Benjamin Köhler played for Eintracht Frankfurt for nine years and was a seasoned professional footballer when he was diagnosed with cancer out of nowhere as a Union Berlin player at the age of 34 in 2015. 13 months later, Köhler was back on the field for the Iron – and ended his career a year later.
In an interview with SPOX and goal Köhler speaks in detail about the path to cancer diagnosis, his handling of the disease, the course of chemotherapy and the crucial call for his recovery.
The now 40-year-old also talks about how he became the owner of a Berlin ice cream parlor and why he had to close it again.
Mr. Köhler, after you retired from the end of October 2018 to September 2020, you and your wife ran the “La Luna” ice cream parlor in the East Side Mall near the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. So the obvious question right at the beginning: What are yours Favorite Flavors?
Benjamin Koehler: Dark Chocolate and Cookies. Cinnamon was added at Christmas time.
Charcoal burner: Corona gave us the fatal blow. It was okay before, but ultimately it didn’t work the way I imagined it would. It didn’t start off ideally as the main entrance to the East Side Mall was closed for a year. When Corona came, we no longer had a chance. You can’t survive this. I also didn’t want to fight it over and over with all these applications and state aid, just to keep myself afloat. That would have been a lot of work without much profit. Unfortunately, this is the case for many. I have no idea how some of the others seem to somehow manage this anyway.
You should have initially thought of a shisha bar.
Charcoal burner: During my active career, my dream was to open a shisha bar with a buddy. He now also has two. I would certainly have had a lot of fun now, but it mostly takes place in the nightlife and is hardly compatible with a family and three children.
If someone had told you at the end of your career that you would one day stand behind the counter of an ice cream parlor, what would you have answered?
Charcoal burner: No way! (laughs) It came about through my advisor and a friend who owns a large chain of ice cream parlors. We had a lot of conversations for over a year. The concept was presented to me and I thought about it for a long time. An ice cream parlor wasn’t my dream, it was about a second mainstay. So I dared and jumped into the deep end, because I had to dig into a lot of topics. Gastronomy is always difficult, but then I saw it as a minimal risk. Unfortunately, I have now wasted a bit of money.
How do you reflect on such a working day in the ice cream parlor today when you think back to your time as a professional, in which a lot was taken from you?
Charcoal burner: As a professional, not much is taken from you, but everything! It has always been clear to me that life as a footballer is pure luxury and my illness made it clear to me again. No footballer should ever complain. You have certain limitations, but you lead a healthy, very good life with a lot of free time. However, the clubs should do more to make their players aware of the end of their career and to prepare them for it. You build up a certain financial cushion if you haven’t overdone it too much. Ordinary players like me cannot earn the rest of their lives from their savings. You also want to keep a certain standard. Too many professionals give too little thought to what comes after their careers.
Charcoal burner: And today we almost all play in Hertha BSC’s Ü32. We won all the trophies at Spandau and we also became champions. Hertha also wanted to be successful in this area. We held talks and then we switched there. Dennis Aogo is now also there. Pal Dardai plays in the over 40s, for which I can also play. Because of Corona, there have only been three games so far, the season has been canceled.
How regularly do you train?
Charcoal burner: Once a week, but there is no compulsory attendance. If not enough people react to the announcement in our chat group, then it just fails. I have a lot of fun because there is no speed. (laughs) The games are on the weekends, so far we’ve always won very clearly. At the end of the season, the German championship with teams from all relays in Germany will be on. It’s a two-day tournament. You also play against pretty good village teams. That has a higher level than the Berlin League. Back then we had nine games with Spandau to the title, each of which lasted 30 minutes. One by one the men went out because of muscle injuries.