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Modest Freiburg sticking with cult-coach Christian Streich

BERLIN (AP) — After more than seven years at Freiburg, Christian Streich is the longest serving coach in the Bundesliga and one of its most charismatic. And there's more to come. The modest club from southwest Germany extended the 53-year-old Streich's contract this week, ensuring he and his training team of four assistants will remain in position past the end of the season — regardless of how it ends.

Freiburg is in 13th place in the 18-team league, 11 points ahead of Stuttgart in the relegation zone with 11 matches remaining. The team has been hard to beat with only six losses in 23 games. "Actually, I should kneel 10 times and give thanks that I am a coach," said Streich, who took charge of Freiburg's under-19 team in 1995 after his playing career ended because of injury. "But I don't because I think of the next game, of how I will make up for the injured players, how they will line up and how you do that while leaving players disappointed."

Streich, who has overseen almost as many losses (85) as wins (87) in the Bundesliga, celebrated his biggest victory since taking over in a 5-1 rout of Augsburg last weekend - a result that eased the club's relegation worries when it was among the favorites to go down.

Streich, a former assistant coach who took over the top position on Dec. 29, 2011, has overseen 242 leagues games altogether. He led Freiburg to Europa League qualification in 2013, presided over its relegation to the second division in 2015, then led it straight back to the Bundesliga the following season.

"We're delighted that we can continue the successful and trustworthy work together with Christian Streich, Patrick Baier, Andreas Kronenberg, Lars Vossler, Florian Bruns and Daniel Wolf beyond the current season," Freiburg chairman Jochen Saier said. "This continuity is a result of the quality and engagement of the whole coaching team. We're convinced of the whole work together and want to keep establishing ourselves step for step as a Bundesliga location."

Freiburg, sticking to precedent, did not give the length of the new contracts. Much of the credit for Freiburg's development goes to Streich for achieving it with limited means - the club has one of the smallest budgets in the league and tends to lose its best players every year.

"I fit in very well with the structure in this club and city," Streich said. "The people who come to the stadium are very mindful because they are happy that we're in the Bundesliga and don't question everything after two defeats."

Freiburg, which plays at the 24,000-capacity Black Forest Stadium with treetops visible from the stands, has traditionally bounced between the top two divisions. It has been promoted five times and relegated four times.

Streich, who speaks with a distinctive local accent, can often be seen gesticulating feverishly on the sideline to communicate with his players during games. His emotions are plain to see. He celebrates like a fan when the team wins, and is philosophical when it loses.

"With every year that you don't win, the likelihood increases that you're more likely to win," Streich once said, referring to statistics. He also maintains a humble approach to management. "Bodyguards? I don't need any bodyguards," Streich said. "The stars have bodyguards."

Streich's achievements have also meant that he has been linked with jobs elsewhere. He was visibly annoyed last year to be touted for the Bayern Munich job before the Bavarian powerhouse announced that Niko Kovac would take over.

Streich has no intention of going anywhere. "To be here today where I am," the Freiburg coach said, "is pure luxury."

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