While on vacation in Florida, Jonathan Tah received a phone call from assistant coach Marcus Sorg, who informed him that he will be replacing the injured Antonio Rüdiger in Germany's squad for the European Championship. Everything moved quickly from then on for the Leverkusen centre back, as he got on a plane, returned to Europe and joined the team in Évian. Tah has been with Die Mannschaft since Thursday having traded in his holiday for the tournament. In an interview with DFB.de editor Steffen Lüdeke, the 20-year-old talks about bad food, good decisions and his connection with France.
DFB.de: Mr. Tah, you suffered food poisoning towards the end of the season. How bad was it?
Jonathan Tah: It was pretty extreme. It came from poultry meat. The day after I ate it, I felt worse with every day until I had to go to the hospital. It really swept me off my feet. I was in hospital for five days and wasn't able to eat anything at all for three days, causing me to lose a total of five kilos. Fortunately all that is behind me now and I'm feeling really well again.
DFB.de: Are you able to eat poultry meat?
Tah: Yes, it's not a problem anymore. I have a completely normal appetite again and have the same diet as I did before the food poisoning.
DFB.de: How exactly did your nomination for the EUROS come about?
Tah: I had just arrived in my hotel in Florida when my phone rang and Marcus Sorg informed me about the situation. We then had to get some organisational things in order, also with my club, and then I was off to France. I hadn't even unpacked my suitcase yet.
DFB.de: Good timing, seeing as you didn't have to pack it again.
Tah: That's true.
DFB.de: You made your debut for the German national team in March during a friendly defeat against England in Berlin. Were you disappointed to see the preliminary squad announced and find out that your name wasn't on the list?
Tah: I'm ambitious, so of course I had hopes that I was going to make the team and I was disappointed when I found out that it wasn't the case. But I knew that it was going to be difficult for me. Just look at the quality and the experience that we have in our defence. I was disappointed, but I was able to put that disappointment behind me fairly quickly.
DFB.de: You've now taken the place of Toni Rüdiger, who suffered a severe knee injury in the first training session in Évian. How big is your empathy towards your colleague?
Tah: I feel very sorry for him. Obviously it's great that I get to take part in the tournament now. I'm fully motivated and very enthusiastic to be part of the team, but I would trade it all back in if I could. I don't wish injury on any player, especially not this type of injury. I really hope that he gets back as quickly as possible.
DFB.de: What is your connection with France, the host nation for this summer’s tournament?
Tah: My father comes from the Ivory Coast and has several relatives living in France. It makes the tournament even more special for me.
DFB.de: Do you speak any French?
Tah: I always have to get back into the groove first if I haven`t spoken it in a while. But I pick it up again relatively quickly. I understand everything anyway.
DFB.de: Germany will have their first game on Sunday, when they face the Ukraine in Lille (kick-off: 21:00 CEST). You attended yesterday's video analysis sessions. In terms of defence, what is there to look out for against the Ukraine?
Tah: I can't reveal any details. Fact is, the Ukraine have a good team. They have individual quality and can also play well as a team. It will be a difficult match due to their physicality. We have to put up a fight and if we do that I'm optimistic. We have more abilities going forward than the Ukraine.
DFB.de: Are you hoping to make an appearance against the Ukraine?
Tah: I will do my best in training and show the coach that I'm an option, but I back whatever decision he makes. I'm here to help the team as best as I can. I accept every role in the squad and will do my best to support the team whenever I can.