Before there was Christian Pulisic, the Bundesliga had Steve Cherundolo - Hannover's take on Captain America. - © 2012 AFP
Before there was Christian Pulisic, the Bundesliga had Steve Cherundolo - Hannover's take on Captain America. - © 2012 AFP
bundesliga

Steve Cherundolo: The story of Hannover's real American hero

If Budweiser ever decide to rehash their Real Men of Genius advertising campaign for the German market, Steve Cherundolo would be the ideal castmate for Mr. Footlong Hotdog Inventor.

bundesliga.com celebrates the life and times of Mr. Hannover...

Steve Cherundolo

Born:
19 February 1979
Position: Defender
Bundesliga clubs: Hannover
Bundesliga appearances: 302
Country: USA (86 senior international caps)
Honours: CONCACAF Gold Cup (2015), Bundesliga 2 (2001/02)

For Hannover fans of a certain vintage, Cherundolo is the epitome of a legend. He made a club record 302 appearances during his celebrated 15-year association as a player with Lower Saxony's capital ensemble, earning the nickname 'the Mayor of Hannover'.

Cherundolo experienced promotion from Bundesliga 2 to the Bundesliga promised land, played in the UEFA Europa League and proudly donned the captain's armband on 96 occasions. At one point, he even ranked as the longest-serving player in the German top flight, before calling time on his one-club adventure in 2014 due to chronic knee problems, aged 35.

"He's practically an emblem of Hannover," recalled former club president Martin Kind.

"We had just been promoted to Bundesliga 2 and in came this lad from the USA, not knowing the country, the language and the people. He had to find his feet here and I've got to say I like the Americans and the way they rise to challenges, and that's what Steven did here. It's quite extraordinary that one player spends so long with just one club, and always identifies with them."

Watch: Steve Cherundolo is taking the Bundesliga global, as part of the Bundesliga Legends Network

Rockford-born Cherundolo started his Hannover love affair in January 1999, when he jetted in from Portland University, where his talent had earned him the West Coast Conference's 'Freshman of the Year' award. A heart-on-the-sleeve right-back, the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup winner went on to capture the imaginations of an entire city, playing at a time when soccer was enjoying a huge surge popularity in his US homeland.

Even after retirement, he could not cut his ties with the club and sport that continues to shape his career to this day.

'Dolo' coached the Hannover U15s, U17s, U19s and briefly worked as assistant first-team coach, before branching out and joining former Hannover boss Tayfun Korkut's backroom staff for a ten-month stint at VfB Stuttgart between January and October 2018.

"I've spent half my life at Hannover – my entire career as a pro and also my first steps as a coach," Bundesliga Legends Network member Cherundolo said. "I owe the club a great deal. I'm leaving with countless memories that will stay with me forever: from earning promotion with that amazing team in 2001/02 to the unforgettable nights in the Europa League with our fantastic fans, right through to the difficult time [following goalkeeper Robert Enke's death] in November 2009 and the subsequent months.

"We always worked together at 96 and I really hope it stays that way at the club. There's no question that Hannover will always have a big place in my heart."

Hannover said farewell to a legend in 2014, but are unlikely to have seen the last of Steve Cherundolo. - 2014 Getty Images

On 9 October 2018, Cherundolo received an invitation from then US caretaker coach Dave Sarachan asking him to help out with first-team affairs during the November international break. He obliged, and has since set to work on obtaining his UEFA Pro coaching licence. It would be anything but a surprise if he one day takes to the dugout in his adopted home of Hannover's HDI-Arena, as head coach.

Mr. Hannover, we salute you.