Philipp Lahm poses with DFB president Reinhard Grindel and UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin after Germany are awarded EURO 2024.
New Year’s Eve is often one of the biggest celebrations of the year, but 2018 was different. The biggest party didn’t come until September. The room was quiet on Thursday, 27th, as UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin emerged on the stage at the association’s HQ in Nyon holding an envelope containing the winners of the EURO 2024 host bid. After a few tense moments, Čeferin finally opened the envelope and announced: "Germany!"
"It wasn’t until we were all stood up, embraced in a huddle, that I realised how greatly relieved we all were," Lahm recalls. “The next emotion I felt was gratitude. Then the feeling of obligation that we need to do a really good job."
Lahm fulfilled his role as the ambassador for Germany’s EURO bid with excellence. But it was a role that carried a lot of pressure. Only success was expected from a highly-decorated, World Cup winning Germany captain. Lahm was presented as the ambassador in December 2017, when he was also named Germany’s sixth honourary captain. "Until now this is an honour that had only been bestowed upon footballing legends Fritz Walter, Uwe Seeler, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann. Aside from the fact that this all feels quite surreal to be considered in the same breath as these greats, this also marks the beginning of a new chapter in my future. A role that could have a decisive impact on the next year for me," Lahm tells.
He became the face of Germany’s EURO bid, one that encapsulated an entire nation from the Bundesliga down to the grassroots. "At the DFB’s annual Bundestag, I got to meet representatives and officials from amateur leagues, all kinds of people who make football the people’s sport in Germany and the DFB one of the biggest sporting associations in the world," Lahm explained. "Their passion moved me deeply and filled me with the confidence that we were on the right track with our candidature for the European Championship in Germany."
Regional ambassadors also promoted Germany’s EURO bid in each of the host cities. “We were able to get the likes of Annike Krahn and Roman Weidenfeller in Dortmund, Fredi Bobic in Frankfurt, Gerald Asamoah in Gelsenkirchen, Toni Schumacher in Cologne, Cacau in Stuttgart, to name a few of our footballing allies," Lahm explained. "But we also had Udo Lindenberg for Hamburg, Dieter Nurh for Düsseldorf, DJ Hell for Munich, and many, many more."
Together with host-city and stadium representatives, the bid team presented all the documents in the form of a so-called bid book to UEFA on 24th April 2018. "Information on the stadia, infrastructure, logistics, security questions, as well as the political and social vision of this European Championship, was all summarised this 1,200 page dossier," Lahm shares. In addition to this, the DFB, supported by a variety of different interest groups, presented a comprehensive sustainability plan that wasn’t part of UEFA’s requirements. "It was clear to see how the enthusiasm for the bid had spread far beyond the sporting scene."
His role as a football diplomat was a new experience for the former Bayern München captain, as was the 2018 World Cup in Russia. With a view towards EURO 2024, Lahm saw the tournament from a new perspective. "I was able to familiarise myself with various aspects of the organization and see behind the scenes. I also got a glimpse of the areas that the public don’t see," shares Lahm, who was also enlightened on the huge number of volunteers, without whose efforts a European Championship would not be possible."I was really taken aback by many young volunteers who came from all over the world to Russia to help with the day-to-day running of the tournament. They would work 10-12 hours a day for six-to-eight weeks, just to be there, to be close up and see how their passion can help shape this great football festival."
After the World Cup, Lahm switched from being an observer and once again became the organiser. When the EURO 2024 host nation was announced in Nyon, he stood alongside DFB general secretary Dr. Friedrich Curtius, head coach Joachim Löw, DFB integration ambassador Célia Šašić and bid manager Markus Stenger on the stage, as the five-member team answered the UEFA executive committee’s final questions. "We prepared for four long days for that situation. It forced us into a kind of competition mode. It was strange for me to be in a suit and tie. I feel like before a Champions League final, except that I hadn’t had 20 years to prepare for this moment. But as we stepped up to the stage in UEFA’s auditorium for the final round of questions, we were fully prepared. Every answer was spot on," Lahm recalls. The rest is history. With a 12-4 voting majority, the EUROs were awarded to Germany. "This made sure that 2018 was a good year. We had brought the European Championship to Germany. Christmas already took place for me in September," rejoices Lahm. Everything that followed was just a bonus.