Throughout his career, there were always more versatile teammates. From his beginnings at Hannover 96 as a teenager, observers doubted whether he would ever make it. That long dude obviously lacked pace and technical skills. Some even claimed that Per Mertesacker was only in the squad because his dad was their coach. However, they all made the cardinal error of underestimating the tenacity of that chap.

The two-metre guy from Pattensen, a remote town near Hanover, evolved into one of the best centre backs of the Bundesliga. He was a key player of the German national team for 10 years and captained Werder Bremen and Arsenal.

Now the “big fucking German”, as Gunners supporters would chant, has released his autobiography. Co-written by Raphael Honigstein, an expert on British football and the author of a book on Jürgen Klopp, “Weltmeister ohne Talent. Mein Leben, meine Karriere” features some remarkable revelations on…

… Ewald Lienen

Lienen was widely considered as a rough, overly serious and a bit weird. Everyone knew that the right behaviour and a balanced diet were of great importance to him. But he turned out to be totally different. On the night before a match, he’d hold lengthy speeches, sharing anecdotes, mocking the press, us and himself. It was hilarious.

… the day Robert Enke killed himself

I was having dinner with the national team in a hotel when Lukas Podolski read on his mobile that Robert Enke had committed suicide. A few seconds later Oliver Bierhoff confirmed the incident. You hear what he is announcing but his words don’t really reach you. No one said a thing for 20 minutes. We were all just sitting there, stunned by the shocking news.

… Arsene Wenger

I was in a Dusseldorf hotel room when Wenger called. He was talking in German – that impressed me a lot. It was exciting to get contacted by such a venerated manager. Wenger could have read the menu of his favourite restaurant to me – it would not have made any difference. I was desperate to join Arsenal.

Every coach is different. Wenger was very calm and always focused on facts. He rarely raised his voice. Occasionally he’d appeal on us to take the opponents’ breath like an anaconda or hunt for the ball like a pack of wolves – which tempted Lukas Podolski to howl. Wenger smiled. He liked that.

… the on-pitch celebrations after the 2014 World Cup final

Mario Götze was the one I was hugging the longest. I wanted to show him that all the extra effort was worth it. We had done hours of yoga together but Mario had also tried out neuro-athletic workout. All those years of hard work had paid off. Sharing our emotions on the pitch after the match, with each member of the squad, was an overwhelming feeling.

… what is going wrong at Arsenal Academy

At the moment, Arsenal youngsters are sitting sports marketing seminars for two hours a week. They click around the screen a bit and get a diploma in the end. You won’t get far like this on the job market. That has to change. Kids should not just focus on football at the age of 16. Long-term prospects as a professional player are considerably low. None of my Hannover 96 Academy teammates who were also born in 1984 have made it.

Weltmeister ohne Talent. Mein Leben, meine Karriere
By Stephan Orth & Raphael Honigstein
Published by Ullstein extra (

Patterns & paintings

A famed fashion photographer has freshened up the foyer of an Austrian art institution.

Artworks by Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt are currently not the only elements with magnetic effect on lovers of art at Vienna’s Leopold Museum. “Kneeling Woman”, a statute by Wilhelm Lehmbruck from 1911, is now on display at the gallery’s atrium as well as a new series of photographs by Elfie Semotan.

The award-winning snapper has portrayed models Helena Severin and Cordula Reyer sporting Arthur Arbesser designs inspired by the Viennese Modern Age. Showcasing this exhilarating collaboration underlines the significance of the museum which has successfully linked art from the 19th and 20th century with contemporary creations.

The Leopold Museum registered more than 486,000 visitors in the first 11 months of this year, up sharply by 36.7 per cent compared to the same period of 2017. Thirteen exhibitions were on display in 2018, most notably “WOW! The Heidi Horten Collection”.


I’ll keep my feet on the ground, says Müldür

Mert Müldür has described his way up from Rapid’s youngsters into the club’s senior squad as “incredible” but also vowed to “keep my feet on the ground.”

The 19-year-old defender said: “I joined Rapid when I was seven or eight years old. I always wanted to play for the first team. I’m very ambitious. Friends and family tell me to slow down a bit.”

Müldür has evolved into coach Dietmar Kühbauer’s jack of all trades in Rapid’s back four this season. He has put in some convincing performances as centre-back but also as right-back and scored the equaliser in Rapid’s Europa League 2-1 victory against Spartak Moscow.

“I’ll always play where the manager wants me to. A few years ago I was playing as a forward,” Müldür said, reacting to half-joking claims he could become a prolific scorer.

