Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bernd Stange has had a crazier life than you

Stange thinking about possible ghostwriters during a break in the action

As the hours tick down before England's clash with Belarus in Minsk tonight, much is being made in the press about Belarus coach Bernd Stange and his wild and crazy life. Whereas most footballers fill their lives with sex, porn, alcoholism and debauchery, Stange's career has featured the complete opposite: spying, firings, sultans, and Saddam Hussein.

It was reported a few weeks ago in my favourite footballing periodical (one that's well worth the extra Euros for a subscription in the US), but it bears playing out the highlights, all of which can be found just about anywhere today.

I get it, he managed the Iraqi team, he was a Stasi informant for many years, and now he's plying his trade in Belarus, a place the US State Department singled out as "Europe’s only remaining outpost of tyranny," which, as a student of political rhetoric, has a charming oratorial ring to it.

Despite all the drama and personal background that'd be perfect for another Jason Bourne movie, Stange is all about the results:
I have worked for communist regimes, a dictator, capitalists and for a sultanate. But my work is always the same. It’s only ever about one thing – putting the ball in the net.
It sure is, Bernd, it sure is. Arsenal might need you soon.

But all joking aside, is it impossible that he could eventually land a managerial job somewhere a little more high-profile?

He's managed several teams to league titles (FC Carl Zeiss Jena, Perth Glory, Apollon Limassol in Cyprus) as well as boosting Belarus to their highest FIFA Ranking ever, bumping them up 35 spots to 59th in just 15 months on the job.

Looking at the EPL, for example, there are several teams that could use his unique blend of fear, surveillance, dictatorial leadership and thirst for goals*. After all, if he can grind out results with Apollon Limassol, a side that just about avoided relegation the year Stange took over, only to win the League and Super Cup double the next season, how much harm could he do with the ineptitude being cultivated at White Hart Lane?

Stange has even commented on the subject, given his obvious love for a challenge: "I do like challenges but Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich didn't call me to take their clubs."

Considering the rumors that Juventus are targeting Rafa Benitez, I'll be the first to make the completely dumb proposition that Stange could end up at Anfield, although let's be honest -- the only way he ends up there is if his plane to New York stops at John Lennon International Airport to refuel.

And anyway, we all know he'd be much better off back in the Bundesliga.

* My first ludicrous, Bleacher Report-esque assertion in UF history

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