I.lkay Gündogan recently took a remarkable look at life as a professional footballer. In an article for the online portal “The Players’ Tribune”, he wrote about the feeling of loneliness that he has felt since he “left home at the age of 18” and that has increased again under Corona conditions.
“I have the feeling that a lot of people think we footballers live this perfect life as if we were in a bubble of happiness that is never disturbed,” wrote Gündogan, but that is not the case. “I haven’t seen my parents or brother for more than eight months. And the rest of my family for over a year. My best friends are also far away. “
That was at the end of April, now, a month and a half later, Gündogan looks full of anticipation for a shared experience at the European Championship that starts this Friday. The Manchester City professional did not speak of the games with his own national team at the press conference of the German Football Association on Thursday, but of those that he and his colleagues want to watch on the television screen.
Without the beer, of course, that he was jokingly asked about – but with connection and sociability. “The mood arises when there are two or three games every day and you can watch football all the time.”
The life of a professional footballer can also be quite nice, and if you listened to Oliver Bierhoff on Thursday, it shouldn’t be much nicer than in the EM quarter in Herzogenaurach, where the national players have been staying and training since Tuesday. A settlement of small bungalows has emerged at the company headquarters of the supplier Adidas, which is not by chance reminiscent of a successful model from seven years ago:
The borrowings from the legendary Campo Bahia are unmistakable, right up to the central “market square”, which is supposed to be a constant meeting place, and just as obvious is the hope that the walls in the Franconian campus idyll will breathe a similar spirit as in 2014 Atlantic coast. “I am sure that we have to awaken this spirit at the tournament,” said Bierhoff weeks ago. And with a view to the wasteland of Watutinki three years ago, the national team director added that this time the aim was to “go the extra mile again and do it particularly well”.
When the 26 professionals were divided among the seven residential units, Gündogan was one of the seven “captains” with the most international matches, after which a lot was drawn. Serge Gnabry, Marcel Halstenberg and Emre Can now live with him under one roof, although, as he said, in the end he had to help out a bit to “get Emre into the house”.
Much more exciting than the living situation is something else these days anyway: which formation will come together on the pitch, but especially in the German midfield, when Joachim Löw puts together his line-up for the European Championship opener against France on Tuesday. Gündogan was the right contact for this; against Latvia he and Toni Kroos formed the headquarters in front of the defense. And even if Gündogan didn’t want to commit himself at the beginning, there were some indications in the end that he could make friends with this constellation – and also the national coach. The 7: 1 against Latvia was “a good start”, said Gündogan, “now we want to take the momentum into the France game”.
At the training camp in Seefeld he had already spoken “once or twice” with Kroos about how they “can do things better together” – better, for example, than in the 6-0 draw against Spain in November, even if Gündogan said that was not explicit the subject was. As a symbol of doubt, this seven-month-old embarrassment hovers over the present, most recently the former national coach Berti Vogts expressed the fear that the Germans could be “overrun” without Joshua Kimmich in the center.
It was therefore no coincidence that Gündogan asked for support from the back row. The chain of three, he described it, was in principle a suitable means of setting off the French attack. One of the three central defenders could always help advance, “it’s easier when two others can secure the area”. It could be a “key”, emphasized Gündogan, “if we can conquer a lot of balls and sometimes force the French to run after us”.
For its own offensive, Gündogan indirectly recommended the use of Kai Havertz. The victory in the Champions League final, to which he contributed the winning goal, could give him “extra boost that we as a team can use for ourselves,” said Gündogan, who also expressed the dimension of his disappointment after the defeat against Chelsea outlined. Basically, he had not only worked for this game all year, but eight years, since his first and also lost premier class final with Dortmund. But he is now looking ahead.
In the afternoon, after a day and a half of getting used to it, the first training session was scheduled in Herzogenaurach. All 26 players were available to Löw, and Leon Goretzka should be able to train again “with the ball and team”, as Bierhoff said. A mission against France came too early after his muscle injury.
But nothing stood in the way of attending a special appointment, in the evening Angela Merkel invited to a (digital) conversation. For Bierhoff it was on the one hand a sign of farewell because it was “the last tournament with the national team” not only for the national coach, but also for the Chancellor. But above all, he wanted to see it as a sign of the present. For the fact that this EM, “without hanging it too high”, is also “a national matter”.