| 20/06/2019

Fans abroad

FC International: From Köln to Lazio

There are FC fans everywhere, in every corner and city. But still, it’s sometimes surprising where and how these FC fans pop up. The heart of the team manager from a top team in Italy beats red and white.

It’s little about Geißbockheim, which is so beautifully positioned in the greenery like no other sporting venue in Germany. Should you get the chance to visit Rome and have the chance to see the Centro Sportivo di Formello in the North of the city, then you should. That is where Lazio train.

And with the first look you can easily understand how footballers like Thomas Doll, Kalle Riedle or Miroslav Klose felt so at home there. Lazio’s training ground has something of a fine hotel in nature: pine, cyprus, a peaceful location in contrast from the busy streets of Italy’s capital just 40 minutes away. The top facilities with a pool room, bar, restaurant and accommodation for the players – I could hardly believe it.

Really I was there to make a report on Lazio’s team, but it was an exclusive meeting with a Kölsche Jung, FC fan through and through and the only team manager in Serie A who isn’t from Italy. His name, Stefan Derkum. In November 1976, he was born in Köln. He studied in Neuerhrenfeld in Bickendorf, where his parents still live today, and worked as a travel salesman as a born FC fan. “It was in the air, my first idol was Toni Polster. But until now, I still don’t understand how FC were relegated last time. I went mental when we qualified for Europe again. I wished that Lazio had played FC in the Europa League, but unfortunately nothing came of it. But yes, everyone here knows I’m an FC fan.”

With former HSV and current Lazio player, Milan Badelj, everything is discussed and dissected before everything game, and which club had their nose in front. But the question of the transfer to Lazio from Bickendorf remains unexplained. “In 2001, I wanted to have a bit of time out. My boss from Köln said that I should do it, and I can come back at any time.” Derkum’s destination was Napoli. And here in south Italy came an unexpected surprise – he fell in love.

Making the move

Derkum lost his heart to a Roman, who he had two kids with in the mean time. “Both kids are more Roman than German, but you can tell they’ve got kölsche genes. The little one is especially interested in FC’s results.” The love went against a return to Köln. Rome was Derkum’s new home. “At the beginning, I didn’t know a word of Italian. English helped, and when necessary a lot of Italian iss poke with the hands,” said the 42-year-old, who now speaks Italian with a perfect Roman accent.

Derkum found work in Rome in a travel agent, that took care of the travel for a few sporting associations – for example, the basketball national team. His German knowledge, paired with his Kölsch nature, came to the fore. As his next job, he worked at an agency where he “only imagined working there for six months”.

And then Lazio came into play. This agency looked after flights, accommodation and transport for the club. “My Kölsch nature his definitely helped me to this day, in order to get to grips with how things are in Rome.” Lazio are very pleased with him and his work, who asked him in 2014 if he wanted the job as team manager permanently. “It’s cray, that I’m already in my fifth season with this prestigious club. It’s a 365-day job, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Hennes has his place

During our conversation, we stroll around the training ground. We meet Olimpia, Lazio's eagle, the living mascot who lives here in the wild. Players and staff greet Stefan politely. “Ciao, Tedesco, tutto bene)”. He arrived and was accepted as a born Roman. “I’m the first here and the last out. I must look after travel, everything has to work and be organised. In the Europa League, organisation is one of my key tasks: where the team trains, where we can get water. Boring, but very important details. Recently, when Eintracht Frankfurt were here, I went to the airport to welcome them in the name of Lazio. But for the new players here, I’m the first stop. I pick the boys up from the airport, take them to the medical, help them look for an apartment. If I can somehow help to pick up a point through my work at any point in the season, then it’s been worth it.”

Our walk continues, passing one of the many training pitches in the direction of the changing rooms. In the front window of one of the cars hangs a little plush Hennes. It can only be Stefan Derkum’s car. “Once FC, always FC. I cross the fingers on one hand for Lazio, and the other for FC. Unfortunately I’m not in Köln that often, in summer it’s normally just a week to see my parents. So I don’t have much time to see a game. Otherwise, I follow everything over the internet. At home, I always have my FC sweatshirt on. That this year in 2. Bundesliga wouldn’t be easy was obvious, but next season there’s Bundesliga football in Köln again.”

Hennes in Rome – around 1,400km from his home. The world is a small place. I was invited for an Espresso in the team bar before the afternoon came to a close: “Even when I’ve lived in Rome for years and my own family is here, I remain a Kölner at heart. I feel fantastic here. Only a little something from Karneval is missing.”

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