Today marks 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, what was once a symbol of division attracts visitors from all over the world, but it also got former Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou into a spot of bother with his new neighbours when he moved to the German capital.
The Ivorian international spent six years at Stamford Bridge and played an important role in some memorable successes, including our first-ever domestic Double in 2010 and the historic Champions League triumph of 2012.
It was not long after that famous night in Munich that Kalou departed west London and, after a spell in France with Lille, arrived in Berlin to sign for Bundesliga outfit Hertha. However, things didn’t start all that smoothly in his new city.
Not long after joining the club, he filmed a match preview with a German television channel which depicted him chipping away at the Berlin Wall, sections of which still run through the centre of the city and used to divide the allied west and communist east of the capital during the Cold War, with a hammer and chisel. Apparently it was a metaphor for how he was going to break down the Schalke defence in Hertha’s next match.
However, some people failed to get that subtle insinuation, instead mistakenly believing he was hacking off a chunk of the concrete as a souvenir, which used to be a common practice by visiting tourists before a long campaign to preserve the wall and its accompanying graffiti for posterity resulted in the city introducing strict laws to protect the landmark.
A few vocal busybodies and local newspaper columnists were particularly upset, with some even making threats of legal action and a potential £7,000 fine for vandalising the landmark.
Thankfully, after some harshly worded attacks on Kalou’s character in the media came to the attention of his club, the TV channel assured everyone that it was all staged and without the magic of the editing studio, no damage was done to the wall.
The whole thing quickly blew over and the Hertha fans in the city certainly haven’t held it against him, as five years on Kalou remains one of their most important and popular players, and is now the side’s vice-captain.
It wasn’t the first time a TV channel has got our former number 21 into a spot of undeserved bother, though. During his time with Feyenoord, prior to joining Chelsea, debate was raging about whether Kalou could receive Dutch citizenship to represent his adopted home’s national team, with the likes of Johan Cruyff and Holland boss Marco van Basten leading the case for his nationalisation.
One TV channel tried to piggy back on that sensitive debate for publicity through a comical advertisement, which depicted Kalou shunning the Netherlands and instead taking German citizenship to represent their national team. Incidentally, one of the key shots of the advert showed him playing alongside Michael Ballack, who would later become his team-mate at Stamford Bridge.
This time, though, it was Kalou who didn’t see the funny side and following his request, the advert was removed from circulation after just a week. Kalou went on to win the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015 with the country of his birth, the Ivory Coast, and is now closing in on his 100th cap.
Bizarrely, that advert was based on the story of Angolan striker Nando Rafael, who failed to gain Dutch citizenship while playing for Ajax before switching allegiance to Germany when he completed a transfer to, coincidentally, Hertha Berlin.