Thomas Muller has taken the world by storm but not many people know that an Asian, and to be precise, a Malaysian, is instrumental in his rapid rise to stardom.
Bayern Munich Academy product Muller, 20, wreaked havoc in his first major tournament for Germany scoring four goals and helping the three-time champions reach the FIFA World Cup semi-finals in South Africa.
Former Malaysian international Lim Teong Kim, who is working with German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich since 2000, was the witness of this young hotshot’s development process.
“Muller was not a gifted footballer but he is very dedicated and determined,” said Lim, who is now an assistant coach of Bayern’s U-19 squad.
Lim, who was the first Malaysian footballer to ply his trade in Europe when he turned out for Hertha Berlin, a then third division team in 1987, has worked together with Muller and another rising star of the formidable German side in South Africa, centre-back Holger Badstuber, when he was coaching the Bayern U-13 and U-14 teams.
Eight of his trainees then, have graduated to the Bayern U-19 team with Muller and Badstuber the most outstanding among all.
Lim, who was part of Malaysia’s SEA Games winning side in 1989, said in an interview: "Muller was not as gifted as some of his teammates in the youth teams but he made it big because of his dedication to training and matches. This is the same case with Badstuber."
Muller, who is suspended for the semi-final against European champions Spain on Wednesday, is joint top scorer with his club and national team senior Miroslav Klose and is also in line for the Best Young Player award and Golden Boot in this year’s World Cup.
Malacca-born Lim, 47, also had a brief stint with Austrian second division outfit, Gak Graz in 1990.
Fluent in German, Lim is a holder of both Malaysia Football Association (FAM) Advanced Coaching Certificate and German Football Association (DFB) Master Coaching Licence.
Lim, who was capped 75 times for Malaysia and played for Malacca, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Kuala Lumpur and Kedah, is born in a sporting family.
His elder brothers, Kim Chon, Chuan Chin and Hong Guan, are all coaches at different levels. Kim Chon was former AFC Technical Director while Chuan Chin and Hong Guan both specialise in coaching goalkeepers for the national teams.
These three and another elder brother, Seng Koon, have played at the state level at one time or another. Seng Koon represented Johor and Armed Forces, Kim Chon played for Malacca and KL, Chuan Chin for Malacca, Perak, Pahang, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur and Hong Guan as goalkeeper for Malacca and Selangor.
Lim, who married a German, has three children - who are all involved in sports.
"My son, who is now 16, was in the Under-12 Bayern Munich team but he now represents his school. As for my two daughters, the older one is into rock climbing while the other is involved in athletics," said Lim.
Lim’s experience could be of some help for Asian players who are looking for their adventure in Europe.
"When I went there (Germany) in the late 1980s, I faced many challenges including language barrier, weather, food and competition from teammates. These factors may affect the player’s mentally and confidence.
"The European leagues are very challenging and a person on trial with a club normally gets a cold shoulder from other players. You have no friends in the club as your teammates are thinking about their own importance in the team. They feel you are a threat to them.
“It was like that when I attended trials with Hertha Berlin," he said.