Meeting Munich: Max Weinhold - The silent end to a great career
Although featured in our last print edition, we wanted this interview with German hockey goalkeeping legend Max Weinhold to be online too as part of our Meeting Munich series.
Max Weinhold is a field hockey legend. Many fans and experts consider him as one of the best goalies to have ever played the game. He’s a multiple German champion, a two-time European and world champion, and has won Olympic gold medals in both Beijing and London. His success speaks for itself. Nevertheless the Munich-born Weinhold called time on his career a few weeks ago at the age of 31. “Sometimes it isn’t possible to combine the job and the sports career. The financial possibilities are not good enough,” said the goalkeeper. Although he’s lived and played in Cologne for the last six years, he’s still connected with Münchner SC, the club where he started his career: “I have a lot of friends there and I check their results regularly.” Whenever possible Weinhold returns to Munich, but has missed the Oktoberfest, the Wies’n, for the last two years running. “I plan to go next year. Nothing can keep me from going then!”
In an interview with MunichNow he talks about his future plans, the highlights of his career and Munich’s 2022 Winter Olympics bid.
MunichNow: In the last match of your career you won the German Championship one more time. Was it the perfect moment for you to retire?
Max Weinhold (MW): Yes, absolutely. I finished my career in the national team with the Olympic gold medal and then we got the German title as well. So I had the best possible success with both of my teams. It was the perfect way to finish my career.
MunichNow: What are the reasons behind your retirement?
MW: It’s sad to say but as a hockey player your pay does not reflect your professional efforts. We are committed to pushing our work-related career so as to provide for life after sport. Sometimes it isn’t possible to combine the job and the sports career. But I think I had a good finish. I had a great time but that’s in the past now. It’s time to start a career in the vocational way.
MunichNow: And how does it feel? Do you miss the sport already?
MW: Of course you miss the sport because it was a big part of my life. I am happy now though, because I have more time for private things, and I try to enjoy that, especially on the weekends. To go completely without hockey wouldn’t be possible though, so I changed from a goalkeeper to a striker and I play in the regional league sometimes. It’s mainly just to stay in touch with the guys and the club.
MunichNow: How does your every day life look now? Do you have a new daily routine?
MW: Yes. I go to work every morning. When I come home in the evening I do what everybody does. I go to practice once a week but apart from that I watch TV or go out to eat something.
MunichNow: You were born in Munich and you started your career at Münchner SC. How did it happen that you decided to play hockey in a city dominated by football?
MW: My father started playing hockey in Munich. He took my brother and I with him and at some point we wanted to try it ourselves. So I started to play hockey. I played tennis too, but in the end playing in a team was more interesting.
Munich Now: Do you still follow what happens to your former club?
MW: Yes, regularly. I’m still connected with Münchner SC. I have a lot of friends there and I check their results. They are playing very well and I hope they gain promotion to Division One, the 1. Bundesliga.
MunichNow: When you left the Münchner SC in 2007 you were successful at that time. What caused the move?
MW: Again, hockey’s financial opportunities aren’t very good. At that time there were some guys who wanted to make Rot-Weiß Köln the best club in Germany again. So they asked six of us from the national team to come to Cologne. They also didn’t pay much money, but they wanted to support us with our studies and our career, which was a crucial perspective for us.
MunichNow: You have lived in Cologne for a long time now. Do you still come home from time to time?
MW: My brother and my mom live in Munich so I try to be there as often as I can. During my career it was difficult because we had our games on the weekend, but if I have enough time I come to Munich. I was annoyed that I missed the Wies’n for the second time in a row, but I plan to go next year. Nothing can keep me from going then!”
MunichNow: Your brother also played hockey and he also played in the national team. Did you develop a special rivalry or did it bring you together?
MW: My father ironed out the rivalry thing very early on. My brother was considered as one of the biggest hockey talents in Bavaria at that time and he was very ambitious. He thought I was a bit more relaxed, so he persuaded me to become a goalie and we avoided this direct rivalry on the pitch. Later we often played together in the same team and that brought us together enormously. My brother and I are of one mind. It never affected us. It simply helped us.
MunichNow: If you take a look at your career, what were the biggest moments?
Max Weinhold: The Olympic gold medals definitely stick out a bit. I think those were the biggest moments of my sporting career. But at the end of the day, every title has its own story. The most emotional victory was the 2003 German championship with MSC. It was the first ever title for the club and also my first. That was something very special.
MunichNow: Everybody talks about that special Olympic spirit. Does is really exist and what is so special about the Olympics?
MW: Yes, it really does exist. You meet athletes you only know from the TV or the newspapers. This extreme closeness and the communication between the athletes is something really special. You are with like-minded people, all having the same purpose. There’s a flair you can’t really explain.
MunichNow: Munich is hoping to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. There are a lot of supporters but also some opponents. What do you think? Are the Olympic Games principally positive or do you have a different viewpoint?
MW: In my opinion, you have to promote the idea. There were some critics that said the Olympics promote themselves through superlatives, but I think there is a change of thinking since Beijing. London hosted a sustainable Olympic Games and tried to integrate the Olympic thought better. Of course it is still a media spectacle, but it’s slowly shaping into the right kind of thing. So I am a supporter of the Olympic Games. You just have to remember the World Cup in 2006. It was an exceptional experience for the whole of Germany. If Munich or Bavaria could repeat that, it would be just as positive for the morale in Germany and their reputation in the world. Of course you have to think about the environmental pollution, but I think there is a lot of ecological awareness. I think it would be a big mistake to miss that chance.
MunichNow: Bavarian Thomas Bach was recently elected president of the IOC. Do you think his election could affect the success of the promotion?
MW: I think it won’t affect it in a negative way. I’m not sure if it will have some positive effects because Thomas Bach has to keep his objectivity. But I’m glad to see a German in sports most important position. He led the DOSB (German Olympic Committee) very well and I believe he will do the same at the IOC.
MunichNow: Can you imagine a role for yourself in a union or something similar in the future?
MW: It’s a bit too far away to think of that now. But I wouldn’t say no if there was an opening. I can imagine doing something like that because my passion for sports is still there and will be there in the future.
MunichNow: So, one important question. Does your heart beat FC Bayern or 1860?
MW: I’m a clearly a Sechziger. I always have been. I have a lot of respect for Bayern because they have done amazing things and are playing fantastic football at the moment. But in the future, if there’s a derby I will stand in the 1860 end. Munich is blue after all!
Thanks for the interview Max!