"Giving the beast inside you space, discovering your hunting instinct, picking up the trail. Always a little bit hungry. And always with your eyes firmly on the goal of a result at the end of the season. That's the job."
Abdulgazi Karaman, called Gazi, lived his dream for seven years: playing basketball. For seven years, he traveled around the world with his wife and two children by his side. His employer, Dresdner Bank, sponsored his sporting activities.
The best time of all, he enthused, were the eight months in Milan. He was with his family every day. Getting the day off to a start together with the children, then training, then the children again, then training in the evening. It was wonderful! Sometimes, he couldn't believe his luck. Pure luxury. He was constantly under contract and had the support of great sponsors. Petri+Lehr was one of them. Since his first car, he has been driving with Petri+Lehr products. Something else? The thought never enters his head.
When he rolled onto the basketball court in his home town near Frankfurt, the sports hall was bursting at the seams – over 1,000 spectators came. He was the local hero, laughed Gazi impishly. He is proud. Justifiably so. He was the first to earn a living as a wheelchair basketball player. A multicultural national player. 253 games for the German wheelchair basketball squad, where he collected medals with a team that was virtually unbeatable: German cup victories, Champions League and the highlight: the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona. But Germany was not enough for him; he continued playing, in Salzburg, Rome, Australia and his parents' home country. Here, Gazi became the Turkish champion and cup-winner with Galatasaray Istanbul in 2008. Incidentally, Abdulgazi Karaman was born in Turkey, in Corlu, 90 kilometers west of Istanbul. This is where, as an infant, he was overcome by a pediatric disease that has since been eradicated: poliomyelitis. Aged four, he arrived in Germany with his parents - in a wheelchair.
At the age of 14, he applied for citizenship. His father cried "You'll never be German", and refused to sign. Gazi's response: "I grew up here, I'm part of society." To no avail. Having just turned 18, he signed the application himself. His father simply required a little longer. The turn of the century changed his attitude. Today, his parents are also German, although Turkey is still their home.
Gazi knows what it is like to belong to a minority. Particularly in the light of popular current topics such as immigration background and accessibility. Abdulgazi Karaman still has his very own minority group: that of the "professional wheelchair athlete with immigration background". Or something like that. So what is he then? He laughs, he is Gazi, just Gazi, he is he. But this is an issue for many adolescents: finding their own identity, determining where they belong. It's not easy.
Change of scene. He relates his impressions of Turkey. Here, massively disabled people slither across the road on car tires; nobody is interested. And he's sitting in his shiny wheelchair. "We have a very high standard here in Germany. Everyone has to contribute, including disabled persons. Being disabled doesn't mean not participating in working life. The same also applies to people with an immigration background. It applies to everyone. Do your bit."
Wheelchair and immigration background, two aspects which are only turned into problems by others. Completely irrelevant to Gazi himself. He won't be held back and structures his life according to his wishes. However, his clear answers bear witness to the fact that a process must have taken place at some point before these issues were no longer issues to him. His words are considered and reduced, full of wisdom sprinkled with anecdotes and humor. He has a lot to give.
And he gives a lot. He trains with adolescents in Zwickau, whose jersey he wore for a number of years. Laughing, he says the parents have to be trained first, because people occasionally fall out of their chairs during training. That's difficult for parents to watch. Initially, he had to learn everything without outside help, because sponsorships were not available at that time. Almost certainly one reason for his management style: leading by doing. All the more important for him to pass his experience, his "hunger", on to the adolescents. He awakens their love of sport, their love of life, but much more importantly, their love of themselves.
What's he doing now? He's just come back from walking the dog. Every once in a while German shepherd Honda is with him. They play, mess around and Honda brightens up his life. He's at home a lot. A severe shoulder injury is forcing him to take a break.
He has a lot of time at the moment. Time to question his life. Time to reflect. Time for new dreams. Last summer, he resigned from his long-term employer Dresdner Bank and is paving the way to his new dream. Where is the journey heading? He's not saying.
That is good, because then the dream can take shape in peace and quiet.