Friday 25 June 2021

The German Footballer Who Fell In Love With Cricket

Cricket is certainly not a sport you would associate with Germany. No doubt there are a few expats from cricket hotbeds such as India who play the game in this part of central Europe but, that aside, your average German probably has no interest in cricket whatsoever - Unless they are former FC Bayern München, Newcastle United, Liverpool, and Manchester City midfielder Dietmar Hamann that is.

On the face of it, a German being a huge cricket fan just seems rather odd but when you look at the list of English clubs ex-footballer Hamann played for things at least make a little bit more sense. England, of course, is the birthplace of cricket and one of the world's top cricketing nations and Hamann spent some 13 years of his playing career in the country. As well as those aforementioned English clubs he played for after leaving Bayern, Hamann also had a brief spell at Milton Keynes Dons.

Hamann first really became aware of the game of cricket after joining Newcastle United in 1998 as, at that time, Newcastle trained next door to the Riverside ground home of county cricket side Durham in Chester-le-Street. Although Hamann was impressed by what he saw there it was the 2005 Ashes series that really made him fall in love with the game, and in an interview with The Cricket Monthly in 2015 said: "I watched the Ashes in 2005 and that's what really caught my imagination." 

In that Ashes test series, England ended a run of eight straight series defeats to their old foes Australia in what was a summer of cricket that captured the hearts of much of the English public. 

Hamann loved the finesse of the game and also the tactical side of things, adding: "The whole sport is just great. It's a game of skill as well as strategy. That's why I enjoy watching it so much."

Hamann has been spotted at many a cricket match over the years and in various interviews on the subject of the sport has given his expert opinion on different teams and players and he certainly knows his stuff. He has even attempted playing the game.

In total, at club and international level, Hamann made 468 appearances on the football pitch during a career that spanned almost 20 years, but would he have been any good as a cricketer?

"[ex England star] Freddie Flintoff took me into the nets at Lancashire eight or nine years ago. He cranked the bowling machine up to 95mph to see what it would be like to face [ex Australian fast bowler] Brett Lee. I had a bat and a bowl and didn't do too well. To be honest, I prefer fielding!" said Hamann, also in conversation with The Cricket Monthly.

Hamann's love affair with cricket has been anything but a flash in the pan and indeed he was spotted at a Cricket World Cup game just two years ago in 2019, some eight years after his playing career in England ended. German's and cricket do not exactly go hand in hand but that just makes this unlikely match all the more fascinating. As a keen cricket follower myself, I must say that Dietmar Hamman definitely made an excellent choice when he started watching the world's other beautiful game after he first moved to England all those years ago! 

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