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We see beginning of change of world football: Hitzfeld (Interview)

Posted on Aug 19 2014 | IANS

Berlin, Aug 19 : German football legend Ottmar Hitzfeld has seen it all. Considered one of the most successful coaches of the modern era, he announced his retirement after leading Switzerland to the round-of-16 in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Hitzfeld won the Champions League twice in 1997 and 2001 when in charge of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, respectively. Only five football coaches (Ernst Happel, Carlo Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes and Jose Mourinho) won the Champions League with two clubs. The recently retired Hitzfeld won the German league championship on seven occasions and was the head coach of the Swiss national team from 2008-2014.

Hitzfeld spoke his heart out o a free wheeling interview about Bayern Munich, the changes in world football and about world champions Germany, reports Xinhua.

Q: Mr. Hitzfeld, football is getting more and more popular around the world which in turn opens up new markets around the globe to football clubs. Bayern Munich recently went on a pre-season US Tour and will soon start a big promotion tour in China - how do you see markets like the one in China and football' s future generally in China?

Hitzfeld: Football is a sport for millions around the world - just look at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In nearly every country we have a growing number of football fans. All the big clubs have discovered that football now enjoys intensive global interest. And China in particular with its fundamental experience in sports and its resources is an interesting market with great potential. But it' s not only the big clubs that have to do a lot of work. A solid, clear structure in a country is necessary to develop football.

Q: And that means?

Hitzfeld: I am sure, to develop football it needs a clear structure. Football must go into schools, there must be possibilities for young people to play somewhere. There must be well-structured top tier and a system of leagues below. Especially China is top class in the world in many sports. Football has a good chance to get to the top there. But other Asian countries are still ahead. But I am sure football has great potential in China, as it has around the world.

Q: Let us talk about football' s future in general. Some scientists are predicting that future football players won't be specialists for defending or scoring goals like today. They say football players of the future have to able to do everything?

Hitzfeld: "I don' t know how quick things will move in that way. But we might see the beginning of that change today. Right and left backs have to be playmakers already, defenders can' t be only defenders anymore, they need to be able to drive the game forward. Even the education of footballers has changed into that direction.

Q: Now that Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker have retired from the German team after the World Cup - will we see a generation change in the German team?

Hitzfeld: A change of generations is going too far in my opinion. But as far as Philipp Lahm is concerned, I would have loved to have seen him continue in international football. As for Mertesacker, his decision was a surprise too. Klose is 36 years old and wants to concentrate on his club career. Generally, I can understand that players have second thoughts due to the many games they have to play with their clubs.

Q: After the World Cup, the Germans are seen as the trendsetters in global football.

Hitzfeld: Of course everybody now tries to do it the German way. It was the same with Spanish football after they for years won all important titles. Spain was the trendsetter then. Now it is Germany setting the benchmarks. For years Germany played a very offensive style of football - now they have strengthened the defense on top and were extremely flexible in their game generally Germany has lots of exciting youngsters coming through - they can leave their mark in the new era. I am happy for German football that coach Joachim Loew will continue in charge. His road with the German team is not finished yet.

Q: Talking about a good feeling - how do you see the future of the Swiss team? You had a fundamental change of players too - there are many players with foreign roots?

Hitzfeld: Swiss team will get better and better - they are not at their peak yet. As you mentioned we have a lot of well-coached young players - many already play a vital role in their clubs all over Europe. I' m sure we will see more games like the one we did against Argentina, which was a very tight game that proved Swiss football is on the right track."

Q: The German Bundesliga starts next week - now that you have retired, you' ll be working as a TV pundit. Can you see the problems coaches like Pep Guardiola (Bayern Munich) and Juergen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund) have to get back to normal life after many of their players have just been through a tough major tournament?

Hitzfeld: Nearly every coach of a top international team has to go through that. From my own career, I can say, it' s a huge task, maybe the hardest one for a coach. You can't follow any strict schedules, saying for example, Bastian Schweinsteiger will be fit on a particular day. It' s important to follow your individual feelings as a coach.

Q: Especially for Bayern, a post World Cup season seems to be a big problem. They have never won a German title after a German World Cup win. And in 2014, no other club had so many players participating at the World Cup.

Hitzfeld: It is a fact that a World Cup win has fundamental impact on players, mentally in the first place. For Philipp Lahm and Schweinsteiger, it was the last chance to win the most important title in football. Meaning a lot of pressure has gone and it' s not easy to get back to the run-of-the-mill games in the league.

Q: Meaning there is no World Cup trauma for Bayern?

Hitzfeld: "I don' t know if you can call it a trauma. Bayern had successful seasons after major tournaments. On top of that with Guardiola at the helm, they now have a coach that has won titles with Barcelona after the Spanish national team was extremely successful. He knows how to deal with situations like that. Bayern has the strongest squad ever."

Q: That means Bayern is still your favorite team to win the German title - even after Javi Martinez' s injury?

Hitzfeld: Bayern will sign another good player to replace Martinez. And for the other Bundesliga clubs, it' s a great chance to show their strength this season if Bayern shows weaker games and needs more time than usual to get into a good rhythm. That' s sounds interesting to me. This season could be the chance for clubs like Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Dortmund, Moenchengladbach and Schalke to win something. For fans around the world this must sound like heaven.

Q: Many in Europe see Dortmund as Bayern' s biggest rival?

Hitzfeld: Dortmund has all skills to be a major danger for Bayern. They can make them very nervous. It will be the feeling of the No.2 wanting to be top dog. Such a feeling makes you strong. It' s your opponent that has to deal with astronomically high expectations - not you yourself. That makes some things more easy mentally.

Q: Do you expect a surprise this season?

Hitzfeld: Without a perfect start, no club spring any surprises. But in my mind Moenchengladbach could play a major role this season. And despite the losing in the first round of the cup, Stuttgart could do more than many expect. But they need a perfect start. The Bundesliga is a tight league with a perfect structure. So-called little clubs have the chance to beat the bigger ones, maybe more than in any other league.

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