Newly-promoted 3. Liga side SV Waldhof Mannheim face Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday (kick-off from 15:30 CEST) in one of the most exciting match-ups in the first round of the DFB-Pokal. Maurizio Gaudino played for both clubs. The former Germany international talks to DFB.de about the underdogs’ chances.
DFB.de: Mr Gaudino, thanks to the DFB-Pokal, your previous clubs Waldhof Mannheim and Eintracht Frankfrurt will clash again for the first time in a while. Will you be watching the game in the stadium?
Maurizio Gaudino: Unfortunately not. I am away so I can’t make it to the stadium, but I will certainly keep tabs on it.
DFB.de: What affiliations do you still have with SV Waldhof, having turned pro there and later working as a coach and a director of football?
Gaudino: Waldhof means everything to me, it is my home team. My family live in Mannheim, and I visit my parents and brother every week. Waldhof is always in my heart. After all, I turned pro there. The coach back then Klaus Schlappner gave me the chance to start my career on my very own doorstep.
DFB.de: What are your thoughts on the latest developments at the club?
Gaudino: I am very pleased that Waldhof have made back it into the 3. Liga and are playing professional football again. It fills me with hope that there’s even more to come. For me the club and the town belong in the Bundesliga, and you can see how much the fans want professional football. Not to take away from TSG Hoffenheim’s success, but for me, Waldhof is the true traditional club in this region.
DFB.de: You went to Waldhof at the age of 14, which at the time was known for its youth development, which has been responsible for the likes of World Cup winners Jürgen Kohler and Christian Wörns.
Gaudino: Exactly. The Waldhof Mannheim youth development was outstanding. The U17s coach Baumann and the Koberger family travelled with their team on buses all the way to Odenwald to scout players. They didn’t just pick them up, but they also drove them home. I was scouted at the age of twelve, but wanted to stay with my friends at TSG Rheinau. It wasn’t until I was 14 that I joined them together with my friend from Rheinau, Nicola Alloca. At Waldhof, we were playing on clay pitches before the club was renovated. Luckily, I was allowed to skip both the U19s and the reserves and went straight into the first team, and was playing in the Bundesliga and enjoying life as a professional footballer all at the age of 17.
DFB.de: In the 1985/86 season, Waldhof made it to the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal and played against Bayern München. What memories do you have of that 2-0 loss when you were brought on at half time?
Gaudino: I can honestly say I don’t remember much of the game, but then I tend not to remember defeats anyway (laughs). I’d much prefer to reminisce about the 3-3 draw against Bayern in the Bundesliga [in 1986/87] when I scored a goal and was invited to talk on TV after the game.###more###
DFB.de: This season Waldorf are back playing in the 3. Liga again. What is the team capable of?
Gaudino: Waldhof are strong enough to stay in the 3. Liga. The team has to establish itself in this league to then make progress. There’s a great feeling of euphoria in the club at the moment and the fans will carry the team. Waldhof are in a great position with Bernhard Trares as coach and Jochen Kientz as director of football. Both of them are extremely passionate. With promotion secured, the hardest part is over. The players are being seen in a new light and want to show what they’re capable of and reach the next level, just like we did back in the day.
DFB.de: Their opponents in the cup, Eintracht Frankfurt, have experienced the extremes of a tournament victory and a first-round exit in the past two years.
Gaudino: That can happen. But since their relegation to Bundesliga 2 a few years ago, excellent work has been done at Frankfurt, which was rewarded with that DFB-Pokal triumph in 2018. Plus, Fredi Bobic doesn’t have such a big budget available at Frankfurt compared to other clubs; Eintracht have worked hard for their success. They have a good eye for talents who fit into the team well. These players and the team have been further developed. Fredi Bobic knows what to look for and what is important for the coach and the team.
DFB.de: Eintracht have undergone another big change this season with top goalscorers Luca Jovic and Sebastien Haller both having left the club. Could they be in trouble or is the team stable enough to compensate for those losses?
Gaudino: I hope the team is strong enough. I can only hope that those gaps will be filled again. The Frankfurt fans also have very high expectations. I hope the team can produce a similar performance to last year and kick on. In the Bundesliga, it’s about being consistent and being in the mix for the European places.
DFB.de: Eintracht have already played their first Europa League qualifiers before the first round of the DFB-Pokal.
Gaudino: Eintracht have a busy schedule but their squad is well balanced. The coach and the team have so much experience that they should be superior to anyone they face in qualifiers. Of course, they have to adapt their preparations and the players will almost have to use those games to get fit. They have to keep their concentration up. But the players prefer to have a game every three or four days and do a bit of travelling rather than spend the whole time doing fitness exercises. I know that from my own experience.
DFB.de: Back to the Pokal match-up: do Mannheim have a chance?
Gaudino: Of course, I’ve got a lot of love for both teams. I hope that Waldhof play an incredible match to be on par with Eintracht and advance to the next round. That is possible because the 3. Liga has been up and running for a number of weeks already. Eintracht have not yet been able to find their rhythm. On paper, Frankfurt have to win – no question. But, playing at a sold-out home ground, Waldhof will be fired up. I think it will be an open game.###more###