"Kaiser" Chief

Posted by Tarpaulin on February 21, 2006, 10:00:01 AM

"The Kaiser" tends to be a nickname bandied willy-nilly around England for most German players, especially those who play in a holding position in either midfield or defence.

The literal meaning of the word is "Emperor", and the word was used to describe the man who was the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of Germany (1871-1918).  The latin equivilent being "Caesar".  The man who was at the helm of it all, the controller of those around him, and the people that moved the country on.

The original footballing Kaiser was Franz Beckenbauer, a man with style and grace who alongside Brazil's Zagallo is only person to win the World Cup as player and manager. But not only was it his success on the pitch, it was the class that oozed from the man as he strolled about the pitch making it look like he was a man amongst boys. Those lucky enough to have seen Beckenbauer will probably class him up there in the top 5 players ever ... that's EVER!

Our very own "Kaiser" is somewhat different to the original. He doesn't possess the flair and elegance that his older compatriot did. Nor does he collect the recognition world wide, or the accolades of the media the world over - but you can bet that the opposition almost hate playing against him as much as his fellow countryman.

Dietmar Hamann came to Liverpool as almost an unknown quantity, and with people wondering why we had spent 8 million quid on a player who we knew very little about. Yes, he had helped Newcastle have a decent season [helping them to an FA Cup final], but picked up an injury and struggled to really settle up there. We'd seen a couple of displays of his long distance shooting and efficient and frustrating defensive work, but he was revered also as a defence-opening player, who could pick a pass from deep. That said and done, we didnt know an awful lot about him, and when Houllier said that the team would be built around this strange looking cat, who looked like his coat-hanger was still in his shady coloured beige blazer, we all wondered what the Frenchman was upto.

Liverpool were in transition, and guilty of leaking goals through a lack of discipline in key areas. Houllier knew that Hamann could sit 5/10 yards deeper that the rest of the midfield, and just tidy up play, preventing too much pressure building up on the centre of defence where previous frailties were noticeable. With his range of passing, and eye for a ball he could control the tempo of the game from this deep lying position, and in turn allow the more creative players around him to blosom.

He slotted into the team like he'd played there all his life. Not grabbing headlines, but not letting anyone down either. He was the quiet man about the pitch just "searching and destroying" and basically getting into players' faces and not letting opposition teams settle into a pattern of play.

Hamann was key to the victories in the treble season and was part of the foundation [including Hyypia and Henchoz] that the whole season was built upon. People called us boring and unfashionable, and we were at times, but we were well organised, efficient and very hard to beat, and in a knock-out game we were outstanding tactically and mentally. All because we knew we had this fulcrum to start play from.

Gerrard has always been one of the first to praise the role Didi plays, and has done so again this week:

"Speaking personally, I've learnt an awful lot from him over the years."

and this is plain to see as the role Didi played, helped Gerrard to develop as an attacking central midfielder. Allowed to pretty much express himself as an when he felt neccesary, but also at the same time, learing to develop the defensive side to his game and when to push on, and when to hold back. Another lesson Gerrard has learned from Didi is that you dont need to go to ground to win a ball back.

Hamann is the master of this art. He rarely slide tackles, in fact he only does so when the player has broken free of his shackles and Hamann knows it's as likely he will foul them, concede a free-kick and take a yellow card for the team, rather than the player bursting on towards the centre backs. Hamann's shielding of the ball is immense, and I think only bettered by Shearer in the league. 90 minutes up, game 1-0, give the ball to Didi and let him hold it in the corner - no fucker is getting that back - guaranteed.

The trademark "Hamann fall" is always in his armoury if the pressure builds up, and he realises he may be in trouble. He shields the ball and then allows the opposition to place the slightest of contact to which he crumples to the ground, thus releaving pressure and at the same time atagonising and winding up the opponent. It's not like he's been shot [in the Robben mould] but more of an experienced cleverness as he uses the genuine contact to his advantage.

Amongst the players he is also one of the most popular, and some of the stories and myths are legendary. My personal favourites being when he was introduced to the team after signing, and he went around shaking their hands wearing a Hitler tash, with the straightest of faces. Another trying to out do himself for every press interview by wearing the shittiest suit combo's seen since John Barnes retired ... no one ever came close. He has been, and will continue to be as important to the team off the pitch as he is on it. His experience coupled with his personality make him a key player for the Reds, and one which we know we can rely on in any given game such as Man Utd on Saturday or when coming on against Milan in the Champions League Final.

Like I say at the top, "The Kaiser" is a term often overused, but in Didi's case he can stand up there with the best of them. A true emporer of his position, and with so many unlike him in the world ... it makes you grateful that this man from Germany, with the crazy half-baked scouse accent, came to play for this football club.

Long may it continue.

"Hail the Kaiser"

© Roper 2006

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