Christian Streich: 10 years a Bundesliga treasure
Freiburg head coach Christian Streich said football “never gets boring” for him as he prepares to celebrate a decade in charge of the Black Forest team.
That’s right, the Bundesliga’s longest-serving current tactician served 10 years of service on December 29, a remarkable achievement in what is famous for a results-oriented role and often subsequently a transition role.
There was a certain poetic elegance then, when the 56-year-old recorded his 100th Bundesliga victory as head coach in his side’s last game in 2021, the last 2-1 triumph over Bayer Leverkusen in of the 17th day, an appropriate way to inaugurate on the anniversary of his appointment.
look: Highlights of Freiburg’s victory over Leverkusen
However, Streich’s association with Friborg runs much deeper. Born and raised in the region, he speaks with a strong Black Forest accent, while his friends and family all live there. A left-handed defender during his playing years in the 1980s, he spent a season with the club in 1987/88 – in a squad including future German coach Joachim Löw – but only made 10 Bundesliga appearances (with FC Homburg) and 64 in the Bundesliga. 2 before hanging up his boots.
Already a skilled employee in the industry, Streich spent his retirement from active service preparing for the next chapter, earning a degree in German Studies, Sport and History at the University of Freiburg.
He was back on the club’s books in 1995 – where he has remained ever since – starting as a youth coach. Streich started making waves when he led the U18 team Freiburg to the DFB Youth Cup in 2006, 2009 and 2011, and the German Youth Championship in 2008.
Assistant to the head coaches of the first team Robin Dutt and then Marcus Sorg, he was invited to intervene when the latter was sacked after a disappointing start to the 2011/12 campaign. Streich, however, initially refused.
Streich celebrated a 1-0 victory over Augsburg in his first game at the head of Freiburg in January 2012. – imago sportfotodienst / imago sportfotodienst
“I had the feeling that I would not make it, that I would not make it,” he told the TagesWoche publication. “I imagined I had all of that responsibility, and what would happen if we didn’t play well, in the first or second division, the stress and the jobs at stake. I know everyone at the club. I didn’t think I could take on this responsibility.
But his love for the club, and in particular the well-mapped course from the youth academy to the first team he helped create, ultimately led Streich to change his mind: “A new coach would have brought new people and we cannot forget that we have an academic program which is extremely important for Freiburg. The question was: how to connect them? That was the stake.
Many current professionals, including Freiburg alumni Matthias Ginter, Oliver Baumann and Ömer Toprak, will be delighted that he remains to oversee the start of their careers – and not just in terms of football. Streich is an advocate for equality and social justice, often speaking publicly on issues such as refugees and migration, while encouraging his players to vote in local and national elections.
There are currently 12 academy graduates benefiting from his wisdom both on and off the pitch in the Freiburg first-team pool, the most recent success being Kevin Schade, the 20-year-old who hit the winner against Leverkusen on Matchday 17.
look: Streich, the most emotional coach in the Bundesliga?
In total, he has overseen 304 Bundesliga games to date, recording 90 draws and 114 defeats to accompany his century of victories. Its overall record in all competitions amounts to 138 wins, 101 draws and 128 losses in 367 matches.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s great to have been able to experience this,” he said ahead of his 300th top-level match at the helm in November 2021, a 2-1 loss to Bochum. .
“I really love watching football and being involved in football so I’m very grateful that I got to do that. I’m sure there are people out there who think he has to have a screw loose to get up. and go kick a ball every Saturday. It must be boring. ‘But if it’s something that interests you and that you live for… it never gets boring to me. I find it exciting. So I’m just grateful. . The number [of Bundesliga games as coach] is not small.
Indeed this is not the case. After Streich, the next longest-serving coach in the Bundesliga is Union Berlin supremo Urs Fischer, a relative three-year-and-five-month rookie in charge.
In the top five European leagues, only Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has held the post for so long – longer in fact, just six days – while only five coaches in Bundesliga history have never had more longevity: Hennes Weisweiler (in Gladbach 1964-1975), Winifred Schäfer (Karlsruhe, 1986-1998), Thomas Schaaf (Werder Bremen (1999-2013), Otto Rehhagel (Bremen, 1981-1995) and Volker Finke (Friborg, 1991-2007).
Not that everything was easy for Streich. Freiburg was last in the Bundesliga when he took over, five points from absolute safety midway through the 2011/12 season. However, only five teams scored more points than in the second half of the campaign, as Streich steered the ship to the safety of 12th place with a nine-point cushion over the drop zone. .
The Southwestern club even finished fifth the following year in their first full campaign. This achievement was a double-edged sword, however, as a small team with a relatively limited budget struggled to juggle the demands of UEFA Europa League football and domestic tasks, and Freiburg finished 2013/14. in 14th place.
The worst was to come the following season with automatic relegation, but Freiburg backed Streich. He returned the club’s faith by winning the Bundesliga 2 title the following year – ahead of finalist RB Leipzig, no less – and they have remained in the top flight ever since, finishing 7th, 15th, 13th, 8th and 10th in the following five seasons.
All of this led Streich to sign a contract extension in February 2021, with the sense of trust and mutual appreciation between the coach and the board being crucial for the relationship to last as long as it has been. . “I am happy with the recognition and trust that has been placed in our work,” he said at the time. “Our collaboration has all the essential requirements that we need to continue on the path we are following. “
This path not only allowed Streich and Friborg to move into a new state-of-the-art stadium, it took them to third place in the Bundesliga standings during the 2021/22 winter break. Alongside Bayern Munich, they have conceded the fewest goals so far this season (16), as they also beat Borussia Dortmund, drew with Leipzig and recorded the club’s biggest Bundesliga victory with a 6-0 defeat of Borussia Mönchengladbach.
It is not a coincidence. The team play in his image and, perhaps unsurprisingly to the butcher’s son, there is a precision in the way they slice through opposition defenses, all skilled at slicing rather than hopeful hacks. .
“For me good football means having variation in your building game and being well organized in terms of positioning,” he said after Matchday 17’s win over Leverkusen, when asked to ‘explain its philosophy.
“It’s very important against strong teams that you have time on the ball yourself and that the opposition chase the ball as well. In this way, you can build your self-confidence by circulating the ball around your team and allowing many players to keep touching the ball. We want to play football ourselves, not just sit back and defend, no matter who we play against. We’d rather lose than just sit down and defend because that’s our way of playing and that’s what we want.
look: Highlights of Freiburg’s 6-0 win over Gladbach
Such frankness, honesty and bravery made Streich universally loved by gamers, staff, fans, and the media, a charismatic figure unique to the game.
“His story is incredible,” said veteran forward Nils Petersen. “I think the traces he leaves when he is no longer there will be enormous. I can’t imagine what that will look like, because Freiburg without Streich just isn’t Freiburg in some way.
That day, hopefully, is still a long way off. For now, we just have to salute Streich’s success and enjoy what lies ahead.