When German football player Miroslav Klose announced on Monday that he will retire from the national team, it was hardly a big surprise. After all, he is 36 years old — in the world of football, this is an almost biblical age.
Klose recently won the World Cup title, the latest and most prestigious accomplishment he added to a very long list of accolades. 71 goals for Germany during his entire career and overall top scorer in World Cup history with 16 goals are two other achievements that strikingly stand out.
But sometimes, even though we know that something is about to happen, a decision to be made, it still hits us hard when it finally comes around; maybe because uttering the words in public makes it final. There is no turning back now: Klose will never wear the Germany jersey again, even though we had silently hoped that he will miraculously be young forever and stay fit enough to play yet another major tournament.
The truth is, though, that there couldn’t be a better moment for Klose to hang up his football boots. The last time he played for the national team was in the World Cup final against Argentina one month ago. In the 88th minute, he was substituted by Mario Goetze. The oldie had to make room for the youngster, and as they hugged each other at the sidelines, Klose allegedly told Goetze, “you can make it happen.” And so he did — Goetze scored Germany’s winning goal in the 113th minute. Klose had passed the torch.
Football fans all over the world, but in Germany in particular, will of course remember the striker for his many goals and for this wonderful love story that was Klose and the national team. Even if he played a lousy season with his club — as soon as he put on that Germany jersey, he became Mr. Reliable.
Prior to the World Cup in Brazil, some wondered why coach Joachim Loew included Klose in the squad, as he was still recovering from injury and hadn’t had a good season with his current club Lazio. The skeptics were quickly silenced, when Klose made his first appearance at the tournament and within minutes, scored a crucial goal against Ghana that helped the Germans maintain a draw.
Klose was reliable on the pitch, but he was also unselfish, almost altruistic. He never tried to grab attention with egoistical moves in the box, but always kept an eye out for a teammate who might be better positioned than he was. He never considered himself, as a striker, to be above helping out in the defense, but always worked as hard as he could. He never fell down to look for a foul or a penalty, but always stood up and continued to chase the ball. He never took advantage of a wrong decision by the referee, but always let fair play prevail — even if it came at the expense of himself and his team.
In addition to Klose’s outstanding career, there is something else about him that made him immensely popular both with his teammates and the fans. He had always been a quiet fellow, extremely humble and refreshingly down-to-earth. Throughout his entire career, there was never even the faintest whisper of a scandal. In times when overpaid athletes expect special treatment and happily bask in the glow of fame, Klose never seemed interested in glory and fortune beyond the pitch.
One of the most touching moments in the World Cup final came after the game, in the midst of the celebrations, when Klose could be seen hugging his wife and his twin boys, tears in his eyes. We all cried with him, sentimentally mumbling “Thank You, Miro.”
For Klose, his career with the German national team has come to the happiest of endings. For the fans, it is a bittersweet and emotional farewell. But for the world of football, it is a great and irrevocable loss. There will never be another Klose.