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Oliver Kahn in Kolkata
© dpa-Report
Football ‘Titan’ Oliver Kahn takes final bow in India

June 01, 2008

German Soccer legend Oliver Kahn received a glorious farewell on May 27 amid standing ovation from 120, 000 fans in Kolkata. His team, Bayern Munich became the first major European club to play a match in India.

Oliver Kahn, one of football’s goalkeeper legends, ended his illustrious two decade long professional career in Kolkata as the Munich giants scored to victory over Mohun Bagan in the final match of their 2008 Asia tour.

Soccer frenzy hit its zenith in Kolkata with a packed house of 120,000 spectators greeting the Bavarians for this special match. Bayern Munich took on Asia’s oldest club Mohan Bagan at the Salt Lake stadium, the second biggest sports stadium in the world.

Kahn left the field after 55 minutes to a rapturous applause from the fans, making his way to the bench and handing over charge to his designated successor Michael Rensing. "I want to say thank you for this great moment in my career. This is very special. Thank you for this great night," Kahn told the fans in the stadium.

Indian football officials heaped gifts on the goalkeeper at the end of the halftime break, including an 8,640 diamonds studded trophy, silver plates, diplomas and an honorary lifetime membership of the Mohan Bagan club. The Bayern Munich club was presented with a silver boat.

Utpal Ganguli, honorary secretary of the West Bengal Football Association, said, “Seeing players of Oliver Kahn’s calibre is a rare privilege. We’re very grateful.”

Along with Kahn, Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was also on the Bayern bench for the last time as he takes over the Swiss national team after Euro 2008.

The Last game

Bayern won the game 3-0 with Jan Schlaudraff scoring twice and Zé Roberto the third time.  A defensive blunder allowed Schlaudraff to score the opener after 18 minutes, before Zé Roberto curled in a free kick in the 37th minute. Bayern’s third goal arrived six minutes into the second half when Jan Schlaudraff fired home from close range following good work from Christian Lell.

A Legend loved by all

The 86-time capped Kahn became immensely popular for his 2002 heroics at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea when he almost single-handedly led Germany into the finals. He saved three penalties against Valencia in 2001 to give Bayern the Champions League trophy, one of 16 titles he won with Germany's number one club. Kahn, who turns 39 next month, played 557 Bundesliga games for SC Karlsruhe and Munich, with only Karl-Heinz Koerbel (602) and Manfred Kaltz (581) playing more matches.

Each of Kahn’s public appearances in the eastern Indian metropolis lead to big gatherings of well wishers, fans and media representatives. He is popularly known as "King Kahn" and "Titan". Banners in Kolkata's Salt Lake arena read "Kahn't get any better". For Oliver Kahn's Farewell Match the stadium sold out for the first time in more than a decade.

New Talents

On the eve of Kahn’s final match, the Bundesliga Champions played with a team of almost 50 boys in a coaching clinic organised by its sponsor Adidas at Calcutta Cricket and Football Club. The upcoming soccer talents, most of them from India and some from Germany, got a chance to learn a few skills like dribbling, shooting and passing from the great players.

The visitors selected five Indian players from among participants. They would be flown to the Bayern Football School in Germany by Lufthansa, which is sponsoring their travel to attend the FC Bayern Football Camp later in the year.

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by Swati Sharma
© German Information Centre New Delhi
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