To be a top coach in German football, it is important to posses a certain amount of self-confidence. “The decisions I make are always correct!” the legendary German trainer Otto Rehhagel used to say. Rehhagel was not all talk. He had the successes to prove it, as he helped Werder Bremen and F.C Kaiserslautern to Bundesliga titles. This Thursday, the German football legend celebrates his 80th birthday.
A defender at heart
Rehhagel grew up in the industrial city of Essen, in the heart of the Ruhr valley of western Germany. A fierce defender, he got his start in the TuS Helene of Altenessen in 1957. Rehhagel’s legacy is far-reaching as a player, but much more so as a coach.
His most celebrated achievements were those two Bundesliga wins at Bremen in 1988 and 1993, his incredible feat of catapulting F.C Kaiserlautern from first league promotion to German champion in a single season in 1998 and coaching the winning Greek national team to victory in the 2004 UEFA European Championship.
Willi Lemke, Rehhagel’s former boss at Bremen describes him as old fashioned in the best sense and a man with a footballer’s heart. “Though he never studied psychology or education at a university, he is incredibly good at handling players correctly,” Lemke told DW. “Certainly he was strict too, but that is part of job. He was a fantastic manager,” he added.