Like millions of soccer players, I dreamed of becoming a professional. Not just any old professional, but the best in the world, and in my garden I scored the winning goal for Scotland in the World Cup final almost every day. My coach saw that I had potential and that I was good at using both feet, but he also saw that I was too light and easy to get thrown off the ball. He suggested some after school sessions in the weight room to build muscle mass. I went once, found it tiring and boring (no ball!) And never went back.
In my mid-twenties I played in an amateur cup final with a team I had joined in London. We met a team that consisted of several ex-professionals who were not quite ahead with Crystal Palace and who defeated us 4-1. A day or two after the game, my legs and upper body were bruised. Our opponents weren’t dirty, they were just more physical. During the game I hadn’t even noticed my direct opponent in midfield knocking me to the ball almost every time. It wasn’t until then that I realized why my trainer had steered me into the weight room when I was a developing teenager.
It’s not news on the front page that it takes a lot of dedication and diligence to get to the top of the game in any sport. Raw talent also requires additional practice and immeasurable reserves of mental determination on a daily basis. Being put off by a single workout at the gym isn’t what future champions are like. I thought of that over the weekend when I read an interview with the wife of the Polish striker from FC Bayern Munich Robert Lewandowski, Anna Lewandowskawho advises her husband about his meal plan, sleep routine and much more. “With professionals, every detail is important in order to peak and improve even further,” she says Southgerman newspaper Magazine. In this case, it refers to the fact that in the morning Robert gets out of bed with his left, non-shooting leg, the first to hit the floor. This is to avoid overloading his stronger right foot.
Now Robert Lewandwski is a striker who is absolutely at the top of his game and regularly scores goals for reigning German and European champions Bayern Munich. There is no doubt about his talent, and he rarely, if ever, suffers from bad form. In truth, I recorded this interview in the hope of discovering another side of him. He doesn’t seem particularly personable on the field. He groans a lot when things don’t go that way, both with the referee and with his teammates. His consistency and failure to ever miss a penalty are almost annoying. However, I was sure that a few personal anecdotes from his wife – even if they were just the result of PR spins – could warm me up for the man.
Here’s what I learned about the Lewandowski family. You have (sugar-free) dessert before the main course because the dessert is digested faster and “it is beneficial for the body”. For a healthy sleep, Anna Lewandowska explains that “the body needs tryptophan, an amino acid that the body cannot produce itself and that must be taken in through nutrients such as cashew nuts, soybeans, cocoa, peas, corn or raw salmon. Essential oils like lavender oil are essential oils also important for the sleep that we drip onto our pillows [we have] Humidifiers and soft sleep masks block blue light. We also use a salt lamp, special bedding, ergonomic mattresses and pillows, and special mats for the back and feet. “
Blimey. The interviewer may sense that while all of this is impressively focused, the couple who have two daughters, a 3 year old and an 8 month old, have to look for a warmer side. They met when they were 18. Did you have a wild period going to clubs and dancing? “My life has always been sport, sport, sport,” replies Anna, a former karate professional. The interviewer tries again: Do you sometimes cave in and have a glass of wine or do you have pizza and a burger? “Very seldom,” comes the reproachful answer. “Sometimes you want to eat something because it looks so good, but you just feel bad afterwards.” God forbid.
Lewandowski calls his wife “immediately” after every game for a long conversation. He never feels like he’s played well enough, “unless he’s scored at least three goals. Basically, he says I want more!” Everything in her life “is about sport and it will be for a long time”. Sure, they are rich and successful (Lewandowska advises several soccer players on nutrition and recovery and has done so their own line of nutritional products), but even then, “People always think the more money you have and the more business you do, the fewer problems you have. But that’s not true, because above all, you have more work.”
I reached the end of the interview, which apparently lasted three hours, without finding a single whisper of joy or humor in the Lewandowski’s life. That’s fine, I suppose – the couple made a very conscious choice to live their lives the way they do, lavender oils and everything. And here is the reward. Last year Lewandowski led his team to all sorts of honors and was rightly voted FIFA Men’s World Player of the Year. He is a brilliant, deadly, effective, and dedicated professional.
Do I like him as a person? No more or less than before. Do I wish I had his life? When I was a 10 year old boy hosting my imaginary World Cup final it was all I dreamed of. Do I regret not going back to the weight room to pump iron after school? Perhaps around the time of this failing failure against the former Crystal Palace reserves. After this glimpse into the life of the famous and extremely successful Lewandowski family, not a second longer.