In this edition of The Talking Game, Bundesliga editor Aditya Balaram interviews former Hamburger SV captain Horst Hrubesch. Read on to see what the famous striker has to say about the glory days of the 80’s, the current German stars and a lot more.
The glory days of the Bundesliga are back with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich facing off in an all-German Champions League final. Other than these two clubs only one other German side has enjoyed success in the biggest club competition in Europe – Hamburger SV. Back in 1983, Horst Hrubesch captained the Red Shorts to a memorable 1-0 victory over Juventus in the European Cup final. Hrubesch’s successes started a few years earlier, when he scored a brace in the 1980 European Championship final against Belgium to gift the trophy to Germany and have continued till as recently as 2009, when he coached the German youth side to victory in the U-21 European Championship.
Aditya Balaram: You’ve had your fair share of glorious moments, including a brace in the finals of EURO ’80 and a European Cup triumph in ’83. If you had to pick your best ever footballing moment, what will it be?
Horst Hrubesch: There have been many special moments for me in soccer. It is hard to pick one out. The most impressive moment was surely the final of the European Championship in 1980, in which I contributed two goals. To achieve a title with the national team is a dream for every player. And I had it later again as coach with two youth teams. All these moments are special to me.
Q: The loss to Nottingham Forest in the European Cup must have been disheartening but the club made up for it with the win three years later. Could you run us through this period and how things were at HSV?
Hrubesch: We had a spectacular team and great coaches like Branko Zebec, Ernst Happel and Ivica Horvath. Besides there were so many great players like Felix Magath and Kevin Keegan. We wanted to win everything and all the coaches had a plan to lead us. That’s why we made it so far and were not too disappointed with a loss.
Q: What was it like, facing off against a Juventus side that boasted of players like Platini, Boniek and Rossi?
Hrubesch: Juventus was one of the best teams at that time. Nearly nobody expected us to win. But we were eager to meet the best players in the final. This was a huge motivation for us.
Q: During your stay at Hamburg you had a wide variety of characters as team mates and coaches. From Zebec to Happel to Magath, you saw them all. Who was the most difficult to deal with and who was the one you were closest too, the one you got along with best?
Hrubesch: All these people have one similarity: they were great gentlemen and were always telling us the truth. There are hard moments at time, but in the end they all give great support to everybody so that all players make the best out of their opportunities.
Q: Gunter Netzer failed to complete the signing of the infamous Uli Hoeness. Do you think this prevented HSV from reaching greater heights or was Hoeness only going to be an unnecessary burden with his recurring injuries.
Hrubesch: This did not happen so I’m not going to talk about what might have happened.
Q: HSV were undoubtedly one of the most consistent sides in the Bundesliga in the late 70’s and early 80’s but things have really changed now. What do you think the club needs to do to return to those days of success?
Hrubesch: People have to give fair chances and have great trust in young players. We were young players from the Hamburg area. Dortmund and Bayern are doing it like we did it before and they are succeeding. This is a great way to get your club together with the city, the region and the supporters.
Q: The unforgettable, yet forgettable, 1-0 win over Austria in the 1982 World Cup got the German team in the news for the wrong reasons? Do you think what was done by the German side that night was right? Should football teams adopt to those sort of negative tactics in order to ensure results?
Hrubesch: The changed the regulations of the last matches in one group afterwards, so they recognized that there was something wrong. We just wanted to make it to the next round and didn’t think about everything else.
Q: You made the jump to top flight football at the age of 25, not too early in a footballer’s career. Did you ever have a feeling that it was too late to make it big in the sport?
Hrubesch: I have always been a late-comer. I had to develop my strengths. I had opportunities to go to professional soccer earlier, but at that time I had to work and earn money. That’s why I waited until I had an offer from Hamburg which fitted perfectly to me.
Q: You were known for your aerial abilities as a striker, something that is dying in football today. Among today’s players, who do you see playing the role of a striker in a manner similar to that which you did?
Hrubesch: I was playing Handball when I was young. That was very important for me to gain strength in headers. Today there are many technically gifted players with great talent. But tall strikers with good headers like Miroslav Klose will always make their way.
Q: You coached the under-21 German side that won the UEFA Under-21 Championships in 2009. Both Gonzalo Castro and Sandro Wagner were a part of that winning side but have failed to make it to the senior national team. Do you believe that they were senior team quality? Do you think that they still have some hope of making it to the national team?
Hrubesch: I’m sure that all the players from 2009 have the abilities to play for the national team. But some struggle with their situation in their clubs, with injuries or with rivals on their positions in the national team. Nobody should ever give up giving his best and have hope. I’m the best example for the saying that ‘the best is yet to come”.
Q: You’ve been working with the youth setup in Germany for a few years now. Who in the current lot do you see making it big in the years to come?
Hrubesch: I knew that the likes of Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels have great talent. But we still have some more young players like Toni Kroos or Mario Götze who can reach the highest level. I don’t want to predict anything.
Q: The all German Champions League final must have all of you most delighted for now. However, Bayern Munich’s rampant spending is a cause for worry. Do you think the rest of the Bundesliga can continue to keep pace with them and the rest of Europe?
Hrubesch: All the other clubs can be confident of their young players. Bayern has always been a special club in Germany. But Mönchengladbach in the 70s, we at Hamburger SV in the 80s, Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen in the following have had a great struggle with them. The Bundesliga and German soccer will always be very attractive.
TheHardTackle would like to thank Horst Hrubesch for taking his time off and answering our questions, as well as Maximilian Geis, the Director of Communications and Public Relations with the DFB, for helping us conduct the interview.