Christopher Trimmel has experienced an incredible few months as club captain of 1. FC Union Berlin. First, he led his team-mates to Union’s first-ever Bundesliga promotion. Most recently, he ended a nine-year wait for a call-up to the Austrian national team, earning two caps against Slovenia and Israel. Christian Arbeit got the thoughts of Trimmel ahead of Union’s highly-anticipated derby at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Saturday.
CA: Every week, the whole of Germany looks at something, which for us is completely normal: a massive travelling support, which goes to every corner of the country and makes itself heard. After the game in Munich, you looked up to the away section for a long time. What did it feel like for you?
CT: It’s awesome, as always! You can’t explain it or re-tell what it feels like. You simply have to experience it. I think the majority of people know that Union fans are unique. But it’s still something special. Also, for us, the players, these are really important moments after the game: you lost, and did well, but you didn’t take anything. That’s where the new preparation starts for us. The fans pick you back up again and immediately you feel better. That’s unique.
Is it genuinely something the players notice? That we all do it together, come into the Bundesliga adventure together, we win and celebrate together, but when we lose, we also own it?
Yes, definitely. You really feel like you are part of a huge unit. It’s not the team that does its own thing, the coaching staff does their own thing, etc. It’s a compact and family-like relationship. That’s what every single player feels about us. You can see that every day in the dressing room how important it is. A team spirit has developed, it’s crazy — you don’t need to push more, it comes naturally. When you’ve arrived at that point as a club, you’ve done a lot right.
What has developed for you personally: You don’t just have the chance to play in the Bundesliga, but after what felt like 278 standby call-ups, you were brought back into the national team and even played. What was it like when you found it that it was going to happen and how did you like it?
I had this experience straight after the Wolfsburg game as Stefan Lainer from Gladbach picked up an injury. It basically just “get ready”. Sure, it was great. I already played together with many of the boys, nine years ago. I also know some from the medical team. Overall, it was a great experience which was also a lot of fun. The team is great, the games were super. It’s always special when you play for the national team. The appearances — I honestly wasn’t counting on that. But it’s the same as I tell our young players: football can move really quickly. Let’s see, there’s another break in November and maybe it’ll work out again.
When you came back, my perception of you was even higher than it already was. Is it the same for yourself personally, if you can tick off something you didn’t expect anymore? Does that change anything?
I always believed in that. Being on call already means that the coach is taking note of you. From that point of view, I already believed it could happen. But obviously, if you’re there and you don’t do badly — we won both games which I appeared in — then sure it does wonders for confidence. Of course, you come back to Union and try to bring that positive momentum back to the club. I’ve said it before: the club is the foundation for such a call up. If you don’t perform there and aren’t comfortable, the national team won’t work either. I’m hopeful we’ll continue this until November and everything else will show.
Ahead of us now lies a very special Bundesliga match. You’ve been a Berliner for a long time. Have you noticed anything in the city?
Yes! (laughs) Already with the ticket enquiries, I’ve noticed it. I know the situation in Vienna, it is something really special. Latest on the matchday, the players will be aware of it. You can’t compare it to any other game. For me, these were always the most intensive matches, I just say it like it is. They have their own atmosphere. It doesn’t feel like 11-v-11 — the whole stadium stands behind you. I can’t explain it, but I’m really looking forward to it.
It’s the top game this weekend, so I guess it is probably the same for the city and the league. Do you have to be careful to approach the game in a cool and thoughtful manner?
I also addressed this topic internally. The atmosphere is really special, if you have a hard tackle, the stadium roars. You might go into challenges a bit more aggressively, as a result. You have to be composed. You have to take this atmosphere with you, but you need to be calm, not be provoked. Many players are experienced, others don’t even know this situation. If you provoke some players, there’s a lot of banging on and on in these games. We have to stay composed and focused in advance, focus on our game — then it works out.