A bad slip, a harsh tackle by another player or an accident off the field can end careers within an instant. These dreaded events are what make sport one of the most vicious and dangerous fields to move into. Things can get even worse, as has been seen in the world of football in recent times, with a number of players losing their lives on the field.
But amidst all this, we do find those rare and lucky gems, the ones who manage to escape from the vice grip of this dreaded side of football. These men deserve just as much, or maybe even more applause than those who had luck on their side and were not shattered by these life-destroyers. One such hero is Hannover’s Leon Andreasen. The Danish international moved to Hannover on loan in the winter of 2009 and enjoyed a fairly decent campaign with Die Roten, helping the side finish in a comfortable 11th position.
The following season proved to be a horrendous year for both Hannover and Andreasen. The club struggled to find any form, and were at the receiving end of some extremely embarrassing results. To add to the club’s woes, Andreasen suffered a career threatening injury that would force him out of action indefinitely. Luckily for Hannover, the arrival of the wily Mirko Slomka saw them escape from the ravenous relegation zone. Unfortunately for Andreasen, this disastrous injury forced him out of the 2010 World Cup as well. At the age of 27, not much hope remained for the hardworking midfielder.
A year before Andreasen’s downturn in fortunes, Schalke left back, Christian Pander was also devastated by a career threatening injury. In a game against Borussia Mönchengladbach, Pander was taken off after picking up a knee injury and yet another future seemed very bleak. Was this marauding wing back’s career done? Were we ever going to watch Pander smack a venomous shot from thirty yards out?
Rewind a couple of months back, to February 2009, just after the arrival of Andreasen at the AWG Arena. Szabolcs Huszti, one of Hannover’s most talented players, had just agreed terms with Zenit St. Petersburg and was set to leave Hannover. It was this departure that in a way marked the beginning of Hannover’s downfall – from a mid table side to relegation battlers.
By May 2010, Hannover had lost Andreasen and only just managed to stay up in the Bundesliga. Slomka was expected to help stabilize the ship and ensure that the club wasn’t languishing at the bottom of the table come the end of the season. The likes of Ron-Robert Zieler, Lars Stindl and Emanuel Pogatetz were brought in to buck up the squad.
Ten months later, Slomka had completely transformed the atmosphere at the AWD Arena. Relegation wasn’t to be spoken of in Hannover, they were now a side fighting for a Champions League spot. Slomka had taken them from being a team that lost 7-0 to Bayern Munich to one that beat Bayern Munich by a margin of two goals. The transformation was complete and it was magical. Hannover ended the year in fourth place, just five points behind Bayern.
The following season, Slomka bought Christian Pander from Schalke. Slomka’s faith in Pander must be attributed to their time together at Schalke. Nonetheless, it seemed a huge gamble. Could Pander, a player out of action for two entire years, satisfy the ever growing needs of the Hannover faithful? Thankfully for Slomka and Pander, things went fine and dandy as the left back had a solid season.
The sensational left foot was back – the one that Gary Lineker was left in awe of. Hannover weren’t able to repeat their feats from the previous season, but a seventh place finish accompanied by a quarter final exit in the Europa League was more than commendable. Hannover were growing in confidence and Christian Pander was being welcomed back to the world of football.
The 2012-13 season was going to be a really long one for Die Roten thanks to their qualification to the third qualifying round of the Europa League. Reinforcements were required and they arrived in the form of the returning duo of Leon Andreasen, from injury, and Szabolcs Huszti, from Zenit. Huszti’s return was surrounded by a certain magical aura – the superstar of yesteryear had returned. With Pander having risen from the ashes of injury, there was a great deal of optimism around Andreasen’s return from that devastating injury.
But not a sole would have expected what was going to happen. Hannover have scored twenty seven goals in their first seven games of the season, out of which Pander has scored one, Andreasen and Huszti have five and two respectively. To add to this, both Huszti and Andreasen were sensational in Hannover’s 4-0 mauling of Wolfsburg last weekend.
Slomka has successfully managed to transform Hannover into a side that should regularly fight for European qualification. Every new acquisition of his seems to fit in perfectly at the club. Latest signings, Adrian Nikci and Darren Dods, are a testament to this. The duo scored the two goals on matchday one to ensure that Hannover got a point against Schalke.
To add to the magic of this transmogrification brought about by Slomka are the wonderful stories of Christian Pander and Leon Andreasen. The two stars epitomize grit and determination, and have paved the way for any other unfortunate players to have suffered a similar fate. Also, the return of Huszti is like that of the prodigal son. His recent utopian performance against Wolfsburg showed the world just what he is capable of. The magic of the quartet of Slomka, Huszti, Andreasen and Pander will surely bedazzle for yet another season.