In the beginning I was just a fan like any other. Then, in early 1974, I personally got to know two of the pillars of the great Werder-successes of the past decades: Dr. Franz Böhmert and Klaus-Dieter Fischer, back then President and Vice-President of the Club. From this meeting grew a trusting cooperation and finally a long lasting friendship, which was the starting point of my career as manager of Werder Bremen. A simple handshake with Klaus-Dieter Fischer sealed the deal on the contract assigning me as the manager of Bremen's Football Club. November 11th of 1981 was the day my personal passion became my profession.
Having served as the manager of Werder for 18 years, I can look back on a series of moving memories. Most memorable was the great occasion that Werder came off as a winner in the Winner's Cup match against AS Monaco in the year 1992. This was definitely a reason to celebrate as this was the first time Bremen had won a European title in football. Another very important event was the match against FC Bayern Munich in 1999, which led to another turning point in my life. It was not until the penalty-shootouts that Werder could celebrate the victory. This terrific win was the perfect gift at the ending of my term as manager, before I switched to the field of politics. I like looking back on these great moments, but unfortunately I have also experienced some sad moments along the way. Otto Rehhagel's decision in particular to leave the club after 13 years was especially hard to deal with. His transfer to FC Bayern Munich, the team we were constantly fighting with, didn't make the loss any easier on Werder. Luckily, to this day, he and I have managed to maintain a good relationship and look back at our days as coach and manager with fond memories and gratitude.
Even though I have new tasks to fulfil, my passion for football and for SV Werder Bremen has not decreased. Staying true to the fan in me, I still attend the home matches of SV Werder Bremen regularly and passionately support my favourite club. Always keeping that perspective in mind and adding my decades-long experience enables me as Chairman of the Club to make those decisions that are in the interest of the Club's economic needs, the sporting administration, our many members, and in the interest of our great community of fans.
In my function as Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, I am rather looking at the significance of football as a mass sport, and at how it can be used as a tool to advance education and human development worldwide. Still the scope of my work is strongly connected with my experience at SV Werder Bremen: the atmosphere at Werder is filled with readiness for action, solidarity and respect. Exactly these values are to be achieved and conveyed on a global level, using sport as an alternative to violence and disputes, and as the way towards a better tomorrow.
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