Fortuna Düsseldorf's Dirk Zimmermann is breaking new ground in the Bundesliga as the deaf goalkeeping coach tries to keep the club in the German top flight.
Zimmermann has been almost totally deaf since birth, but the 50-year-old has been giving Düsseldorf goalkeepers Zack Steffen, Michael Rensing & Co. the benefit of his skills this season as they seek to keep the club in the top flight.
"I can lipread and talk quite normally," Zimmermann told BILD, who — even with a hearing aid — has only 20 per cent hearing.
"I fight for us to be accepted and integrated [into football]. There are always people who are sceptical at the start. I always have to go towards people, because they're not sure how they should approach me."
Zimmermann is Fortuna's U23 goalkeeping coach, but has been working with the senior side too this season, and will now collaborate closely with new first team goalkeeping coach Christoph Semmler.
The pair will work in tandem to try to improve on the 36 goals — the third-highest tally in the division — Düsseldorf conceded in the first half of the season to leave themselves third from bottom of the table.
Though he may not be able to hear so well and sometimes does not attend team meetings — "It's very important for me to see who's speaking so I can read their lips" — Zimmermann believes his disability gives him insight others don't have.
"I have very good intuition and I feel, for example, when a player is tired. I often react to that and change the training session," he explained, adding he can still enjoy the passion if not the noise football creates. "I feel the atmosphere, and I also hear the referee's whistle very quietly."