Football’s biggest stars are in the spotlight the world over. Everybody knows their names, their faces and their back stories.
Behind the scenes, however, are millions of trainers, backroom staff and helpers right across the planet who make sure that football is the most popular sport in the world and that countless people can indulge in their favourite pastime. They coach teams for little or no money, wash jerseys, referee matches, and organise their clubs and fixture lists.
One of these unsung heroes of the beautiful game is Susan Konig, who is an important member of the set-up at Karbener SV (KSV), a football club purely for youth teams near Frankfurt in the west of Germany. Her son Tom began playing there when he was 10 years old, and her boyfriend at the time Thorsten Don, whom she has recently gone on to marry, decided to help out coaching the youngsters.
"The previous trainer was more interested in his girlfriend than the team, so Thorsten was given the opportunity to take over," says Susan with a smile after FIFA.com had gone to meet her at the club’s ground. A few years later, the club was looking for a new treasurer, and Konig it was who took over.
- Hessen league winners 2000 (fourth division)
- Solely concentrating on youth football since 2015
- 15 teams across all age groups
- Mix of competitive and friendly teams
- Regular matches against youth teams from Bundesliga clubs
- Home to a DFB camp
Since then, she has been making sure that all the bills are paid and that the coaches’ expenses are covered along with the refereeing costs and contributions to the national association, as well as organising tournaments within the club.
She has also taken on responsibility for ordering and distributing club equipment (such as kit and balls) and coordination with the other departments of the club. "There are around a thousand items distributed among the players and teams every season," the 49-year-old explains.
"I like the atmosphere at football matches, be it here at the club or in a big stadium. It provides a nice balance to what is a tough job. I can turn my mind to other things, and I’m happy to see the kids run out in decent kit," says Konig, whose son is now 19 and went on to become a youth coach with KSV and is still a keen football fan.
"Football is a hobby we all share, and without the men in my life, I’d never have become involved," she adds, referring to a club that has gone from strength to strength during her time there, with a growing number of children and youngsters getting involved and teams moving up the divisions.
"I’m also proud of the fact that I’ve been part of the growth of the club and been part of the success, playing my own small part. It’s great that children still want to join us to play football."
There are two main things that make volunteers like Susan so special: they tend to work behind the scenes, with much of what they do going unseen by the players and parents – but they are the very people who make sure that football continues to be played at so many levels.
And what really stands out is that she has carried on doing her unpaid work after her son had stopped playing for Karbener SV. "I never made it contingent on him. But yes, the set-up that we have as a youth team always makes it difficult to get people that you can count on, as it often depends on how long their boy is going to play for the club – or how well he manages to do!"
How long Susan will carry on as a volunteer, she cannot say, but at the moment, she has no desire to give it up. "I like coming to the lovely ground that we have, you always meet nice people to have a chat with and the work that I do for the club is really great fun."
Her words are doubtless echoed by millions of other people who make it possible for clubs way below the professional levels not only to carry on year in, year out, but to be such a special part of the sport.
To them, we say a heartfelt THANK YOU!