13.04.2020Bayer 04

Happy birthday, Rudi

A man who has remained a human being today celebrates his 60th birthday: Rudolf 'Rudi' Völler. The former world class striker and now sporting managing director has been at Bayer 04 Leverkusen since 1994. The long-standing head of sports for the Kölnische Rundschau, Herrmann Josef Weskamp, has followed the fortunes of Völler at Leverkusen from the start and has got close to the person behind the headlines.

A milestone birthday is well-known for being like no other day. Not for Rudi Völler either, who celebrates his 60th birthday on Easter Monday, 13 April. Nevertheless, there is no real party atmosphere at the moment. Firstly, the situation during a phase where time appears to stand still does not welcome or allow large gatherings, even in private. And secondly, current fears about the aggressive spread of a highly dangerous virus considerably restricts moments of levity.

Rudi Völler is not an unconditional optimist by nature even if he does have to think positively on occasions. As a striker, he could use both feet and is best remembered for terrorising opponents with his ability to shoot. After that, the football business at desks or in conferences has taught him to have a good dose of scepticism if in doubt and that distrust could stand him in good stead. He gained experience of that during his training to be a member of management at Bayer 04 from his mentor, the cunning Reiner Calmund.

Rudi Völler is a man of the world in the true sense of the word. He has a great reputation throughout the football community worldwide. His continuing popularity is not only due to his exceptional ability on the ball, his goals and titles, his cups and trophies. People love the man, who has remained a human being, and does not wear his heart on his sleeve.

Völler's lap of honour in Mexico

The author of this article recalls a thrilling moment in the summer of 1996 when Völler played two matches for Bayer 04 in Central America after his last Bundesliga appearance. Hundreds of football fans were waiting at the airport at midnight when the group from the Rhine arrived in Mexico. They only came to give their vocal support to an athlete who had evoked enthusiasm eight years before at the World Cup and who – including up to today by the way – again and again shows great commitment to the DFB inspired sponsorship of a children's home in Queretaro. The incomer from Alemania took time out to bring a smile to all the children's faces with his autograph. A memorable moment to treasure amongst all the hustle and bustle. Two days later, football crazy Mexicans flooded to the imposing Aztec Stadium to show their respect and cheer on Völler in his farewell game as if he was one of their own.   

Born in Hesse, he is a member of a worldwide football family. It's logical that he is deeply unsettled by the current lockdown of public life that also currently has a profound effect on football – Völler's preferred principle of life. He worries about the consequences for professionals and amateurs, women and kids. And, of course, he is also burdened by the foreseeable consequences of the crisis beyond the interests of his club Bayer 04 both in terms of the whole Bundesliga as well as the DFB and abroad. That is represented by the present hardships in Italy where Völler is still immensely popular after playing in the country for many years. He has seen the writing on the wall and calls for sustainable solidarity. He will also press to account for how football here, and everywhere else affected, survives the tortuous crisis and the lessons that can be learned for the future.


Aries are said to be energetic, impulsive, persevering and tough.

Under the sign of Aries

Rudi Völler was born under the sign of Aries. These people are said to be energetic, impulsive, persevering and tough. They are considered to be doers. It's incredible how many characteristics of the astrological sign apply to him according to his followers. As a player, he rolled up his sleeves before going on and not just when his team went behind. When he went on one of his dynamic runs down the flanks he was cheered on by the people in the stands. As a coach, he was happy as Larry back in the memorable autumn of 2000 when he was given the dream job of national team coach and, two years later, his team built around the strength of Leverkusen surprisingly reached the final in Japan and ended up as runners-up. Another boost in the popularity of the boss on the touchline.

The actor Iris Berben once made a comparison between her job and football in an interview: "Cinema means going on a mystery tour with others and exposing yourself to feelings of joy, laughter or anger. Today, that might only be seen on the football pitch."

Well, do you recognise the wonderful breadth of emotions when you buy a ticket for a football match? Rudi Völler, who knows football inside out, and is both a romantic and a realist in dealing with his sport, would probably agree with most of that.

Völler as "feelgood person"

In a profile, the Süddeutsche Zeitung described Rudi Völler as a "feelgood person who needs trusted people around him." That's right. But not always and not at all cost. If he believes himself or his people are being unfairly treated then it's time to get serious for a moment. Then he reveals his full authority, does not tolerate contradiction, and at times that can lead to outbursts like his legendary tirade after the international on Iceland. Insiders report he knows how to calm down very quickly after such outbursts. Recently, incidents of that type have rarely been reported.

Völler was born in Hanau in 1960. A child of the post-war era and the Bundesliga. Over the years, he has had a significant influence on important parts of the success story of German top-flight football. For Bayer 04 Leverkusen, where he was signed as a player for two years in 1994 at the behest of the general manager Calmund, he was and still is a lucky break. First in shorts and then with a business look. He is the face and popular figure for a club that has not always had it easy after promotion to the Bundesliga with the sometimes envious look from competitors in the football obsessed west of the Republic."

"I've really learned to love the club"

The Bundesliga is a real plus for Leverkusen and his Werkself in many respects. Rudi Völler has a big stake in that. "I've learned to really love the club," he said in describing his relationship in an interview with Sport Bild, "when I look out onto the stadium, I see what's grown up here. It's incredible and there's no comparison with the old Haberland Stadium." He knows exactly what he's talking about. For a long time, his professional home was on a building site. Now, from his feelgood workplace in the South Stand, he enjoys a premium view of the pitch and the stands.

Völler's public image is a priceless asset for the club. His presence and expertise ensures internal balance, long-term strategy and careful development. He banks on youth, guarantees sporting continuity and, as far as it is possible in this business, a certain degree of planning certainty and reliable success.

Rudi is 60. He has a contract at Bayer 04 to 2022. And then? As the youngsters would put it: You've still got it old man...!

About the author:
Hermann Josef Weskamp, born in 1938, grew up in Bergisch Gladbach. He was head of the sports section at the Kölnische Rundschau for nearly 30 years. Weskamp reported on several Olympic Games and World Cups and is the author of numerous specialist books. He lives in Leverkusen.



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