Born in Vienna, the defender recently earned his first caps for Turkey. “That made me very proud. I was nervous when the manager told me I’d come on. But I got along well quickly when I was on the pitch. It’s always like that,” Müldür said.

Rapid missed the chance to celebrate their 101st win in 200 Bundesliga encounters with Sturm Graz last night. The goalless draw means a continuation of Sturm’s unbeaten run ever retired midfielder Roman Mählich became manager.

The Green-Whites meanwhile continue struggle scoring goals on home soil. The 2008 league champs – who face Glasgow Rangers in their final Europa League group stage fixture on Thursday (6.55pm) – found the net just six times in eight Bundesliga matches at the Allianz Stadion.


The Islam issue

An expert on the Arab region has tried to find out why so many people have become heavily prejudiced against Muslims.

In her preface for “Lieblingsfeind Islam”, Petra Wild calls anti-Muslim racism in western countries the “biggest racist mobilisation since fascism.” Wild – who attended university in Damascus and Jerusalem – gives an in-depth account on the issue by describing the long tradition of misconceptions towards Islam from high-ranking representatives of the Christian Church in the 12th century to far-right movements like Pegida and AfD which have been established just a few years ago.

The Islamic scholar criticises that negative attitudes towards all forms of Islam have become part of the mainstream mindset, spurred by a “flood of anti-Muslim books and statements” by popular intellectuals.

“Lieblingsfeind Islam” describes how fears of Sharia becoming institutionalised in Western Europe have spread like a wildfire. Wild speaks out against claims of the alleged brutality of male Muslims and high number of sexual offences. The book also investigates confessional conflicts of the era of colonisation and the role of women.

Lieblingsfeind Islam
By Petra Wild
Published by Promedia (

Sunday showdown

Vienna’s Allianz Stadion will be sold out on Sunday when Rapid face one of their biggest rivals.

Sturm recently got back on track and many observers think that replacing the manager was essential. The Graz side celebrated two wins in a row since ex-national team midfielder Roman Mählich took over from Heiko Vogel.

Meanwhile Rapid’s form may not have picked up dramatically but the Green-Whites managed to deliver results their fans have been hoping for. Just a few days after beating Spartak Moscow 2-1, Dietmar Kühbauer’s team snatched three points against Wacker Innsbruck. Both victories were secured by added-time goals.

The match (kickoff: 5pm) will be the final Bundesliga home game for Rapid before the winter break. Both Sturm and Rapid are under enormous pressure to enter the championship playoff of the best six teams of the league. While Sturm are in sixth position thanks to their 3-0 over WAC, Rapid are just eighth of 12 clubs. The Green-Whites have lost seven of their 16 league matches. The victory in Innsbruck last Sunday was only the second away win so far this season.

“I put trust in the team, the club and our supporters. We played courageous football today,” Mählich said after his side’s compelling performance against Wolfsberg.

“A few weeks ago, when we were not as confident as we are today, we might have lost a close game like this,” Kühbauer lauded Rapid’s mentality against Innsbruck.



The Graz guide letdown

A Vienna-based publishing house is continuing its series of unconventional travel guides with a release on Graz.

Austria’s second-biggest city has a lot to offer: vibrant cultural institutions, first-class shopping opportunities, beautiful parks and, of course, the Schlossberg. However, author Evelyn Schalk is trying to direct readers’ attention to other subjects – skilled trade, feminist movements, the city’s Nazi legacy and its hydroelectric plant project.

Braumüller’s “Abseits der Pfade” guides always focus on neglected aspects such as traditional workshops, small theatres and hidden gardens – Michael Dangl did a brilliant job with his Grado book, and “München abseits der Pfade” by Franz Klug has found wide acclaim too. However, some readers might argue that the author of the Graz edition is lacking any sense of proportion.

Schalk commences by introducing the local aviation association and a tradition-rich clockmaker. She then unfortunately switches her focus on the most controversial issue of the city of the past few years – and goes on condemning the city government for refusing to abandon its hydropower initiative. The author visits a camp of protesters and deplores atrocities against nature. She does not shy away from expressing her own opinion on the controversial issue which has infuriated many citizens. But is a city guide the appropriate publication to spend several pages on showering decision-makers with criticism?

After derogatorily mentioning Arnold Schwarzenegger’s achievements in politics and activism against climate change, Schalk introduces several fringe-concern organisations and art projects. “Abseits der Pfade” readers surely welcome the distinctive breaking the pattern approach – but this book will disappoint many fans of the series.

Graz abseits der Pfade
By Evelyn Schalk
Published by Braumüller (