Michael Krüger coached teams in Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan and Turkey. In Africa he won 7 major titles and is one of the most successful German coaches on the continent. Most recently, he has won the Sudanese Champioship and the local Cup with Al Merrikh SC in 2014. In 1995 he won the African Cup Winners Cup with Arab Contractors. Due to this accomplishments Krüger enjoys a high reputation in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopa.
Mr. Krüger, you enjoyed a great deal of success and won many titles on the African continent. How did you come up with this commitment and what are the reasons for your frequent returns?
My first involvement was more of a fluke. Initially the club wanted to sign Theo Brücker as their Head Coach. At that point he was living in Alexandria and did not want to move, so he recommended me. On one hand, I had a job offer from VFL Wolfsburg, on the other hand I already booked tickets to Egypt. I chose to fly over to take a look at what was expecting me. When I arrived, I was pleased with everything and decided to stay. I enjoyed my time in Egypt, luckily, we were also very successful. By winning the African Cup Winners’ Cup that year, I gained a certain reputation, so that time and time again I had the opportunity to return to Africa.
You won seven titles as a coach during your time on the African continent. Which one was the most important one for you?
Definitely my first title. It was like an “entrance ticket” for me and allowed future involvements on the African continent. If you are successful in what you are doing, people remember you there.
What were the greatest challenges you faced, when you worked abroad?
The many unknows: mentality, very little structure, living and climatic conditions. If you want to adapt, Plan A will not be enough, you will need to have a Plan B and a Plan C. You must stay flexible and be patient. But most importantly, you must commit to what you are doing.
How far do you adapt your training methods to a certain country?
First, I look at my new surroundings and listen to my colleagues. Next, I compare my impressions with my personal goals and see which ideas are doable and which are not. For example: you are planning on executing a high possession football, but the field conditions do not allow that style of play. So, you try to adapt your ideas to your new surroundings. It is not advisable to insist on doing something or whine about your new setting. As I said before: stay flexible and stay patient.
Otto Pfister, nominee for the German Football Ambassador in 2013, donated his prize money to Sudanese youth football. How important is football in Sudan?
Football plays an enormous role in Sudan, just like in Germany. Especially in Khartum it is very popular. If Hilal is playing against Al Merrikh, it is all about football. This derbies generate a great atmosphere!
In the meantime, Sudan is a separated state.Do you believe that football can build bridges to overcome cultural and political differences?
I am afraid that is not possible. At the time when I was working there, Sudan was not separated yet, but many problems existed already back then. In Khartum the situation was rather quiet, but on the countryside, the conflict included many tribal clashes and lead eventually to a separation.
You coached e.g. in Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. Did you face any outlandish challenges during your long carrier?
I remember the return match of a semi-final during the Africa Cup 1996 in Douala (Cameroon). The stadium was packed. A medicine man tainted our bench with the blood of a dead animal. As far as I can remember it was a chicken. As the match started I covered it with sand, which lead to a loud rumble in the stands. My measured seemed to work: we played 1:1 and made it to the final. Or another time in Cairo. It was during a very cold winter. My players were wrapped up in warm clothes but barefooted. I advised them to put on some socks. The president of the team gave me a short answer: “In Egypt we eat a lot of meat and meat helps against cold.” The debate was over. As I told you before, be flexible and stay patient, when you are working in Africa.