Ask any Town fan of any generation who their favourite current Huddersfield Town player is and Michael Hefele’s name will be very near the top of that list.
It’s unusual for any player in the modern era to be universally liked and appreciated by an entire fanbase, there is often a vocal minority of detractors, typically on social media.
In the case of Michael Hefele, he is one of few exceptions.
There are many reasons we could attribute for this: his colorful personality; his antics and in footballing terms the fact that he was at the heart of a promotion winning side.
However, all that pales in comparison to the impact that he has had principally off the field and the legacy that he leaves behind.
A Refreshing Willingness to Connect
Almost as soon as Michael Hefele reached these shores, he threw himself head first into the community and the people of Huddersfield almost immediately took him to their hearts.
Joining a club with a growing reputation of being exceptionally tight-knit and closely connected with the community, inclusivity was key.
Whilst the Wagner Revolution was certainly happening on the pitch, off the pitch was where we saw Michael Hefele excel as he took on the mantle of being the unofficial ambassador of this new-look Huddersfield Town side.
Working in close partnership with the Town Foundation, every outing to hospital wards in the surrounding areas, every time Town headed into a school to start up a breakfast club and support the local community, seemingly Michael Hefele was there.
There was no trepidation or refusal, instead, Hefele was a bundle of positive energy. A larger than life figure whose infectious enthusiasm was contagious.
Whereas some modern-day footballers feel the urge to turn to reclusiveness, Hefele was quite the opposite. It was not only his infectious enthusiasm but his refreshing willingness to connect with this town, its people and what we stand for which saw him so warmly embraced.
It was this refreshing willingness to connect, be it the small gesture of handing over a shirt at the end of the game or staying behind long after most had left to take photos and sign autographs, which quickly added up.
— Michael Hefele (@michaelhefele) May 13, 2018
An inadvertent legacy
As Michael Hefele’s popularity rose, the response was overwhelming. Up and down primary schools in West Yorkshire, dozens if not hundreds of videos emerged of Michael Hefele stood in a classroom with enthusiastic children surrounding him chanting his name as his now infamous chant rang around the classroom.
— Michael Hefele (@michaelhefele) February 9, 2017
That is where his legacy will lie.
Whilst Michael Hefele may not be pulling on the famous Blue and White stripes of Huddersfield Town any longer, the impact that he has had and the legacy that he has inadvertently invoked goes way beyond his contributions on the field ever could.
David Wagner may have made a lot of Town fans of older generations fall back in love with football but it was Michael Hefele whose charming personality and outlandish nature inspired the next generation.
A whole new generation of football fans who now head down to the John Smith Stadium every other Saturday to cheer on Huddersfield Town, a by-product of Michael Hefele’s off the pitch endeavours.
Not only will this new generation of football fans support Huddersfield Town because of the efforts of Michael Hefele, it goes beyond that. This new generation, this fanbase and broadly speaking, this town’s attachment to Michael Hefele won’t dissipate once he leaves this football club.
We will follow and support him in a way which goes beyond club allegiance, simply because we are not all deeply attached to Michael Hefele, the ball-playing centre half. We are attached to the human being who reached out despite being in completely alien surroundings and connected with us all, be it in person or on social media.
My final thought is this one, Michael Hefele may no longer play for this football club but he remains a Terrier at heart.