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"Of course I'm different from others," said Christian Streich. "But everyone else is different too. There are over seven billion people who are all different from each other."
True enough, but when it comes to football coaches, SC Freiburg boss Streich is a bit more different than most. Recently, he was sparked into a typically excitable response when accused of travelling to training by limousine. "I travel by bike, like I always do," he replied – perfectly reasonable given he lives only 300m from Freiburg's stadium and training base, if eccentric by footballing standards.
Europe will get its first taste of the 48-year-old when his side kick off their UEFA Europa League Group H campaign against FC Slovan Liberec on Thursday, with matches against Sevilla FC and Estoril Praia to come. "I've never been to Seville or the Czech Republic, and I don't even know where Estoril Praia is," admitted the charismatic trainer. "The players are really happy to be involved. As I player, I would have been too."
Ten games with FC 08 Homburg represent the sum total of Streich's playing experience in Germany's top division, though he has made a more significant impact as a coach. A qualified teacher who worked as a sales representative, he saved Freiburg from relegation – and led them to the German Cup semi-finals – after taking charge in December 2011. He then steered them to fifth place in 2012/13, winning the vote for Bundesliga coach of the year ahead of all-conquering FC Bayern München boss Jupp Heynckes.
The fact he is also the most quotable coach in German soccer doubtless helped his cause in that respect – local media have long picked out a 'Streich of the Week', celebrating his most piquant offerings. However, his technical credentials remain rock solid; in his long spell behind the scenes at Freiburg he lifted three German Cups and a national title with the youth team, many of whose graduates Streich is now guiding into Europe.
And yet the reporter who asked him whether he was a successful coach received a customarily eccentric riposte from the man from the south-west corner of Germany. "What is success?" said the father of two. "When someone cares for a disabled person for 30 years or the fact someone can ride a horse well?"
With three defeats in five outings, Freiburg have not made the best start in the Bundesliga, but Streich's every move continues to be reported with excitement in the German press. Even his choice of clothes proved headline-worthy last season. "I always used to wear a sports jacket for Sunday games because Sunday is a holiday for me," said Streich, who is rarely seen without a tracksuit. "However, when all the managers in the Champions League started wearing sports jackets, I stopped so that no one could say: 'Streich is pretending to be a Champions League manager.'"
If he can build on his achievements of last term, who is to say he will not be doing it for real some day soon?
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