Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of…The Unstoppable ‘Keeper by Lutz Pfannenstiel
Why has it taken so long for this book to reach the English speaking world? Unhaltbar — Meine Abenteuer als Welttorhüter was published in Germany during 2009 and it has now been updated and translated into English. The book has won accolades from far and wide and also made it onto the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2014 ‘long-list’.
The Incredible Adventures of…The Unstoppable ‘Keeper is the story of German footballer Lutz Pfannenstiel from his humble beginnings in Zwiesel, Bavaria to the highs of the Brazilian League.
It flows well, taking the reader chronologically through his professional career with so many tales it could almost be a work of fiction. For instance, how many footballers can you name who can boast having owned two pet monkeys and kept a pet penguin kept in their bath?
The reader is given an insight into the life of a, ‘have gloves will travel’, goalkeeper with an insatiable passion for the game. Not a guy just happy to take the pay cheque, but one who wants to play for the love of the game; a man who died three times on the pitch playing for Bradford Park Avenue on Boxing Day in 2002.
While not being the main driver of the book, the stories Lutz tells give an insight into some of the problems and temptations facing young footballers. Not only the uncertainty of knowing when your next contract will come, or in what country it will be in, but also managing the lifestyle that having so much money at such a young age brings. The world is littered with footballers who have gone from riches to rags after mismanaging their wealth; Lutz somehow managed to circumnavigate this via his continental travails.
The second part of the book moves into the dark arena of illegal bookmakers and how footballers caught up innocently in conversations with so-called ‘fans’ can end up in court charged with match fixing. After reading the book it is hard to believe that Lutz would betray the game he loves and the treatment he received in the Singaporean jail was brutal, making anything the legendary ‘Crazy Gang’ of Wimbledon F.C. could throw at him during his time in South West London, seem tame.
As Lutz says, he could have settled for a steady contract with a middle-of-the-road German second division football club and a stable home life, but there is nothing safe about this goalkeeper. His bemusing globe-trotting antics takes readers from Bayern Munich, where he turned down a contract, through negotiations at gun point in Albania, to meeting his old mate Gary Blissett in a Chinese boot camp and turning detective in New Zealand when Lutz’s beloved kit was stolen.
While not being a household name during his playing career, the book made his name in Germany and it is set to do the same in the UK, enhanced by the nomadic ‘keeper’s recent media work for the BBC as a pundit.
After the recent scandals in football it is refreshing to read a book by someone who is clearly passionate about the game for what it is and not for the lifestyle that can go with those involved in the professional game.
For me this is the football book of the year and it should definitely be on the Christmas list of many a football fan.