The PreZero Arena suddenly falls silent on Easter Sunday. 15 minutes before TSG Hoffenheim kick off against FC Schalke 04 (2-0), the music quietens down – and so do the fan chants. Only the odd noise breaks the silence before stadium announcer Mike Diehl steps up to the mic and looks up at the video screen, where an obituary for the late Christiane Rienesl, a TSG employee of many years, is displayed. By this point, it is clear to every spectator that this will not be a normal announcement from the stadium announcer. Even the many Schalke supporters pause for a moment. Mike Diehl is the only voice that can be heard.
He has taken off his cap, which has been his trademark at matches for many years, out of respect for this moment. With a shaky voice, the 59-year-old speaks about his late colleague. He has to stop his speech time and time again, it's too much for him. Every now and then, a tear rolls down his cheek. Diehl battles through until the end and bids farewell with the words: "This is for you, Christiane."
The moment moves the entire stadium. Both TSG players and coaches look over to the sidelines during the warm-up and applaud for Christiane Rienesl. They then run past Diehl on the way into the changing rooms, consoling and hugging the stadium announcer. "That was the most moving and difficult moment of my professional life. We worked together closely for 20 years and were super colleagues. I couldn't hold my feelings back. I'm sure that she heard it and am happy that we won the match – also for her," Diehl says.
Diehl's most emotional moment comes in his fourth-last match as the stadium announcer. The man from the Odenwald quit his on-pitch activities at the end of the campaign but will remain with TSG Hoffenheim. He will continue to lead the Charity and Social Affairs Department, which he has built up with great commitment over the last 20 years, be responsible for stadium tours and be in charge of organising the Fan House. In addition, he will also supervise the Joma Talk Show on the Business Floor and will be even more involved in the background in the future. Even if hindsight is tough for him, the former Radio Regenbogen and ZDF presenter is excited for what is in store: "I'll turn 60 this year, so it's about time to make some room for others. I never wanted to be somebody who couldn't step away. I never saw the role of stadium announcer as a job, but as a vocation. For me, it has always been an honour to be able to represent TSG on the microphone. I couldn't completely part with TSG and am therefore happy to stay with the club."
At the beginning of his time at TSG Hoffenheim, Diehl called up every community in the vicinity of Sinsheim and advertised the club. With success: at the start of the millennium, he built up the fan base at TSG Hoffenheim. By the time promotion to the Bundesliga had been achieved, interest in TSG was growing. "We suddenly had 120 fan clubs after the first half-season, that was 90 more than half a year beforehand. The team set a pace that the club and the staff could not keep up with," says Diehl.
Diehl has not missed a TSG home game over the past 20 years. He has always built his schedule around Hoffenheim matches. But on 11 April 2009, during the first Bundesliga season, the 59-year-old was struggling with stomach problems.
"We were playing against VfL Bochum at the time and I was running to and from the edge of the pitch and the toilet. When I sat on the loo, Bochum made it 3-0 and the stadium management asked me via radio if I wanted to announce the goal. I picked up the microphone, spoke to the fans from the toilet and nobody noticed it," Diehl says, laughing.
His open and honest style is appreciated by the TSG supporters. Whether the game is against Stuttgarter Kickers in the Regionalliga or Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, the commitment levels remain the same for the passionate man on the mic. He doesn't copy anything from other stadium announcers or fake it. Mike Diehl is Mike Diehl, whatever the league is.
The former schoolmate of Bruno Labbadia deeply cares about social projects, which he will continue to oversee in the coming years. "What sets this club apart is its social involvement. We have the Dietmar Hopp Foundation, TSG Hilft and even Anpfiff ins Leben in the region. They are wonderful projects that make me incredibly proud."
Every email the 59-year-old sends shows how much he has bought into the club and the region. In the signature, Diehl always says bids farewell with "symbadischen Grüßen" (greetings from Baden). He has long since converted his family and friends to the TSG cause. Almost his entire entourage lends their support week-in week-out and keeps their fingers crossed for Hoffenheim. After the games, the former ZDF presenter usually needs two to three hours before he can fall asleep. A life without TSG Hoffenheim is unimaginable for him.
And so it got emotional on Matchday 33 when Mike Diehl – the voice of TSG for 20 years – read out the starting line-up for the last time and celebrated Andrej Kramarić's goal and then Munas Dabbur's shortly afterwards in a gripping stoppage-time period. One of the 59-year-old's wishes came true in the process: "It was the perfect farewell to be able to celebrate staying up together with the fans."
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