The day after the squad returned from Hamburg, where 1. FC Union Berlin lost 3-2 at FC St. Pauli, Union's Christian Arbeit sat down with assistant coach Markus Hoffmann. The Austrian talked about the defeat, his relationship with Urs Fischer and his work as a coach. The full interview will be available in the matchday magazine this Saturday when SV Sandhausen come to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
Q: 2-3 at St. Pauli can happen. As it happened: We are two behind, equalise shortly before the end and lose a goal on the break in injury time. That is extremely hard to take. Describe how it went after the match and the journey back.
MH: The trip home was the same as always, but I think everyone was a little mad at themselves after this game as we weren’t satisfied after the 2-2 and perhaps became a bit reckless. We wanted it a little too much and forgot what it means to take a point away from St. Pauli.
Q: If you belong to the group that tries to influence the team from the outside, do you despair in the minutes before you can see it coming?
MH: With the way the atmosphere was in the stadium and the way the team was euphoric after 2-2, it’s difficult to intervene. You can shout, but the players can’t hear in that noise. You have to learn from such things and develop yourself. That’s unfortunate, but the bottom line is that we have to blame ourselves for it and not look for that anywhere else.
Q: There’s a gesture you make, where you tap the temples on your head with both index fingers. Is that what it means in practice — stay focused?
MH: We talk about it almost every week. The most important moments after a goal is scored are the two, three or four minutes afterwards. There’s a lot of euphoria when a goal is scored or you are hanging your head if you concede. These are the most dangerous minutes and I make this gesture to make sure the team is aware of that. Whether that reaches the players or not is another question entirely (laughs), but you try. Some players take the message and pass it on, and until now, it has worked.
Q: You knew Urs Fischer before. You worked together very successfully at FC Basel. How did you get to know each other?
MH: I spent a total of five years at FC Basel. I was there before Urs Fischer, but then in between at Spartak Moscow. When I was at Basel without Urs Fischer, I completed my coaching licenses and had to take note. After, we had matches every three days because Basel were in international competitions, so it was difficult to go somewhere for a week and watch. Urs Fischer was a coach in Thun, also in the Swiss Super League. I went to Thun in the morning to sit in with him, and then back to Basel in the afternoon to train. Those were the first times where we talked intensively about football. Then we started at FC Basel as head coach and assistant. Since then, we’ve been friends, in private and football, and I think we’re a good match.
Q: How can we imagine the summer of 2018? At some point Urs Fischer called you and said: "Markus, I'm thinking about going to Berlin. What do you say to that?" Or did you look in the newspaper at some point and say: "That's not possible. Urs is going to Berlin? He certainly spoke to you before it, didn't he? (laughs)
MH: We both left FC Basel together. Urs did nothing at first and I became assistant coach at St. Gallen. But we always stayed in contact and Urs said from the start: "If I go anywhere again, I'd love to take you with me". Last year, it was during holiday time when I was in Costa Rica with my family. Then the telephone rang and Urs said: "I’m in Berlin. Are you ready?” Of course I was ready. The whole thing was done quite quickly.
Q: What does the ideal football look like to you that we could play here?
MH: What would that be? (laughs) There are two phases that have to be distinguished. Playing against the ball, which even after losing the ball, we are quite good from my point of view. We’ve often mentioned playing with the ball. But that’s more difficult; you don’t develop it over three months. It takes a lot of trust to take what you do and make it work. We’ve improved, but it’s small steps in which we get better. You have to accept that and it always depends a bit on the quality of players. That’s why there are players who cost 100 Million Euros. That makes some difference, of course.