Although Oliver Baumann has made the second-most Bundesliga appearances (377) of any goalkeeper currently playing in the league, he still tends to fly under the radar. Not only on the international stage, seeing as how he is yet to make his debut for the senior Germany side. Ahead of the upcoming DFB-Pokal round of 16 clash with SC Freiburg (19th January, 20:45 CET), the 31-year-old spoke about facing his former club and what he still hopes to accomplish in his career.
DFB.de: Oliver Baumann, TSG Hoffenheim are currently the team of the hour in the Bundesliga. How do you feel about being in that role?
Oliver Baumann: I see it as a positive. Given that I don’t really look at the table, I didn’t even really notice that we’re as high in the table as we are now.
DFB.de: When it comes down to describing Hoffenheim’s success, the words that tend to get used are ones like ‘team spirit’ and ‘unity’ due to the Coronavirus situation at the club last year. What else defines your team?
Baumann: Definitely team spirit. You can tell that we all get along very well. The team has also developed well. During the first half of the season, there was a phase where we struggled to score goals. We discussed it internally and trained more. That’s what’s now caused us to have a lot of different goalscorers. We create a lot of chances, and we’ve also improved in defence.
DFB.de: It’s helped you move up to third place in the Bundesliga. You’ve also reached the round of 16 in the DFB-Pokal. How important is this competition to you?
Baumann: Unfortunately, I’ve not really achieved much in the DFB-Pokal in my professional career so far; just one semi-final appearance and one in the quarterfinals. I won the Pokal with the U19s in 2009. The Pokal definitely has a high importance because it’s only a few games, but you have the potential to achieve a lot. Knockout games are entertaining on the international level and in the DFB-Pokal as well. It comes down to making as few mistakes as possible. After all, you don’t have many chances to make up for these mistakes because every match is just a single leg. The motivation of reaching big games like the quarterfinals, semis or final is a strong draw. We are now up against a top opponent in the round of 16 in SC Freiburg.
DFB.de: Do you have any special memories of your previous appearances in the DFB-Pokal?
Baumann: The semi-final in Stuttgart with Freiburg in 2013 was very frustrating. We made it that far and then lost the derby 2-1. I would love for a repeat of that game.
DFB.de: Now, TSG Hoffenheim will come up against SC Freiburg, who have – to the surprise of many – established themselves in the top third of the table. Was that also a surprise for you?
Baumann: No, and for the following reason: in previous years, SC Freiburg often ended up selling several players at the end of the season. That wasn’t the case this year. When a team is able to keep at least one or two of their key players, then my experience is that they play better the next season. You’ve developed better, and understand each other better, if you already got along before. That was already the case when I was at Freiburg. That’s how we qualified for the Europa League. What happened then, when we were playing in Europe after having let several players go? We were nearly relegated.
DFB.de: You’ve been at Hoffenheim since 2014, and still come up against Christian Günter, Nicolas Höfler and Jonathan Schmid. That’s definitely unusual.
Baumann: That also depends on the type of person you are, and how at home you feel at the club.
DFB.de: How at home did you feel at Freiburg?
Baumann: Very at home. I was at home in the region, at the club and in the city. But, then I had the desire to leave that home.
DFB.de: Christian Streich is still in charge of Freiburg, like he was when you were at the club. What has been his secret to his success for the last 10 years?
Baumann: He has high expectations when it comes to discipline and humility. The best example for his humbleness came after the 6-0 win in Mönchengladbach, when he looked almost sad in the interview. And, obviously, his knowledge of football.
DFB.de: The 2-1 win for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga wasn’t that long ago. What lessons did you learn from that game and what kind of match will you be expecting this time?
Baumann: I’m expecting a similar game. Small details will decide it. It will probably be a tight game considering we’re both good teams. Playing against Freiburg is always interesting, especially because you don’t know how they will set up tactically. I enjoy these matches.
DFB.de: With FC Bayern out already, it’s a really open competition. Considering TSG’s position in the league table, you must be considered one of the favourites. Can people in Hoffenheim already start dreaming of a trophy?
Baumann: This brings me to back to Christian Streich’s recipe for success that he always taught me. Remaining humble is a great quality. Dreaming of things won’t help at all. It’s good to have big aims and I like that, however this game against Freiburg will be tough enough. We can’t get distracted by thoughts like “what would happen if…”
DFB.de: Let’s speak about you personally. You’ve been in the Bundesliga since 2010 and have been able to play mostly throughout that period. You’ve only missed 16 games in 12 years – what’s the secret behind your consistency and fitness?
Baumann: There is no secret. You just have to be a professional. That means eating well, listening to your body, training hard, being disciplined and putting a lot of work in.
DFB.de: You’ve played in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, the Champions League and the Europa League. All that’s missing is an international game for Germany. Is that your unfulfilled dream?
DFB.de: Do you get the impression that you go somewhat under the radar at a club like Hoffenheim? Would you be spoken about more if you played for someone like Borussia Dortmund for example?
Baumann: That’s probably not wrong. It’s always been the case that if you play for a bigger club with more members and maybe more tradition then you get hyped up more. That’s not that important to me anymore, I’m too old for that. The experts know what really matters.
DFB.de: What else do you hope to achieve?
Baumann: You can’t expect anything because not everything is in your own hands. Winning a cap for Germany remains my unfulfilled dream. I’ll just keep on going. I’m still in contact with Andreas Kronenberg, the goalkeeping coach for the national team and for SC Freiburg – he was also there when I was at the club. We speak about my game and I’m always trying to improve. My age doesn’t matter in that regard. Let’s just wait and see.