One-on-one with Becker

Boris Becker's passion for football

November 4, 2012
By Kevin Palmer

He may have become an international sporting superstar wielding a power packed tennis racquet on Wimbledon's hallowed Centre Court, yet Boris Becker loves nothing better than spending an afternoon discussing the vagaries of the beautiful game.

Boris Becker football gear
GettyImagesBoris Becker played in a charity football match earlier this year

Football has been in Becker's blood since he played the game to what he describes as 'a good level' before committing his teenage sporting ambitions to tennis, but his fascination with sport has barely dimmed throughout a career that has been as colourful as it has been controversial.

His role as a pundit on German TV's football coverage confirms he is a knowledgeable observer of the game and when the subject of football is raised as ESPN were granted an audience with Becker at his central London office, it was clear that this is a sporting giant with a deep passion for football.

Becker's ten years on the board of directors at his beloved Bayern Munich served to confirm his devotion to his second sport and his more recently developed affection for Premier League giants Chelsea meant that he endured an uncomfortable evening in Munich last May, as his two clubs went head to head for the ultimate prize in European club football.

"I have had an apartment in Chelsea for the last 10 years and some of their players are my friends," Becker told ESPN. "I'm close with Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, while I know their former managers Luca Vialli and Ruud Gullit very well, so I was kind of rooting for them in the Champions League last season until they played the club closest to my heart in the final.

"Bayern v Chelsea in the Champions League final, now that was a pretty uncomfortable night for me. In the end, I have to admit I ended up feeling deflated and disappointed.

"Yes, I was rooting for Drogba and Frank, but this was a chance for Bayern to win the biggest trophy on home soil. It is not something that comes along too often in your career and now, that moment is gone forever.

"To be 1-0 up until the 89th minute, have so much bad luck in a game you dominate and still find a way to lose on penalties, it doesn't get much tougher than that. I have rooted for Bayern since I was a little boy, but fate seemed to play a hand in Chelsea's win.

"It would be great to see Bayern back in the Champions League final at Wembley next year, but even if they were to win the trophy this year, it would not make up for what was a once in a lifetime opportunity in Munich."

Becker did not need to divide his loyalties when he was present for Chelsea's epic and ultimately controversial defeat against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge last weekend, with his pointed views on a game that continues to be a major talking point for all football fans fanning the flames of debate.

"First of all, it was a fantastic football game," he says of the 3-2 victory for the Premier League leaders. "Man United played some incredible football and you have to admire the way Sir Alex Ferguson has pieced together another exciting United side when many people suspected they were not the team they once were. Well, they are answering those critics now.

"They could have been further ahead before Chelsea started to come back at them, but I like the new look of the midfield Roberto Di Matteo has put together this season and they started to come back inch by inch. Then, the umpire did some things that ruined the game and it was a real shame because it was all boiling into one hell of a finish.

"In the end, we were all left to reflect on a bad ending to what was a fascinating afternoon. In this day and age, with the technology we have, I cannot believe we are left to talk about human errors from the umpires deciding big football games. It was a real shame for Chelsea.

"I couldn't believe the umpire sent off Fernando Torres the way he did. There was clearly contact from Jonny Evans and it was a bad decision. On the other hand, his kung-fu kick on Tom Cleverley was a clear red card and it wasn't given. I wonder whether 45,000 people see a different game to these umpires sometimes.

"Now I believe many Chelsea fans would be pleased to get rid of Torres if possible, but a red card was not the idea they had in mind. The guy is not playing well, but he is the best option Di Matteo has right now."

Boris Becker Chelsea
GettyImagesBoris Becker has become a Chelsea supporter since moving to London

Becker's slip of the tongue in describing referee Mark Clattenburg and his colleagues as umpires confirms his sporting mind ticks in tennis terminology, yet his knowledge of football cannot be questioned and he is equally forthright when discussing the fortunes of the German national team.

"Joachim Low, our national team coach, has received a lot of criticism in Germany and you can see why," Becker said. "We have this great group of young players and when it mattered most against Italy in the Euro 2012 semi-final last summer, they didn't show up, with many blaming the coach for the failure.

"He was under big pressure going into the World Cup qualifier against Ireland in Dublin last month and his team responded with a 6-1 win. It was an incredible result and that kind of score is more what I expect from a tennis match, but sadly it was not the platform for Germany to build on.

"A few days later, we threw away a 4-0 lead against Sweden in another inexplicable game. The end result is Low still finds himself under big pressure. I feel this criticism is fair because we have a Germany team who should be winning big tournaments. The expectation is always so high in my country, but they are not unrealistic with the current team."

Becker will turn his attentions to tennis once again in the next few days as he takes his place as an opinionated Sky Sports commentator reporting on the ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena, yet he will still take in this week's Champions League action when he gets a moment away from watching Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic strutting their stuff.

"I'm passionate about football," he added. "I study the game and like to think I know a little bit more about it than your average fan. That may be why German TV ask me to pass comments on football games, even though I am just an old tennis player."

As fascinating off the court as he always was to watch on it, Boris Becker is an enduring sporting legend.