Being a team game, football doesn’t always lend itself to those with an individualistic streak or a propensity for the unconventional. With an interest in a wide variety of music and literature Thomas Broich was dubbed ‘Mozart’ early in his career.
Indeed, the richly talented wide midfielder has a natural penchant for the road less travelled, but invariably it is a route that presents its own particular potential for pitfall. So it proved for the Munich-born Broich. Having represented the Germany U-21 team and signing a deal with ambitious Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach, Broich was at one stage among a core group of young players earmarked for possible selection in the home nation’s tilt at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.
However a couple of appearances in ‘B’ internationals was as close as Broich ever came to such heady heights. A succession of injuries and the odd personality clash – notably with notoriously hard-nosed Dutch coach Dick Advocaat – were to hinder Broich’s career. There followed stints at Cologne and Nuremberg with varying degrees of success, but increasingly the silky-skilled left-footer was finding the pressure in the sometimes monochrome world of professional football not to his liking.
“Every day there was pressure,” Broich tells FIFA.com of his time in the Bundesliga, accentuating the final word of the sentence as if partially reprising the angst. “If you didn’t do well in a game you got hammered. I just wasn’t built for it. I couldn’t handle it. I was close to quitting football completely.”
Down Under adventure
Broich though had a hankering to travel and, in particular, to visit Australia. Then came a fork in the road. An opportunity to sign for A-League club Brisbane Roar arose, and Broich’s journey down that ‘road less travelled’ suddenly became a happier one. “Before I signed my contract at Brisbane I had already made up my mind that this [football] wasn’t for me. I wasn’t loving my job anymore.”
Broich, however, was an instant hit in Australia. He provided a league-leading 12 assists as Brisbane won their maiden championship with the club playing a dynamic short-passing brand of football, earning the moniker ‘Roarcelona’ from local media. And Broich was an integral figure in the A-League’s football revolution led by Brisbane.
The following season Brisbane retained their crown and Broich was named player of the season. The then Brisbane coach, and now Australia mentor Ange Postecoglou, described Broich as the best import the league has ever seen.
One thing is clear. Broich is thriving in Australian football, and revelling in the local way of life. “It is like being reborn,” Broich says, encapsulating the dramatic shift in his career in just a few short words. “People appreciated what I’m doing all of a sudden. I can give back a lot and it seems to work for both sides.
“I guess the fact the game is not as big as in Europe.... You can have a bad game or season but they don’t question your integrity as a person. Or they don’t take anything anyway from you as a player. Last season was good for me to see... even though I didn’t play so well, people still appreciated me as a player and that kind of stuff helps.
“When I was playing in Germany and I did something like bring a guitar to training camp, they didn’t like that and thought it would take away something from the football focus. It is different here. People here embrace the fact I have interests outside football, and actually encourage players to do so.
“Plus, in general I think players are not so narrow-minded anymore. Twenty years back maybe it was the case that every footballer was pretty much obsessed with football. That is not the case anymore. Plenty of players, especially the young ones, study on the side and have a broad range of interests which is pleasing to see.”
Such is Broich’s colourful personality and intriguing career that a German film crew documented his football odyssey over an eight-year period. So how did the 32-year-old enjoy seeing himself on film? “Not so much,” Broich says with a unassuming smile. “When I agreed to it I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. I liked the end product, but it is a little weird to see myself on TV. Some of things I said and did, is just a little embarrassing for me.”
Smiling in the sun
Broich has struck up a magnificent on-field synchronicity with another German-raised player at the Roar; prolific Albanian striker Besart Berisha. The 32-year-old Broich also enjoys strong combinations with Australia midfielders Matt McKay and Ivan Franjic, the latter of whom is making an unlikely late run for 2014 FIFA World Cup selection. The combined output has the Roar currently leading the competition and on track for an unprecedented third A-League title in four years.
And whatever the many reasons may be, Broich is now playing with a smile on his face. So what does he like about living in Brisbane? “That it is never cold,” says Broich emphatically. “The fact that there is not one freezing day in a year is unbelievable. You don’t imagine such a thing when you grow up [in Germany] because it [the cold] is a given. I thought it would be boring to have only one season, but even in winter I was relaxing by the pool, and that is priceless.”