Precision is the name of Green's game on and off the field

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am


Michael Green has always been precise. The former Germany hockey international was quick to link the ball to his forwards, while marshalling a defence considered one of the strongest in the world.

Precision is even more essential in his line of work: he is an orthopaedic surgeon.

The 39-year-old Green, a former World Player of the Year (2002) who represented his country at the highest level for 15 years, including two Olympic Games (Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000), is in good company.

He is one of several German ex-internationals who have pursued a medical profession after retiring from the game. Former Germany stars Carsten Fischer, Klaus Michler, Bj?rn Michel and Christoph Eimer had also gone back to school, completed their degrees and become respected in the medical profession. 'I always wanted to be a surgeon, not just because both my parents are doctors,' said Green, who will lead the Euro All-Stars against the Hong Kong Barbarians in a three-match series at the HKFC Sixes starting this Thursday.

'I finished my studies at the end of 1999 and started working in a hospital straight after the Sydney Olympics [in 2000]. My first specialisation was in general surgery in 2007. I became an orthopaedic surgeon in 2010, which is something I prefer because of my sports background,' said Green.

Green's knowledge and experience of the game - he made 320 appearances for his country - is being put to good use as he works with a team of doctors on injured players. He specialises in knee and shoulder reconstructions, treatment of meniscal tears and ruptured cruciate ligaments - all common sports injuries.

'I decided to take up this profession because I always wanted to become involved in sport traumatology as I know what an injured player feels. And by doing this I stay close to many sports,' he said.

'As hockey is not a professional sport, one must pursue other things in life after retiring as a player. It just so happens that I chose a medical profession. Although hockey and surgery are two completely different occupations, there are similarities. In both you must work as a team.

'In each case teamwork is essential in that each team member must know what the other does and understand their task well. You set your aim together, set up strategies and react to situations before finally reaching your goal by winning a game or helping to rehabilitate your patient. Yes, there are similarities,' he said.

Green still plays hockey as a pastime, and is involved in the sport behind the scenes. He represents athletes in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and is vice-president of the German Hockey Federation (Deutscher Hockey Bund).

Green started playing soccer as a boy growing up in Hamburg, but switched to hockey when his high school hired Hans Kauschke, father of Katrin Kauschke, an Olympic silver medallist at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Kauschke convinced a young Green, 13 at the time, to take up hockey.

'I was playing both soccer and hockey until I was 18 years old. During weekends, I had to rush from a football game to a hockey game. Finally, I decided to play only hockey when training with the junior national team because it became too intensive.'

The father of three helped his country to Champions Trophy glory in Rotterdam in 2001 and a year later played a pivotal part in their World Cup triumph in Kuala Lumpur. In both instances they beat Australia 2-1 in the final. His extraordinary two years from 2001 to 2002, when Germany won 40 out of 44 games, is part of hockey folklore. He was named World Player of the Year in 2002. 'That was the real highlight of my career and I was a bit surprised because it is unusual that a defender receives such an important award. We had an amazing two years, when we won almost everything, and I was lucky to be part of that great team.'

Although Green enjoyed tremendous success with Germany, the Olympic dream eluded the team.

Green will be at the London Games this summer as an FIH medical officer. He said it was difficult to predict who would reach the summit in London, but favoured Australia to win gold.

He is also a fan of the new playing formats that hockey has embraced over the past few years, such as the sixes and nines, which are becoming increasingly popular.

'It's a good opportunity to promote our sport. In Germany and Europe, indoor hockey is popular and there are sixes tournaments, which create a lot of excitement. Europe recently held the sixes World Cup and the Euro Hockey Nations Championship,' he said.

The sixes returns to the Hong Kong Football Club for the third year and will again feature the top men's and women's club teams in Hong Kong, and leading teams from Indonesia, Australia and China.

The Euro All-Stars boast some of Europe's best players of recent years. Dutchman Sander van der Weide, gold medallist from the 2000 Sydney Games, is set to return after last year's tournament. Compatriot Rob Derikx, a silver medallist at the 2004 Athens Games, will join him. Two current Dutch players will join the team - Laurence Docherty and Quirijn Caspers - who are taking a break from their Olympic preparations.