Frankfurt thriving amid sense of calm

1. FFC Frankfurt will be chasing a fourth European title against Olympique Lyonnais on 17 May, but found Sven Kahlert and his players impressively relaxed on a recent visit.

Sven Kahlert enjoys Frankfurt's semi-final win against Arsenal Ladies
Sven Kahlert enjoys Frankfurt's semi-final win against Arsenal Ladies ©Getty Images

Our taxi driver furrows his brow, checks the address again and enters it into his satnav. The Sportanlage Rebstock may be the training ground of three-time European champions 1. FFC Frankfurt – and hub of their preparations for next month's UEFA Women's Champions League final – but on this drizzly afternoon it betrays little sense of continental grandeur.

Located about 15 minutes west of the city centre in Frankfurt-Bockenheim, the training complex is instead a picture of serenity, cast against the skyscrapers of downtown Frankfurt looming on the horizon. Birds chirp overhead as the players gather to be put through their paces, and although many are established internationals – former world champions even – there is no crowd of fans flocking to get autographs.

A group of teenage girls rollerblading close to the training pitches take little interest in the football activities unfolding nearby, nor in the camera crew setting up to film, yet it is easy to imagine this relaxed setting being ideal for Frankfurt's players as they prepare for the crucial games ahead.

These are exciting times for the club, with the UEFA Women's Champions League showpiece against Olympique Lyonnais on 17 May one of several big tests to come, along with the German Cup final against FC Bayern München five days beforehand and a number of vital Bundesliga fixtures.

As we meet with Sven Kahlert's charges, they are undergoing their final training session ahead of a league meeting with SC Freiburg, but thoughts of the Munich showdown with Lyon are hardly far from their minds.

"I have met Lyon twice in the Champions League final, but I was sitting on the bench," recalls goalkeeper Desirée Schumann, having played back-up to Anna-Felicitas Sarholz during 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam's runs to the final in 2010 and 2011.

Schumann watched from the sidelines as Sarholz helped clinch the first of those deciders during a penalty shoot-out in Getafe, but, with Frankfurt No1 Nadine Angerer missing through injury, Schumann is now ready to seize her chance. "This year's final will be something very special for me, because I will play," she added with a broad grin. "I'm really looking forward to it – just look at my face!"

As for captain Sandra Smisek, back in training after suffering a bruised pelvis, she too is in buoyant mood, running through brief descriptions of all her team-mates for our benefit. Only Swiss forward Ana Maria Crnogorčević seems to give her pause – and that for reasons of pronunciation. "Can I just say our new player Ana from Hamburg?" the experienced midfielder pleads with a laugh.

The prevailing sense of calm goes right to the top, in fact, with coach Kahlert impressively composed as we start our interview. While a group of youngsters use the running track to improve their times, the noise from a helicopter overhead forces us to interrupt the chat, but he is far from concerned that he may have to rejoin his players later than anticipated. "I told them before what they need to do and also wrote it down," he smiles. "We're safe."

For now, the team's fans clearly prefer letting Kahlert and his players perfect their routines in peace, but there is little doubt that many of them will make the trip to Munich on 17 May. "It's easier for us to bring our fans to Munich than to a city outside of Germany, and we are going to organise fan coaches," says Kahlert. Come the big day, it is probably safe to assume that those coach drivers will be able to find their way to the Olympiastadion – with or without satnav.