In 1991, Ottmar Hitzfeld left Switzerland to take up the post of head coach with the Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund, where he quickly rose to prominence and became one of world football’s most acclaimed coaching personalities. He shaped Dortmund into a premier European team, celebrated Champions League victory and won the Intercontinental Cup with them, and was rewarded in 1997 with the World Coach of the Year accolade.
After spending a year as sports director at BVB, he moved to Bayern Munich, took over a team that had long been considered un-trainable and led them in a very short time into the top group of the club world rankings. Possessing an obsession with success ("a winning mentality to me means wanting to win every game. Even a training game"), Hitzfeld won the most coveted trophy in European club football – the Champions League – in 2001 with the Bavarians, for the second time in his career after lifting the cup with Dortmund. Hitzfeld and José Mourinho are the only coaches to date who have achieved this feat with more than one club.
The native of Lörrach close to the Swiss border not only stands out from the majority of his colleagues on account of his sporting achievements, but also on account of his appearance: the family man always displays a calm and balanced demeanour on the football pitch. Style is important to him – the always well turned-out Hitzfeld exudes class, lifestyle, seriousness and reliability. It is no coincidence that he goes by the nickname "The General".
The Deutscher Fussball-Bund describes in its chronicle "100 Jahre DFB" the secret of Hitzfeld’s success thus: "With competency, authority, charisma, distance and psychological intuitiveness, Hitzfeld embodies the "reliable magician" type of coach". Total commitment is his credo – a drive that has led to boundary-pushing experiences. Hitzfeld, who has excelled in working with many often troubled star players, has his own experience with the term "burn out" and does not shy from talking openly about it.
His themes are team leading and stress management. He does not intend to come across like a professor "who can surely impart knowledge better than I", says the trained mathematician. His strength is his genuineness "because I’ve been through it all. I can reveal solution options based on my experience in people management and decision making under pressure."
It is interesting that Hitzfeld can also lay claim to Olympic fame; after all he was – together with Ulli Hoeness – a member of the Federal Republic of Germany’s 1972 Olympic squad. History was surprisingly made with the 1:0 German Democratic Republic’s victory over the West German selection at the World Championships in 1974, after such a clash had already taken place at the Munich Olympics (3:2 for the GDR). On 8 September 1972, Hitzfeld scored the interim 2:2.
At the end of January 2007, Hitzfeld returned as head coach to Bayern Munich, where he won the German title again as well as the DFB trophy. His next step to national coach was therefore a natural progression.
Ottmar Hitzfeld has been head coach of the Swiss national football team from 1 July 2008 until July 1, 2014, leading the squad to the Football World Championships 2010 in South Africa and 2014 in Brasil.