As tournament director, Philipp Lahm formulates clear goals and visions for the European Football Championship in Germany. “As hosts, we want to act like a European champion for weeks,” said the 2014 world champion captain in an interview with the German Press Agency a year before the opening game.

The tournament is intended to be a “happy football festival” that will awaken “a new sense of togetherness” in Germany and also in Europe. And it should set a counterpoint to the recent, controversial World Cup in Qatar.

“Great Anticipation”

On June 14, 2024, the home European Championship begins in Munich. You will sit in the stands as Tournament Director for the opening game. With what feelings? And with what expectations?

Philipp Lahm: I think there will be great anticipation and at the same time a certain amount of concentration. German football has been dealing with this tournament for years. We all worked hard for this during this time and will continue to do so until the start of the tournament and of course in the weeks that follow. So June 14, 2024 is one of those days that we are working towards together with great joy. But there will be a lot going on before and after that in a positive sense.

What does the ideal day look like?

Philipp Lahm: Firstly, I’m hoping for nice weather. When I think back to the 2006 World Cup, I have fond memories of how warm and sunny those weeks were. On the other hand, I wish for a successful German team – like when we started in 2006. Personally, I hope that I don’t have to start the tournament with a splint on my arm again in summer temperatures (laughs).

Is correct. In 2006 you injured your arm at the beginning of the preparation. They were able to play anyway and even scored 1-0 in a 4-2 win over Costa Rica. It was the beginning of the summer fairy tale. Incidentally, also in the Munich stadium. Will you think of that too?

Lahm: Of course, in the coming weeks and months, one or the other thought will always go in the direction of 2006. Because back then, German football, in cooperation with the outstanding fans, managed to create an impressive spirit of optimism in Germany – and that is also our common goal for Euro 2024.

What should this EM stand for in Germany, after there were two controversial World Cup tournaments in Russia and Qatar and in between an EM scattered across Europe and also affected by Corona?

Lahm: The EURO 2024 should be exactly the opposite of the last tournaments. At the last World Cups in Qatar and Russia, the sport was used by the wrong people for their respective purposes. It was primarily about power and self-expression. Now the EURO 2024 is supposed to be a big celebration, a celebration of coming together. This tournament should strengthen Europe after the crisis years that we all have behind us and in which we are still stuck. Unfortunately, we are witnessing an attack by Russia on Ukraine. We currently have many problems and challenges to overcome due to climate change, the aftermath of the pandemic and the economic situation. A community experience is particularly important – here in Germany, in the heart of Europe. It’s a great opportunity for us to show how we really are and how we want to live together in Europe.

“Full of diversity and tolerance!”

How are we?

Lahm: Cosmopolitan! Full of diversity and tolerance! Characterized by important values ​​such as democracy, freedom and cohesion! I think Europe is happy that another tournament is taking place here in Germany, in a country that welcomes other people and nations and is easy for fans to travel to.

In 2006, the World Cup operated under the slogan ‘A time to make friends’. Would this motto have fitted 18 years later?

Lahm: The slogan was a perfect fit back then, just like the slogan ‘United by Football – United in the Heart of Europe’ fits perfectly for Euro 2024. How we present ourselves as a country and as a community will be very important. By that I mean the DFB, the team, every player and every citizen. We want to be open, celebrate – and show solidarity with everyone else. Because the current situation in society requires us all to rethink. We want to organize a party that will have an aha effect for years to come.

Football “sport number one”

Can the EURO change the country like the 2006 World Cup did?

Lahm: Football is our number one sport. There will be thousands in the stadiums, millions of people watching TV and in the fan zones. The whole world will be looking at us. Football inspires and has the opportunity to be the social glue for society. The attention at a tournament like this can be used positively – and we will do that.

The football governing bodies, especially FIFA, are not easy partners. Let’s think of the EM 2021, when the Munich Arena was not allowed to shine in the colors of the rainbow. How are things going for you in the joint tournament organization with UEFA?

