Ex-Bundesliga Midfielder Thorsten Legat’s journey to reality television

It’s not often you see a former Bundesliga winner forced to chow down on insects and the slightly less edible parts of various larger animals, but for viewers of German television at present, this is an everyday reality. Former Bochum, Bremen, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Schalke midfielder Thorsten Legat, a midfielder who made 243 Bundesliga appearances over a career spanning fifteen years, is currently one of the stars of RTL’s reality TV show “Ich bin ein Star – Holt mich hier raus!”, the German equivalent of Britain’s “I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here!”.

Currently the coach of Landesliga Niederrhein outfit FC Remscheid – in the sixth tier of German football – Legat has had to take a small break from training his players to head down to the Australian jungle for the tenth series of the hit show. Accompanied on his sojourn to the jungle by a fair few Schlager singers, models and television personalities, Legat will be hoping to add King of the Jungle to a list of honours which include the Bundesliga title in 1993 with Bremen, a win in the European Cup Winner’s Cup final also with Bremen in 1992, and three DFB-Pokal winner’s medals.

Born in November 1968, Legat made his first team debut with home town club Bochum at the tender age of 17, replacing current Hamburg sporting director and serial backpack-loser Peter Knäbel in a game against Borussia Mönchengladbach during September 1986. By the end of the 1986/1987, Legat had made seven appearances for the Ruhrpott club, eventually establishing himself as a mainstay of the club’s midfield in subsequent seasons.

This was in spite of a difficult childhood in which he was frequently abused by his father. Writing in his 2014 autobiography, “Wenn das Leben Foul spielt”, Legat revealed that for years he frequently suffered humiliation at the hands of his father, including sexual abuse, who would often arrive back at home drunk and abuse his brother and mother, too.

Such a traumatic upbringing may be an underlying cause of some of Legat’s more controversial moments both on and off the pitch; known as quite a rough player on the pitch, who added a lot of bite to his teams’ midfield, Legat was sometimes caught in violence off the pitch, putting a man in hospital in 1996 after being threatened. Later, he began to find problems in dealing with life after the end of his career as a professional footballer, developing a drinking problem and struggling with suicidal thoughts, reporting at one point to have seriously considered stabbing himself in the chest.

Despite having improved from this state of mind, he has also, over the years, made a number of headlines for at times violent actions. In 2007, he pulled a samurai sword on a group of youths in Remscheid, a year later also receiving a fine for an attempted assault. However, Legat claims these days are behind him now, distancing himself from many of his actions in his autobiography and claiming that writing the memoir was in itself an act of liberation.

At the time of his autobiography’s release in 2014, Legat complained that “people all think that’s I’m a psycho, but that’s not true”, wanting to show “why I was sometimes like that, have sometimes acted up, and have sometimes been aggressive. But actually, I have a soft core and am a family man”. Perhaps this stint on mainstream television currently – the show has attracted between six and seven million viewers per night in its 2016 run so far, at a market share of around 30% – will help Legat rehabilitate his image, and perhaps even return to the game’s professional ranks.

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Conor Garratt

I am Conor Garratt, a 21-year old student from South West England. I study German and History at the University of Southampton, currently spending a year abroad in Mainz, Germany. I love football, especially German football, and am a Swindon Town & Borussia Mönchengladbach fan in my spare time.

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