Michael Ballack: My pre-match rituals

The former Chelsea and Germany midfielder on how he used music to help him focus before a game

What music did you like to listen to before a game?
As you know, I am German and in Germany we are very disciplined and well prepared, sometimes a little bit stiff, so we were not allowed to listen to music in the dressing room before a game when I was younger. It was not possible. The coach would have never allowed this. Preparation was a really big part of our procedures before the game, but Jürgen Klinsmann came in and changed this. When he was appointed as the national team coach in 2004, he took over and asked us why we don’t put music on in the dressing room? He said he wanted to do something different and help us relax. We all agreed and we started to play music in the dressing room. Then we started fighting about the type of music getting played. There were two or three players responsible for the music and there were a few players that didn’t like what they used to put on, so it became popular for everyone to put on their own music and use headphones. Every player is different and likes different music – one likes pop, one likes German music, another likes house.

What effect does music have on your emotional state before a game?
It plays a big role in your own emotions and how you get into a game. When you play every three days, you can’t perform at your best in every game – it’s not possible. You have good days, you have bad days. You wake up in the morning and have a feeling, either, ‘Today is my day’ or ‘Today is not my day’ and that might be down to a private problem or you had a fight with the coach or something went wrong in training. You might not be feeling great and you go out a few hours before the game and what can actually change your mind is music. You don’t want to affect the other players as well because everyone is different. You are a team, but every player is unique and they have their own individual preparation.

More after the break

What effect can listening to music pre-match have on performance?
Music affects me. It brings me into a special mood, but on the pitch you always think about your strengths. It’s sport, it’s football, it’s a sprint, it’s a duel during the game. When you take your headphones off 10 minutes before kick off you know the game is about start. You go onto the pitch and then it’s not about music, it’s about nothing else but football. But in the hours before, music is a big part of a player’s preparation.

Are there any songs you connect to football?
Up until 1990 the German national team actually had its own song. The whole team picked one song and sung and it sounded so funny. I know all these kinds of songs. Luckily before I started playing for the national team they stopped this tradition. At the 2006 World Cup in Germany we had Dieser Weg by Xavier Naidoo. It’s quite a slow song, but it’s really nice and from one of the great artists in Germany. We heard the song for the first time a few weeks before the tournament started. It was our song in our country. The World Cup in Germany was really special for everyone. As hosts the expectations were really high. It was a big challenge with a lot of the pressure, but we had this song, which we always listened to in the dressing room before a game. It was a ritual that kept us together. 

Can you remember any strange pre-match rituals your team-mates have had over the years?
You play in a team with 25 different characters, many different nationalities and because of that you see a lot of crazy things before a game. After a while you accept it, but at first, you’re like, ‘What is he doing?’. There will be one guy sitting the whole time, staying really quiet in his chair, doing nothing. A lot of players are stretching, having a massage or listening to music. Then there’s another guy who is on the phone the entire time calling someone, then there’s a guy who’s in the toilet or even one who is smoking. I’ve seen everything – many weird things I can tell you.

Michael Ballack was speaking at the Beats ‘The Game Before The Game’ premiere in London. Get a new pair of Solo2 headphones at uk.beatsbydre.com

Also see:
Thierry Henry: My pre-match rituals
The soundtrack to your season
Rooney: Big match preparation
Micah Richards: My pre-match playlist
Rio: My pre-match playlist
Ben Foster: My pre-match playlist
Music to improve your performance

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