Lahm: UEFA is an experienced partner for us, but they are also willing to adapt things. Some items – such as the captain’s armbands – are non-negotiable. But there are many other ways to represent the country or the venues. At our suggestion, for example, the game plan was created with the geographical division of the ten venues into three clusters: south/southwest, west and north/northeast. The teams play their group games in a maximum of two, at best even in one of these clusters. The German team plays in Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt. The team’s base camp will also be located in this area. The teams and the fans of the respective teams do not have to travel so far. These shorter distances have a sustainability effect. UEFA gratefully accepted and supported our proposal.

At DFB Euro GmbH you are the OC boss. Is this task a gift for you? A job? Or a passion?

Lahm: First of all, it’s a great honor. In 2006 I was allowed to take part in a home World Cup as a national player. That was great. I received very warm support from the fans then and in the years that followed. Being able to help organize a home tournament now gives me the wonderful opportunity to give something back to football, the fans and society. And that’s very important to me.

“The expectations are always high in Germany”

You speak of honor. Do you also feel a special responsibility?

Lame: Of course! In Germany, expectations are always high. And everyone abroad expects us to be able to organize a tournament like this. Sustainability will play a very important role for us. That was and is particularly important to us in the organization: we want to organize a sustainable football tournament. In this respect, we can possibly be a role model for subsequent major events.

What is the status of the preparations? What are the problems?

Lahm: Preparations are in full swing and we are right on schedule. We are currently on the road in all ten EM cities, the stadiums are already in place and we have a very good view of the biggest challenges. What we also have to do now is create enthusiasm that people in Germany want to host a big tournament.

The 2006 World Cup felt more present a year before kickoff. Are we in Germany too busy with other things at the moment?

Lahm: Back then there was also the Confederations Cup, which took place in Germany in 2005 and was used as a dress rehearsal for the 2006 World Cup. So twelve months before the World Cup, the focus was already on the 2006 World Cup and football in Germany. The situation is different now: the World Cup in Qatar only took place six months ago. In addition, there is unfortunately a lot going on in the world at the moment and many other, sometimes even more relevant topics are understandably in the foreground.

What about political support? Do you feel this 100 percent?

Lahm: We are in very close and very good contact with politicians in many areas. On Wednesday, exactly one year before the start of the European Championships, we will be invited to see Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin to organize the tournament. This meeting will make it clear that politics is behind this tournament.

So June 14, 2023 will also be a special day?

Lahm: Yes, and there is another reason for this: the volunteers platform will be activated on the evening of June 14th. Around 16,000 volunteers will support us at the EURO and anyone over the age of 18 can apply to help. The volunteers are an important part of the tournament. For me they are the faces of the tournament. We would be happy if many apply.

An important date for every fan is the start of ticket sales. UEFA starts it on October 3rd, the day of German unity. A deliberately chosen date?

Lahm: Opening the ticket market on this very day is a great sign from UEFA.

“There is enthusiasm for football”

The 51 games will surely be sold out. Or?

Lahm: We probably won’t have to worry about sold-out stadiums. You only have to look at the number of spectators in the Bundesliga: The enthusiasm for football is there.

How important is the performance and appearance of the German team in order to be able to speak of a successful European Championship?

Lahm: It’s always important for the home team to stay in the tournament for as long as possible. But it is even more important that the fans identify with the national team again. I don’t know if we had the third best team in the tournament in 2006. But the enthusiasm of the fans gave us wings. The players must also know for Euro 2024 how important such a home tournament is. You have to create identification again, show yourself approachable and full of passion for the DFB jersey. That is their main task.

It won’t be a sure-fire success, will it?

Lahm: A lot has been lost in the last tournaments. It should be a special honor to be able to represent your country as a player. And that’s only possible in a collective. The German national team is only ever successful when it really appears as a team. I don’t think Argentina, Morocco or Croatia had a better squad than us at the World Cup in Qatar. But these players gave everything for their country, always at the service of the team. In my opinion, it can’t have been due to the sheer quality of our players.

Hansi Flick was allowed to continue as national coach despite being eliminated in the preliminary round in Qatar. A right decision by the DFB?

