24.03.2008: Podolski hoping for the Schumi-factor at Euro 2008

German Football
By German Football March 29, 2008 19:59

24.03.2008: Podolski hoping for the Schumi-factor at Euro 2008

BERLIN (AFP) — On the first floor of his villa, 30 kilometres from Munich, Germany and Bayern Munich striker Lukas Podolski has set up an office where his most treasured sports memorabilia are kept.

The 22-year-old – voted the best young player at the 2006 World Cup – has already scored 24 goals for his country in 45 appearances and is set to be one of the stars of this summer’s Euro 2008.

His office contains two glass display cabinets filled with items like the boots in which he scored three goals for Germany when his side finished third at the 2006 World Cup.

But his most treasured possession is a pair of red boots which stand out from the other keep-sakes, the signature betrays the previous owner – Podolski’s hero, seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher.

“‘Schumi’ gave me those as a present during his last season. Together with his driver’s jacket,” Podolski proudly told German magazine Sports-Bild.

In exchange, Schumacher received a signed Germany shirt from Podolski and the pair have built up a friendship based on their mutual passion for football and Formula One.

And Podolski is hoping Schumacher will repeat the moral-boosting visit he paid to the German squad before the 2006 World Cup later this summer as they prepare for June’s Euro 2008 tournament.

The German Formula One legend mingled with the squad during breaks in training during the 2006 pre-World Cup camp and Podolski still remembers the experience.

“It was incredibly motivating,” he said.

“You have to look up to a sporting legend like that.

“What he has achieved for Germany is unbelievable.”

Germany will be based in the Swiss town of Ascona for Euro 2008, not far from Schumacher’s home on Lake Geneva.

“There will never be as great a motoracing driver as him,” said Podolski before adding with a smile: “Who knows? Perhaps he will take me out in a two-seater racing car…”

Podolski comes from Bergheim in North Rhine-Westphalia, close to Schumacher’s family home in near-by Kerpen.

“Our parents houses are not far apart, no more than five minutes in the car, probably less for Schumacher.”

While still a youth team player at FC Cologne, Podolski would pester his parents to drive past Schumacher’s house in the hope of getting a glimpse of his hero.

And later as a professional footballer he realised his biggest dream when he met his idol.

“At the Nurburgring race track, Schumi invited me into his private box before the race,” said Podolski.

And the contact has not been broken despite Schumacher’s retirement from Formula One in 2006.

Podolski has Schumacher’s number in his mobile phone and the racing driver became a Cologne fan because of Podolski, before his transfer to Bayern in the summer of 2006.

“Since my transfer, I am not sure if he is still a fan of mine,” joked Podolski.

The Poland-born striker still gets up in the early hours of the morning to watch every Formula One race and has become a fan of Polish driver Robert Kubica, who he is now keen to meet.

And Podolski says his ambition is to return to the race track at Nurburgring when his football career is over – but this time as a driver.

“To drive a Formula One car is a real dream of mine,” he said.

“I’d like to do that after my career is over in ten or 12 years time.”

Podolski is currently without his driving licence – his Audi Q7 remains on the driveway – after he was banned for dangerous driving in June 2007.

But he would love to take a special driving course before he could get behind the wheel of a Formula One car.

“There are so many damned buttons and gears in the cockpit, but a bit of training would give me confidence.”

German Football
By German Football March 29, 2008 19:59
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