So sudden and dramatic was his escape from communist Poland that when Josef Klose arrived on a railway platform in West Germany in 1986, his eight-year-old son, Miroslav, carried just a football in his bag and two German words on his lips — “ja” and “danke”, yes and thank you respectively.
Today, nearly three decades later, Miroslav Klose can, of course, converse fluently in his adopted country’s language. From the days of owning just one air-filled bladder, the Lazio striker’s assets have ballooned to over Euros 25 million. But on the football field, the shy and soft-spoken 36-year-old is said to go back to being that awestruck child on the cusp of entering an alien world. A boy with a two-word German vocabulary.
“Ja”, he says, when alerting a midfielder of his presence, calling for a pass. “Danke”, he is often caught mouthing with a high clap, after a great cross has allowed him to trouble a goalkeeper or simply destroy his reputation. When it really matters, such as at the World Cups, you can catch him clapping rather often and constantly chanting “dankes”, considering few have dazzled at the grandest sporting stage quite like him.
When Germany’s campaign began three weeks ago in Salvador, few would have believed that Klose’s services would be needed again. Not after an inspired Joachim Loew’s side crushed Portugal 4-0. Some die-hard Die Mannschaft fans even carried banners to Germany’s following group game against Ghana that read: “Mueller=Säugling Klose”, roughly translated as Mueller=Baby Klose.
They were right, no doubt. After all, Thomas Mueller had whipped in a hat-trick to begin his second World Cup, having finished his first in South Africa with the Golden Boot award for his collection of five goals. Klose-esque, almost. All that changed an hour into the Ghana game as Loew, with Germany trailing 2-1, scanned his dugout for a man that every Alemania coach in the last decade has unfailingly turned to. Klose of course.
A hundred and ten seconds later, he had equalised.
Klose’s goal against the African nation was spectacular, not just due to the match situation or for the fact that he put in perspective the pressure-caused frailties of a ‘golden generation’ several eras removed, but mainly because it made him one of the most potent footballers to ever participate in the quadrennial. Not only had he become the third man, after Pele and Uwe Seeler, to score in four World Cups, but Klose had also matched Ronaldo’s all-time record of 15 World Cup goals.
The benevolent Fenomena later tweeted: “Welcome to the club. I can only imagine your happiness!!! What a great World Cup!!!” The Telegraph noted that in one sentence, the former Brazil great had used six more exclamation marks than Klose ever would. But continued…