Christian Streich: Freiburg's free spirit
- Christian Streich managed to save Freiburg from the drop despite inheriting a side bottom of the table at Christmas
- The 46-year-old has a strong south-western accent but has managed to disguise it well in official interviews
- Freiburg won seven and drew four of their 17 matches under his stewardship in the second half of the season
- Streich admits he is unlikely to remain head coach long-term, claiming: "It's not a job you can do for ten years"
Munich - Christian Streich has won many friends since taking the helm at SC Freiburg at the turn of the year. In the dugout, the 46-year-old's record speaks for itself: After inheriting a squad which lay bottom of the table and five points adrift of safety prior to the winter break, he managed to breathe fresh life into the team, leading them to seven wins and four draws in the second half of the season and an eventual mid-table finish.
Yet rather than the herculean feat of saving the Breisgau club's Bundesliga skin, it is his honest and likeable demeanour which makes him such a favourite in the German media, as bundesliga.de reveals...
Son of a butcher
Born on 11 June 1965 in Weil am Rhein on the German-Swiss border, Christian Streich was immersed from the start in the family butchers' business. From a young age, he became used to welcoming people from all walks of life and inherited an "open door policy" from his mother which he "maintains to this day", even in the media-intrusive world of the Bundesliga. "If anyone came to our butchers' shop after closing time, my mum would still give them some meat or a sausage - sometimes from our own kitchen," explained Streich. "That definitely made an impression on me, that way of dealing with other people."
Career cut short
Streich's football journey began with amateur outfit Freiburger FC, from whom he was plucked after winning the local championship by Stuttgart Kickers, at the time a Regional Bundesliga 2 side. Remaining in the south-western state of Baden Württemberg, he joined his current employers SC Freiburg for a season in 1987. Having finally made it into the top tier with a move to FC Homburg in the 1989/90 season, Streich's playing career was cut frustratingly short by a broken metatarsal after just ten Bundesliga appearances.
Despite being a professional in Germany's elite league, Streich lived with an 80-year-old grandmother during his time in Homburg and subsequently shared a flat with a medical student. This, along with his career-ending injury, must have inspired him to resume his own studies and before long he had retaken his higher school leaving certificate and begun a degree in German, with additional modules in History and Sport. Eventually Streich became a qualified teacher, which won't have done him any harm in his later work as a coach.
Searching for a new challenge once his playing days were done, the budding tactician took the initiative by paying the late Achim Stocker a visit. "Pop by the Under-15 team training some time," the former SC Freiburg president told him. That was 17 years ago. Streich has since held the positions of U-19 coach (winning three German Youth Cups and one national title between 1995 and 2011), Head of Youth Development and later first team assistant to former head coach Marcus Sorg. He also oversaw the development of future internationals Dennis Aogo (now at Hamburger SV), Sascha Riether (1. FC Köln) and Ömer Toprak (Bayer Leverkusen), making him the logical choice to succeed Sorg as the man in charge.
The only problem was: Streich didn't want the job. Not only did he feel he would be treading on his former boss Marcus Sorg's toes, he was also concerned about the pressures of modern football management at the highest level, not to mention the consequences were the club to be relegated. "There's so much resting on this role - jobs, people," he told friends when offered the post. "What happens if it all goes wrong? Would I be to blame?" Ultimately it was the memory of Achim Stocker which convinced him to accept. "Herr Stocker always said: Sometimes you have to accept the responsibility."
Down to earth
Aside from his animated performance on the touchline during Freiburg's match against Hertha back in November, it is Christian Streich's unpretentious nature which has earned him the appreciation of Bundesliga fans not just in Freiburg, but up and down the country. "I'm not exactly your ideal marketing product," admits the father of two: "I'm just a normal guy - no tattoos, no piercings." The press soon picked up on the fact that he cycles to the club's stadium for home matches - hardly the norm for most top-level coaches, but a habit Streich is not likely to give up any time soon: "I cycle because I live 300 metres away from the stadium. It'd be a lot stranger if I drove that distance!"
Accent on communication
The stress of top-level management was not the only thing which put Streich off accepting the top job at the MAGE SOLAR Stadion. Seeing himself on television every week was also a deterrent: "'How do I look?' 'Stop fidgeting with your hands.' 'Stop grimacing.' These are all things I never even thought of before. I also have to be careful not to speak too much in my local dialect, otherwise the people up in Flensburg [in the north of Germany] won't be able to understand me." Thankfully his studies of the German language have given him a solid arsenal of vocabulary with which to negotiate his way through the many interviews he is now obliged to give.
Having enjoyed considerable success at youth level for almost two decades, it was no surprise to see Streich give several emerging talents a chance in the Freiburg first team once he took over. In his first game in charge he gave debuts to Oliver Sorg and Matthias Ginter, and the latter capped his first ever Bundesliga appearance with a headed winner against FC Augsburg. Youth development has always been an integral part of the SCF philosophy, as testified by the fact that ten current first-squad members came through the ranks under Streich's tutelage. Six of them started in the 3-1 victory over Hamburg back in March. Many have suggested it is these same young players' determination to pay back their mentor's faith in them which ultimately saved Freiburg from the drop.
Tell it like it is
"I'm a different type of person. I try to do certain things the way it seems right for me to do them", says Christian Streich on himself. In contrast to his predecessor, Marcus Sorg, Streich has a reputation for being something of a firebrand. Just last November, in the 2-2 home draw with Hertha BSC Berlin, the then-assistant coach was sent to the stands by the referee following an outburst and subsequently hit with a 1,000 euro fine. "I get emotional sometimes," he confesses. "We need to make sure we don't cross the line, but it's part of the game too. The fact is that the fourth official can really get under your skin sometimes. That's where the emotions come into play. I keep them under control - most of the time."
Not a job for life
All his success so far has not in any way led to Streich losing sight of his roots and he is determined not to let this or any other job take over his life. He recently intimated that he was not planning too far beyond the end of the current season and, though the Freiburg fans and board would love to see him build a dynasty at the club, Streich insists he won't be around forever: "I'm only going to stay as long as I'm able to remain who I am. If I ever feel like I'm starting to change, I'll stop right away."