On Sunday, Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg received the Danish equivalent of the "Best Young Football Player of Year" award in his homeland. The 18-year-old made his Bayern Munich debut last spring at the tender young age of 17 years and 251 days, the youngest ever debut in the Bundesliga. Only naturally, that comes with some silverware and quite a few turned heads. However, it wasn't the award that turned everyone's head but the illuminating and heart-wrenching interview he gave on Danish television later that day.
The young star revealed that shortly after his 18th birthday in August, while recovering from an injury he sustained on the pitch, his father Christian contacted him to let him know that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. The prognosis was far from favorable and the doctors were not expecting him to survive.
"The Danish doctors didn't think he could survive. I couldn't stop crying when I arrived at the training ground. My father could die. I'm 18 and here I am. I'm injured and I'm alone. What shall I do?" - Hojbjerg
And that's where Uli Hoeness and Bayern Munich stepped in:
"Uli Hoeness picked me up and immediately began to help me. He contacted the best doctors in Germany and got my father down here, where they began to treat him." - Hojbjerg
As Markus Horwick, Bayern Munich's media director put it:
"He is part of the Bavarian family... If something happens to our players, we help them. We fully understood that Pierre-Emile had been in a difficult situation and therefore we intervened... We have a responsibility to make sure our young players are coping okay. They come to Munich not only as footballers, but as humans. If they need help, or they are sad, then it is our responsibility to care for them."
And Pep Guardiola was a pillar of support for the young Dane:
"Guardiola called me in and said: 'I have heard about your father, I am extremely sorry. Let's just talk,' ... And I just started to cry and I said I was bewildered and scared...Then he said to me: 'The people you love the most and who you are closest to, you need to hold on to them, even if it costs you at work'. And then he began to cry and I did not know what to say." - Hojbjerg
- Yahoo (thanks to Davis for doing a secondary confirmation on the quotation translations)
"It's priceless value being in a club that does so much for it's players" - Hojbjerg
It's a tale that been repeated with examples too numerous to count over the years; Bayern Munich take care of their own.
Mia San Mia.
We Are Who We Are.
It started as an on-pitch ethos. It's morphed into so much more.
The Bayern Munich family is the club and everyone connected to it. From the president down to the coaches, they all embody the concept of Bayern Munich family. From the emotional visceral reactions of Guardiola who cares so deeply for his players to the President who flies a team's dying father and gets him the best medical treatment available; treatment so good, it's now odds-on that he'll survive. They all belong to the same family.
And family is what people live and die for.
A coach who cares for your well being so much it brings him to the point of tears? That's the kind of coach that players run through brick walls for.
An organization who spends their clubs financial resources on giving your father back his life? That's the kind of organization a player stays with until his dying breath.
That's the new meaning of Mia San Mia.