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Marketing role keeps Toni involved

Germanys former national goalkeeper Harald "Toni" Schumacher.
© Foto-net

Harald Anton 'Toni' Schumacher was born in 1954 in Dueren, a short drive from Cologne, the city he adopted as his home town many decades ago. He had already represented Germany at senior youth level when he joined FC Koln in 1972. He spent 15 seasons between the sticks in Cologne, winning the 1978 Bundesliga and the DFB German Cup in 1977, 1978, and 1983, becoming widely recognised as one of the world's best goalkeepers in the 1980s.

Schumacher was awarded his first senior cap in 1979, taking on the formidable legacy left behind by German legend Sepp Maier. He was part of the team which won the UEFA European Championship in Rome a year later and went on to finish runners-up at the FIFA World Cups™ in 1982 and 1986.

Despite twice finishing on the losing side, Schumacher has nothing but happy memories of both Finals. "Unfortunately, I was never lucky enough to get my hands on the cup, but the World Cup Finals in 1982 and 1986 are still the most memorable moments in my career. I can recall every second, from the bus ride to the stadium through to the final whistle and the wave of emotion which followed," he recalled.

"Those were far more moving experiences than lifting any trophy, although my spell in Turkey was also unbelievably enjoyable (towards the end of his career, Schumacher moved abroad and captained Fenerbahce to the Turkish league title in his first season in Istanbul, earning cult status among the club's passionate support). Living abroad was an immense experience," the 53-year-old adds to

Coaching and business
After hanging up his gloves, Schumacher followed many of his contemporaries into coaching. He was a goalkeeping coach for Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, and spent 18 months as head coach at then second division outfit Fortuna Koln.

Thereafter, he decided his post-playing career lay in another direction. Schumacher is now the proud owner and managing director of sports marketing agency Sportsfirst, whose client list includes Schalke and the German Football Association (DFB). "I've been in business since 2004 running an agency. It was the right decision at the right time, he explained.

"I'm feeling good about myself and I'm a satisfied man, just like I was as a keeper. My job's exciting, there's never a dull moment, and it stretches me to the full. I'm happy, both when I win and when I lose. And I have a fantastic team around me," continued the man who still tops the Bundesliga appearance chart at FC Koln.

As Schumacher himself puts it, he has managed to "remain loyal to the sport, not in my kit any more, but in a suit and tie."

His professional and private devotion to football means the former international shot-stopper keeps a close eye on the fortunes of the current Germany team in the run-up to UEFA EURO 2008. And with the continental showdown looming ever larger, he is at a loss to understand Jens Lehmann's decision to remain in England.

"If he wants to appear at the EURO he needs to be playing regularly and be feeling and living the game. It looks as though Lehmann can't do that at Arsenal, so his status as German No1 is in danger. There are keepers playing at a very high level week in, week out in the Bundesliga. They're hungry and ambitious," Schumacher opined.

Future targets and flashbacks
Listening to Schumacher's bold targets for his business, it is clear the former keeper has lost none of his drive and ambition. "I want my agency to continue delivering successful, premium-quality services to our clients. We're working on becoming more international, and even better established," he said.

"Success is what drives me on, along with the pleasure I derive from successfully implementing demanding projects. The only time I sit on the bench now is for photo shoots with clients.

Schumacher has moved on from active participation in the sport and is entirely comfortable with his current role. He may even have become a less tempestuous character, no longer the granite-like hardman whose shuddering collision with Patrick Battiston in the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain semi-final put the France defender in hospital.

As the father of three told "I'm not the kind of person to harbour regrets, because you make the decisions you make on the spur of the moment. There are many things you'd do differently with the benefit of hindsight, but you can't in the heat of the moment.

"Take the business with Patrick Battiston in 1982. If I was still keeping goal today, I'd have come off my line in exactly the same way. What I'd do differently nowadays is this: my behaviour while he was being treated and after the match was not acceptable.

"But I was on my own back then. Nowadays, team staff would have kept me informed and advised me, but at the time there was no-one to help me cope with the stress," Schumacher said.

Hard exterior, soft centre
In reality, a warm heart beats under the seemingly hard-as-nails Schumacher exterior, and never more so than when he speaks of his children. "There's only thing I'd have liked another go at: during my career I was never close enough to my children Vanessa and Oliver.

"I now have a little daughter Perla from my second marriage and I'm around to see her grow up. I couldn't do that when I was playing, and I regret it."

Harald Anton 'Toni' Schumacher has pledged his valuable time to business and his family, but one thing is for sure; his ties to the game will never be fully severed.

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