Soccer: Have ball, will travel - and there's plenty of that for goalie

German Lutz Pfannenstiel is living proof that soccer is a global game

Lutz Pfannenstiel is leaving Otago United, but admits he's really not sure where he'll end up playing.

The German goalkeeper has had an extraordinary 18 months, impressing Italian giants AC Milan and playing in Norway, Canada and - of course - New Zealand.

But football's convoluted contract system will see him move again, probably back to Canada with the Calgary Mustangs for a short time, and then perhaps bizarrely onto the Ukraine, a country embroiled in election crisis and poisoning scandals.

That isn't a big deal for Pfannenstiel, 31, who represented Germany at youth level before playing professionally in Malaysia, England, Finland, Singapore, Indonesia, Belgium, South Africa, Norway, Italy, Canada and New Zealand.

"My agent says there is a lucrative contract in Ukraine available, but I will have the last word, and will certainly want to check out any club I go to, " he said.

"They play good soccer, and clubs such as Dynamo Kiev have produced the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, who plays for AC Milan, and Serhiy Rebrov with West Ham United.

Recalling the last 18 months, he said he was happy playing for Barum in Norway, where highly-rated youngster Nick Rios Haugan was attracting plenty of attention from European scouts.

"They showed up for about four games, and I was lucky enough to be awarded man-of-the-match in each one. So a scout from AC Milan offered me a month's trial in Italy," Pfannenstiel said.

Milan were impressed, but decided to farm him out to Calgary Mustangs, where he played the season and was then loaned to Otago for a a coaching job with his long-time friend Johan Koutstaal.

However, Calgary were ejected from the American A League for 2005, and rather than pay Pfannenstiel his substantial salary to play minor league soccer on his return, the club decided to cash in on the interest shown from Europe.

A let-out clause allows his return to Calgary after Friday's match against Napier.

He will then spend Christmas in Germany and then probably head to Ukraine to check out the conditions.

So it is simple really: Norway, Italy, Canada, New Zealand, Calgary, Germany, and maybe the Ukraine.

Pfannenstiel likes Dunedin and was considering making his job as regional goalkeeping coach long-term.

"It's tempting, but I have to think of financial security, now that I have a 22-month little girl Georgina and my partner Anita to look after."

Pfannenstiel has been brilliant for Otago this year, with several neutrals naming him as the best keeper in the national champs.

- NZPA

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