Meet the No. 1 globetrotting German

BERLIN: Never mind Kaka or Zinedine Zidane. When it comes to record transfers, the man with a suitcase permanently at the ready is Lutz Pfannenstiel, a globetrotting German who’s just signed for his 24th club.

After Malaysia, Canada, Australia and Albania — to name but a few — Pfannenstiel recently headed for Norway, where last week he signed a contract as player-coach of Oslo-based third-division club Mangerud Star.

The career of the 35-year-old goalkeeper certainly doesn’t compare to that of the world’s most expensive player, France’s Zidane, who moved from Juventus to Real Madrid for �75mil in 2001.

But he has probably seen more of the world as well as experiencing at first hand the game’s underbelly.

It has also given him, in place of a bulging trophy haul, a unique title — he is the first professional footballer to have played on the six continents defined by world governing body FIFA, which classes North and South America separately.

“It’s not something that I planned. It’s all been completely by chance, but I’m proud of the record,” said the keeper.

However Pfannenstiel (which translates as ‘panhandle’) got very close to never leaving Germany, or even his native Bavaria at the start of his career. In his youth, he was capped by his country at various age levels, but at 20 he found himself at a Third Division club.

He prompted interest from Bayern Munich, but never made it beyond their reserve team.

So Pfannenstiel packed his bags and started his footballing odyssey. His first stop was Penang.

Then 23 transfers followed in 15 years, featuring well-known clubs, such as Wimbledon and Nottingham Forest in England, then the Orlando Pirates in South Africa, before stops in Malta, New Zealand and Brazil.

During his travels, the ‘Phileas Fogg of football’ has found himself penniless in Armenia, faced a brush with death in 2002, following a serious collision with an opponent in England’s seventh tier, and spent three and a half months behind bars after being suspected of corruption in Singapore.

If he hasn’t quite amassed the riches of Kaka or Zidane, Pfannenstiel still has causes close to his heart, like the fight against climate change.

In 2009 he hopes to organise a charity match of football legends in Antarctica, the only ‘continent’ missing from his list of conquests. — AFP

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