Robben teaches Germans to love long johns

February 4, 2010

Germans used to laugh at soccer players who wore long johns in the winter, belittling anyone who opted not to play in shorts as a light-weight. Germans even have a derogatory name for the thermal underwear: Liebestoeter  (passion killers).  SOCCER-GERMANY/

That was before Arjen Robben scored two goals and led Bayern Munich to three straight wins in his woolly grey long johns. They may make him look like a 19th century grampa getting ready to get into a cold bed. But they’re “hot pants” as far as Bayern are concerned.

And no one’s laughing anymore.  In fact all of Germany is talking about the unstoppable Dutchman who has made a fashion statement in the baggy underwear.

“I know they don’t look very good — even my wife tells me that they don’t look very good,” Robben was quoted telling Bild newspaper the other day after scoring a goal and setting up another in Bayern’s 3-0 win over Mainz last Saturday. “But they feel really good when I’ve got them on. They keep my muscles warm. The long johns belong to the club. At home I never wear anything like that.”

As my colleague Brian Homewood wrote today, Robben has been in sparkling form since the mid-season break in his long johns and helped Bayern move into second place behind Bayer Leverkusen.

There has been so much talk about Robben’s hot run in his baggy underwear that the Bundesliga’s ruling body, the German Football League (DFL), has decided to enforce an obscure rule that mandates such undergarmets must conform to the colours of the team’s kit, or red in Bayern’s case.

“We didn’t just make up this rule,” said DFL vice president Holger Hieronymus. “But we’ve informed the referees to enforce the rule more strictly.” Hieronymus said that the long john issue was threatening to get out of hand.

“We’ve heard of two cases where there were bets being placed on whether a player would appear for a match in green or yellow long johns — so things were starting to get out of control,” he said.

Bayern Munich’s sporting director Christian Nerlinger can hardly believe that, with temperatures well below zero for most of January and piles of snow just off the pitch in pretty much every Bundesliga stadium, that the DFL is really worried about the colour of Robben’s underwear.

“Some people just have too much time on their hands,” Nerlinger told Bild.  On Bayern’s website, Nerlinger added: “We’ll have to either dye them or he’ll have to find another pair.”

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