Lahm: If I may ask you a question: why shouldn’t he deserve a second chance? As a footballer and coach you have to prove yourself again and again, always face the pressure. And what’s better than being able to prove yourself at a home tournament? The coach and the team will play in front of their home crowd, enjoy and hopefully use this home advantage. I’m speaking from my own experience: A tournament in your own country – that’s an experience in the life of a footballer that can hardly be topped.

“Friendlies are very important”

Until the European Championship, the national team only plays test matches. What can we expect from the upcoming three games against Ukraine, Poland and Colombia at the end of a long season? Are these international matches also about the later European Championship success?

Lahm: The fans now want to feel the lack of enthusiasm and identification in the players again. That’s why these friendlies are so important. That has to get into the heads of the players: they represent their country – and that is a responsibility. As a fan, I haven’t felt recently that one of our team sacrifices themselves for the other on the pitch. We haven’t played successfully in three tournaments now, so it’s so important that the players show it again now – and that starts in the friendlies.

What suggests that Germany might be able to compete for the European Championship title again in 2024?

Lahm: We’re not one of the favorites if you’re eliminated twice in a row at the World Cup in the preliminary round and in between in the round of 16 of the European Championship. Other favourites: France and England, to name just two nations, are a bit ahead of us at the moment. But we still have good players. Hansi Flick now has to form a team from this and they have to take on more responsibility again. Then I am confident that it will be a successful tournament.

Her generation also had to wait a long time before Brazil 2014 won the World Cup. Do you still believe in the generation around Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka or Serge Gnabry?

Lahm: These players have already proven at the club that they can be successful. Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, who I see as responsible, have often become champions with FC Bayern. They won the Champions League in 2020. So you can. They also have to form a core in the national team and create a team.

Are youngsters like Jamal Musiala or Florian Wirtz already ready at the age of 20 to be a hopeful for the European Championship?

Lahm: They are definitely excellent, super talented players. But again: It’s only possible in a collective! When a team works, individual players can stand out and shine on the pitch. But there has to be a core of players leading the way.

Can problem positions be concealed in a functioning team, such as center forwards or full-backs?

Lahm: We have players in our national team who can play that. When I think of Kai Havertz, for example, who can fill the center forward position very well. He played that at Chelsea and also at the DFB. He has those skills. And then I have a question for you: did we have the best full-backs at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? Back then nobody expected Benedikt Höwedes as a left-back. He then made seven outstanding games. He knew his role and he put himself at the service of the team. Incidentally, we started the tournament with four central defenders in defence. Something like that also works.

DFB team “reflection of club football”

How dependent is the national team on successful club teams, especially on your former club Bayern Munich?

Lahm: You can’t separate the two. The past shows that. In 2013, FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund were in the Champions League final – and a year later we became world champions. Now the signs are different. At FC Bayern you could also ask: How is the team actually acting? How much do the players identify with the club? The national team is always a reflection of club football.

What will Philipp Lahm do in 2024 after the EM final? Vacation? A sabbatical? Or are you going to jump straight into a new football job?

Lahm: I’ve always been a passionate soccer player. And I know my way around football best, even though I’ve built up my company and my foundation outside of that and am now expanding in a targeted manner. I can definitely imagine working in football and in a football-related environment. But first I’m looking forward to EURO 2024 – and only then will I look further.

To close the circle. How would tournament director Philipp Lahm wish for July 14, 2024 in Berlin?

Lahm: Ideally, the German team will then be in the final and, ideally, even become European champions. On this day I would also like to be able to look back on a peaceful tournament, on a happy football festival, on a new sense of togetherness, on a new sense of cohesion in our society – not only in Germany but in Europe. As hosts, we want to act like a European champion for weeks – and then the sporting title on July 14, 2024 is welcome to follow.

About the person: Philipp Lahm was born on November 11, 1983 in Munich. He is tournament director of the European Football Championship 2024. He was captain of the German national team (113 international matches), with which he became world champion in Brazil in 2014. He won numerous titles with FC Bayern, the highlight being the Champions League in 2013. Four years later he ended his professional career. Since then, Lahm has been an entrepreneur. He has been married since 2010. He has two children with his wife.