The path from fan to player to intern to team manager is not a particularly well-trodden one, but Bayern Munich’s Kathleen Krüger doesn’t mind that one bit in her role as one of the club's most crucial cogs.
Bayern is like a family, so the 'Mia san Mia' saying goes. Former players are retained in leadership positions at the club, which ensures the focus on the sporting development of the club is never compromised and the connection with the fans and the city remains strong.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is the chief executive, Herbert Hainer the president, Hasan Salihamidzic the sporting director and Hansi Flick the head coach – all but one of them former players. Perhaps less well-known but just as important a cog in the Reds’ machine is team manager Krüger, a former player herself and now the chief point of contact concerning all things relating to first-team operations.
A fan of the record title-holders from childhood, Krüger signed for the club as an 18-year-old in 2003, but by the age of 24 had retired from playing professionally and was already making plans for her future after football. “I stopped playing because it required a huge effort for only a little pocket money, and alongside playing, all of us studied or worked,” Krüger tells fcbayern.com.
The Bavarian native began a course in International Management alongside working around the women’s team, but her big break came when she was trialled as the assistant to Christian Nerlinger, the club’s former sporting director, in 2009. “I did a three-month trial period and I got the job,” she recalled, ending her management course and taking a permanent role at Bayern. “I’d always wanted to work on the football side of things, but I was realistic enough to know how attractive an industry it is and how few jobs there are. That I work in my sport, for my club – it’s like I’ve won the lottery!”
These days Krüger has her own office on the second floor of the training complex, where the players pass by several times a day on their way to the cafeteria, meeting rooms or elsewhere. Her workspace overlooks not only the pitches but also the Säbener Straße entrance to the training ground, where the dream of every player to succeed at Bayern Munich is born.
She occasionally offers coaching advice to the players, but her real strength is being able to see their point of view, and it’s here that she draws on her own experience as a player. “Right from the beginning I spent time among the players. I try to view things from their perspective, but also from the perspective of the coach and the physios.”
And what of being a woman working with a men’s professional team? Krüger says she has never felt she was something special. “We all have the same goal: to be professional in our work and be successful.” Occasionally, her gender also has its advantages, with players proving receptive to her accessible approach of working amongst them daily. “If a player has very little desire to attend a sponsoring or marketing event, I give them a wink and do my best to convince them.”
Krüger is therefore a colleague to the Bayern first team, but she is also a confidant. She is the only person outside of the squad to belong to the team’s Whatsapp group – a privileged position indeed – and she messages the group daily to communicate information to the players. She refuses to divulge any secrets, though. “Obviously there are jokes and lots of funny images sent around, but my lips are sealed!” she says with a grin.
Trips to Doha for mid-season training and the USA or Asia for post- or pre-season tours mean a long list of organisational tasks for Krüger. She conducts “site visits” to inspect hotels and training facilities, and once a destination is settled upon, she can then start planning for the accommodation of team security, sponsoring, marketing, fitness coaches, kit-men, chefs and, of course, the players and coaches.
It is a sizeable task, but it has become second nature to Krüger after more than a decade working around the first team. Matchdays are no less busy. For away games in the Bundesliga or in Europe, she arrives in advance of the team to plan for their arrival, and for every game she is responsible for ensuring the official team sheets are submitted on time for use by official match broadcasters.
During the game she is pitchside and wears a headset as the person responsible for communicating info from the medical staff to head coach Flick when a player is injured. Her working day only ends when the players are on their way home after a game.
So does Krüger ever switch off? Yes, for a few days in the summer and over the Christmas period. Otherwise, she is available for the players seven days a week, around the clock. “That’s simply the deal I signed up for,” she says frankly. “I would never complain about the work. I love my job too much.”