonar, a couple of hours after checking-in.

A word of caution for Horn fans: His handshake is, well, firm with a capital F.

Excerpts...

Q How did the German football federation get in touch with you?

A (Smiles) Really don’t know how they got my contact details and who recommended my name.

Who has been interacting with you on behalf of the team?

Oliver Bierhoff, the manager... He’s given me a briefing, spelling out their expectations and the plans they have for the World Cup.

It’s a first for you...

Yes, in that I haven’t worked with a soccer team preparing for the World Cup.

Are you excited that you’ll be working with the Philipp Lahms and the Bastian Schweinsteigers?

It should be interesting... Germany have a great reputation and they have a very good team... I’m certainly looking forward to giving inputs. Hopefully, I will be contributing to a winning cause.

You’ve worked with the Sachin Tendulkars and the Jacques Kallis’s, but won’t the upcoming assignment still be challenging?

Sure, it’s a big challenge... The German culture is very different from, say, the Indian culture. People here are a bit more emotional and have strong links with the family. To do well, I’ll first have to understand the culture.

You’ll be expected to make a difference...

But like I can’t take wickets or score runs when I work with cricketers, I won’t do the scoring when I work with soccer players. I can only help them, bridge gaps wherever needed.

From a distance, what’s your understanding of Germans?

They’re hard as rock, different from Indians! I don’t stay far from Germany, though.

[Horn resides in Lausanne, Switzerland.]

When do you start working with the Germans?

From June 9, at the Germans’ base (Bahia, near Porto Seguro). Of course, I’ll be reaching Brazil on June 4 itself, days after the IPL final... Germany’s in Group B and their first match, against Portugal, is on June 16. So, I’ll be with them for a week.

What do you intend telling the Lahms?

I’ll be emphasising the values a team should have, the bonding aspect. My belief is that problems begin when the mind is cluttered, so I’ll be trying to get rid of any baggage the players could have. I do quite a bit of one-on-ones, so that’s something I’m looking forward to.

Germany have a stupendous record in the World Cup... In fact, after their third and last success, in 1990, they’ve made at least the quarter final in every edition... But why have they not regained the most prized trophy for 24 years? What has been coming in the way?

That Germany have an amazing record is there in black and white... There come moments, in a team sport, when one or two players have to step up... Have to raise the bar. That, perhaps, didn’t happen... Could be because the players weren’t up to it mentally.

At the highest level, what makes the difference?

The skill-level is the same, it’s more about the space you are in mentally. It’s about being in your zone.

Do you have a favourite team in soccer?

The team I work with is my favourite! Germany have a very good chance, so do hosts Brazil... Personally, I’d like a European side to win, but if that does happen, then it may not be good for Brazil’s economy... Actually, it won’t matter as long as the best team wins.

To talk of the Knights... Have you met any of them?

I just bumped into Yusuf Pathan.

What did Yusuf say?

That 22-ball 72 (against the Sunrisers Hyderabad) has transformed Yusuf... The innings seems to have revived him, made him hungry... I’ll be meeting all of them later in the day.

So, it’s a changed Yusuf?

Absolutely... You pay players to perform a certain role... Yusuf has done that, giving his franchise two shots at getting to Sunday’s final.

Message for the Knights, who have made the play-offs...

It’s going to get tougher now... Like a mountaineer who has reached the summit, they should look to return to the base camp alive. It’s important for the Knights not to attempt anything different. Never change what works for you.

Lastly... What are your plans after the assignment with Germany? You can’t sit still, can you?

I sail across the Atlantic and, September onwards, I’ll seek to become the first to circumnavigate the world, in 360 days, via the two Poles. That, for me, will be the next level... The next challenge.