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Portrait Felix Magath

Felix Magath
Born on the 26th July 1953 in Aschaffenburg, Germany
Head trainer and Sports Executive of VfL Wolfsburg

“I play chess because, after football, it is the loveliest sport.”

As the key player, Felix Magath inspired his team mates to an electrifying combination of fast offensive football and perfect zone defence – it seemed as if the keen chess player had relocated the board game onto the turf.

Magath the football trainer also uses the strategic impetus of the regal game. “Sports people must have command of strategy and tactics. What many do not recognise can be understood with chess; it is essential that in every situation one does not just make any old move, but the best one. A footballer also has to always look for the best solution. A good combination on the ground does not just simply happen – beauty is the absence of coincidences.”

For these lovely combinations, actors working together perfectly are needed. Here Magath also sees parallels between chess and football. “Due to the many pieces, chess is actually also a team sport. The game really becomes good when the figures work together well, but not if one of them wanders across the board all on his own. This is why every footballer should play chess so that he/she can better understand football strategies.”

Magath is one of only six actors in the history of the football national league who not only as a player, but also as a trainer has won the German football championships. Added to this are his 43 matches for the national team with whom he became World Champion runner-up in 1982 and 1986 and also European Champion in 1980. Unforgettable is the national champions’ European Cup final in May 1983 when Magath (the head of the Hamburger SV) shot the winning goal for a 1-0 victory against Juventus Turin.

Magath’s passion for chess was awakened 30 years ago. “I was ill at the time and had a lot of time, nowadays I am a little out of practice. As the sport executive and trainer of VfL Wolfsburg, I have little opportunity to pursue my hobby.” Nevertheless, there are still wonderful highlights now and again such as when Magath had the chance to play against his greatest role model, Gari Kasparow. Magath did lose, as did the other 29 simultaneous blind game opponents, but the defeat was a lot less painful than those against his chess computer – “even though the computer is an excellent teacher.”