Appointed during the 2011/12 winter break, Freiburg head coach Christian Streich is currently the longest-serving head coach in the Bundesliga. His tenure of over five years outdoes the next best – Cologne’s Peter Stöger – by more than a year and is one of loyalty to the city of Freiburg.
Following his 200th game in charge of the club on Matchday 25, bundesliga.com sheds light on the man quietly going about his business and leading promoted Freiburg towards European football.
Straddling the French-German border and just 50 km from the Swiss city of Basel, the city of Freiburg im Breisgau is the gateway to the Black Forest in southwestern Germany. A world away from the hustle and bustle and bright lights of metropolises such as Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt. And that’s just to Streich's liking.
Born in Weil am Rhein, the most southwestern town in Germany where the French, German and Swiss borders all meet, Streich moved to neighbouring Freiburg as an 18-year-old to join Freiburger FC in the Bundesliga 2.
Watch: Christian Streich on taking charge of his 200th game as Freiburg head coach.
As a player Streich made ten Bundesliga and 64 second-tier appearances in a career that took him from Freiburger to Stuttgarter Kickers, SC Freiburg, FC 08 Homburg and then back to Freiburger. It was a 12-year career cut short by a broken metatarsal in 1995, and one that never hinted at the longevity he’d eventually display as a coach.
Returning to SC Freiburg following his retirement, he took up a positon as a youth coach – a job he would remain in until 2011. As well as assisting first-team head coaches Robin Dutt and then Marcus Sorg from 2007, Streich oversaw the development of the likes of Ömer Toprak, Dennis Aogo and current Hoffenheim first-choice keeper Oliver Baumann.
He was thrust into the spotlight during the 2011/12 winter break following the dismissal of Sorg as head coach, but only begrudgingly. Streich originally declined the chance to take charge of the first team when asked by the president because he didn’t wish to stab his former colleague in the back so soon after his departure and was concerned about the level of responsibility.
“There’s so much on the line with the job: people’s lives and jobs. What happens if it all goes wrong? Am I to blame?” Christian Streich
However, Streich came back an hour later having changed his mind after recalling the words of the late former Freiburg president Achim Stocker, who had previously told Streich, “one day you will have to take on the responsibility”. And so he did, guiding the club from the bottom of the table to 12th at the end of the season with a ten-game unbeaten run. Safety from relegation was even secured with two games to spare.
He was seen as the saviour at Freiburg, and his reputation was only enhanced even more the following season as the Black Forest outfit finished fifth. Streich had brought European football back to Freiburg for the first time in over a decade.
Freiburg’s six seasons of consecutive Bundesliga football were brought to an end in 2015, but the club saw no reason for a knee-jerk reaction so often seen in modern football. Freiburg stood by their charismatic coach, and were instantly rewarded with an immediate return to the top flight as Bundesliga 2 champions, ahead of RB Leipzig.
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The 51-year-old is now going about his business once more in the Bundesliga with European football again a distinct possibility for the Breisgau club. It’s this loyalty and passion for the club that endears him so much to the Freiburg faithful and also to fans of other Bundesliga clubs.
When asked about his future, Streich responded with the sort of loyalty so often lacking in football today. “I have a contract, and when there comes a time that I no longer have one here, maybe I’ll do something else. But times have changed. The media presence is even greater, and therefore the pressure too on coaches. Another five years in this job will be tough.”
To him, a contract is a promise, but he also has no desire to move away: “My family and friends are in Freiburg. It’s my home. Which other Bundesliga coaches can say that? Some move to one club and then to another a few months later. I get to go home to my family and friends every day – it’s a privilege.”
However, Streich is not just known for his role in Freiburg’s footballing history. The coach is also famous for his opinions on matters beyond football, and will often answer non-footballing related questions in his press conferences.
Soon after his appointment, local newspaper Badische Zeitung created a feature called ‘Weekly Streich’ to collate some of the coach’s best quotes every week. Streich has even been vocal about the situation regarding refugees and immigration in Germany and German football.
“There must be respect in football. There can be around ten different nationalities on a pitch at any given point - how can anyone exclude another person because of their nationality?” Christian Streich
Streich has often spoken about ‘social competence’, and how he has had to develop himself personally throughout his life. A self-described emotional youngster, he now strives to show respect for every person he meets, regardless of their background. It’s a trait he tries to instil in all his players and staff. The boss combines this with a strong belief that his players should always exercise their democratic right to vote in elections.
This down-to-earth nature is one of the defining features of Streich as a person and a coach. He is known to cycle to and from the stadium on matchdays, and when asked about his safety simply answered, “I don’t need bodyguards – bodyguards are for celebrities”.
Streich does not see himself as one for the spotlight. Indeed, he once said a reason for originally turning down the position as head coach was because of the media attention and being constantly filmed and observed.
Nevertheless, the Freiburg boss holds great appreciation for his job and his passion for football remains clear. “I just love football, simple as. I’ve met so many different people from different nations through this work. It’s been a gift to me.”