Christian Ehrhoff: "Dressed in a national jersey in front of the TV"
Round about 50,000 members have joined the fan club of the German national team powered by Coca-Cola. But there are many more supporters keeping their fingers crossed for Germany, including quite a number of people who have attained VIP status in completely different walks of life. To mark the tenth anniversary of the national team fan club, the "Celebrity Fans" section has been created on DFB.de as a forum for them to talk about their passion for soccer.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Christian Ehrhoff has just played 32 games for his hometown club. Because of the NHL-lockout the German ice hockey star had returned to the Krefeld Penguins. Now the player union and the NHL negotiators have come to an agreement about the financial terms, so that the defender was obliged to return to the Buffalo Sabres. It was with mixed emotions that Christian Ehrhoff got on the plane. In this interview with DFB editor Niels Barnhofer he talks about soccer, going to see matches live in the stadium, watching soccer on night-time TV while wearing the national team shirt, and his ten-year contract.
fanclub.dfb.de: Mr Ehrhoff, could you see something positive in the NHL-lockout?
Christian Ehrhoff: Yes, for the first time in ten years I was able to be home for Christmas. Which was great for the family too. We have two small children and their grandparents were very happy to have them both around over the holidays.
fanclub.dfb.de: Was it also a positive side-effect of the lockout that you could watch more soccer in Germany?
Ehrhoff: That`s right. I saw a few matches live in the stadium. Unfortunately, that's not often possible. My schedule is pretty full. But I did not want to miss the match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in the Champions League. Besides I was there when the Bundesliga-Season started for the BVB. These are the kind of special moments that I miss in North America.
fanclub.dfb.de: So Borussia Dortmund is the club your heart beats for?
Ehrhoff: Yes, it’s one of them. I cross my fingers for almost all teams in this area. We live in Krefeld and come back every summer when the NHL season has ended.
fanclub.dfb.de: How do you manage to stay up to date with the German soccer in North America?
Ehrhoff: You can receive basic information in the newspapers. I also have the opportunity to watch one soccer match per week. My cable TV package includes a channel that holds the broadcasting rights for the Bundesliga. And whenever I get the chance, I try to watch the matches.
fanclub.dfb.de: You have played for over ten years in the NHL now. How Americanized would you say you are?
Ehrhoff: I am loyal to my German roots. We speak German at home. We maintain the German culture. My wife always does her own cookings. That's not typical for North America, here you often go out for dinner – but that’s something we haven’t adopted. However, what I have grown to actually like is American football. At first I didn’t want to konw about, but over time I started to get interested in it. But I’m still very much asoccer guy. Above all when the national team plays. I always try to watch the matches of the German national team. For major tournaments I wear my national jersey when watching games on tv.
fanclub.dfb.de: You grew up in the Ruhr areat. There you are automatically socialized into soccer. Why was it different with you?
Ehrhoff: My sister was a figure skater. So we often went on the ice together. Then I saw a hockey game and was so excited that I told my parents that I wanted to do this as well. There was no “Bambini” team in Moers, so I went directly to Krefeld. Of course, I played soccer as a boy too - on the soccer field with my friends. But my heart has always beaten for Hockey.
fanclub.dfb.de: Which position did you play in soccer?
Ehrhoff: Unlike on the ice I mostly played in attack. I was in charge of scoring the goals.
fanclub.dfb.de: Do you now sometimes get the chance to play soccer?
Ehrhoff: In the summer we have a group that meets irregularly. We do not play often, because our summer training takes a lot of time.
fanclub.dfb.de: Do you think you can bring soccer home to your hockey colleagues in North America?
Ehrhoff: Often we play soccer to warm up, but for example only with two ball contacts or simply keep the ball in the air. In moments like these, you realize that, as a German, you have major advantages over the North Americans who were born with two left feet, as we say in Germany.
fanclub.dfb.de: So you do the coaching part when you play with your North American colleagues?
Ehrhoff: In a sense, yes, but the truth is any, type of coaching is a waste of time. It’s no use. (laughs)
fanclub.dfb.de: Would you say that playing hockey made you an outsider with your peers?
Ehrhoff: Iwouldn`t say so. But it is true that I was the only one at school who played hockey.
fanclub.dfb.de: But you did not let yourself be swayed, you have gone your own way and it has become a long way. You've signed a ten-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres. Any soccer-player would love to do that. How do you get such a contract?
Ehrhoff: The timing was just good for me. I reached the 2011 Stanley Cup with the Vancouver Canucks. After that I was a so-called free agent, which means I would have been without a contract and could negotiate with other clubs. I had had a very good season. I was one of the most requested players. Buffalo then had secured my contract rights and submitted me the offer.
fanclub.dfb.de: Are other players jealous because of your ten-year contract?
Ehrhoff: Yes, of course, we talk about it. But in North America it is quite normal that contractual details are in the public domain. The good thing is that people do not react with envy or jealousy. Generally speaking, they don’t begrudge you such a contract.
fanclub.dfb.de: Despite playing in the NHL you keep playing for the German national team. You were also here at the World Championships 2010 in Germany. What kind of experience was that for you?
Ehrhoff: That was definitely a career highlight for me. Playing in front of the home crowd at such a tournament was a unique experience. And I’say it was thanks to this support that we managed to finish in fourth place, a historic result for Germany. No one expected that. I look back on it with pleasure.
fanclub.dfb.de: What value has a World Cup for you?
Ehrhoff: The ice hockey World Championship is actually not as important as the Olympics. Many of the best players can not take part in the World Cup, because they have to play in the NHL-Playoffs at the same time. In contrast, the NHL makes a break for the Olympic Games so that all the stars can participate. But still, I'm always proud when I represent my country. I am happy whenever I can play for Germany.
fanclub.dfb.de: Speaking of World Cups our national soccer team is in the middle of the qualifying stages for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Will Germany be there?
Ehrhoff: Yes, of course, no doubt about it. We are a soccer nation. That should be no problem.
fanclub.dfb.de: There is this ongoing public debate here about what the team is capable of. What do you think?
Ehrhoff: I think we should set ourselves the objective to be world champions. We have great opportunities in Germany. When you see the talents coming through, you know that there is a lot of potential in Joachim Löw’s team.