Benedikt Höwedes was a key player in Germany’s World Cup winning side of 2014. Under Joachim Löw, the 33-year-old collected 44 caps and has since hung up his boots. Nevertheless, he has remained a part of the DFB – he now supports the team management of the national side with a sort of trainee program. In an interview with DFB.de, he described his tasks and revealed what special plans there are for “Die Mannschaft’s” game against Liechtenstein in Wolfsburg on November 11th (20:45 CET).
DFB.de: Mr. Höwedes, if someone were too look at FUSSBALL.DE, the DFB’s amateur football portal, they would find the message “Currently not registered to play” under your name, but at just 33, the best years of your career might well be now.
Benedikt Höwedes: Well, I’m currently not training for a club anymore. After my professional career came to an end, I played for my hometown club, TuS Haltern, and took part in the training setup there, but after moving to Köln I’ve been without a club and don’t have a valid player pass lying around anymore.
DFB.de: You’re a big follower of amateur football, and have just given out some awards at the “Club 100” gala dinner at the German football museum. Are you also looking for a club in Köln? There certainly won’t be a lack of potential suitors for you.
Höwedes: I’m a massive fan of amateur football. Without the people at the base of the pyramid, those small clubs who work so hard, the success of Germany’s national team would not be possible. Playing at TuS Haltern was a sentimental decision for me, to play for the club where it all began for me as a kid in my hometown, above all, with my friends. As a former professional, I was always judged on the performances I put in in my peak, and unfortunately I’m quite a way away from that at the moment. I’m currently enjoying trying out different sports, ones which are a bit more dangerous than football, which I never would’ve been able to do as a pro footballer.
DFB.de: What sports would those be?
Höwedes: Mountain biking and gravel riding. In winter I like to ski, and in summer I enjoy surfing. It doesn’t always have to be a risky activity though – I play beach volleyball once a week, jog, train in my home gym, play table tennis, go on hikes, the list goes on.
DFB.de: When people see you on the pitch in training with the national team, you don’t look out of place.
Höwedes: I really enjoy the chance I’ve got to get back onto the pitch with the national team. I also think I’m still pretty fit, but I’m not in the rhythm of playing anymore. I’m lacking that extra bit of fitness and ball control. When you aren’t training every day, a lot of your ability goes immediately. It’s pretty difficult for me to run around a pitch for 90 minutes nowadays!
DFB.de: Would that mean that your own high standards are preventing a comeback?
Höwedes: I was always a player who had to give 100% to be able to reach the highest level, and when I see myself not being able to do that I get frustrated. As a performance athlete you are always ambitious and want to win every game, and that still goes today.
DFB.de: Have you had any regrets about ending your career relatively early?
Höwedes: No, absolutely not. I’ve never thought that. Even though I’ve taken on some different jobs in the meanwhile, I can still manage my time well on the whole. I love spending time with my family and enjoying everyday life. I’m also noticing some health benefits of ending my career slightly early. My farewell from professional football was made a little bit easier by the Coronavirus pandemic, because there wasn’t any football on then at all that I love so much. It’s a bit more painful now that fans have brought the atmosphere back into the grounds. But I’m looking forward to being somewhat part of it again, albeit on the other side of the curtain.
DFB.de: You came back to the national team with this new role and you are supporting the management team in a sort of trainee programme. Are you having to get to know the national team and the DFB all over again?oHHHHhfdhnffnngb
Höwedes: As a player, you have your set routines. You concentrate on training, on matches, you spent time with the team, and then you go to sleep early. You have your own rhythm. Now I’ve got the opportunity to view it from the other side and experience a different perspective. I’m learning an incredible amount from Oliver Bierhoff, Hansi Flick and the coaching staff, the management team run by Thomas Beheshti, the entire ‘team behind the team’. I’m learning just how much is required to run the national team: you need to be organised, but above all you need to put your heart and soul into it. I’m learning how you can assemble a team which will provide the best support to the national team. It’s nice to see so many people supporting the national teams from behind the scenes. It’s a privilege to be a part of the national team setup once again. Alongside my colleagues, I’ve been taking on more responsibilities in my role as a good link between the head coach, the players and the management team I can play a part in shaping things, such as Jögi Low’s farewell, which was also an important personal matter for me.
DFB.de: Four years ago, you played in the last of your 44 games for your country. Have things changed since you were playing for the national team? Apart from the coach, of course.
Höwedes: The national team was always special for me. It was a more professional set-up than at club level, where everything was already top-draw. Everything possible was done to make sure the national team had the perfect conditions. We want to be back among the best in the world, and it is impressive to see how meticulously everyone is working to achieve that. As players you arrive and everything is organised to perfection. Now I understand how many people and departments at the DFB are involved in organising an international game or a trip with the national team: Marketing, ticketing, communications, stadium management and accreditation to name just a few.
DFB.de: From an outsider perspective, you could say that Benedikt Höwedes has enjoyed a lot of success in his career, and now your job is to organise tickets and accreditation. They might wonder why are you doing this?
Höwedes: Because I enjoy it and it interests me. After retiring from playing, I wanted to find something that fulfilled me. Of course my family fulfils me as well. But, I also wanted to contribute. Oliver Bierhoff gave me the chance to return to Die Mannschaft. As a player, I really enjoyed being with the team on international duty, and it meant a lot to me to be part of it. Even now, I’m happy and proud to be part of it. I’m trying to connect the experience I’m getting here with the theory I’m learning as part of the UEFA executive master for international players (MIP).
DFB.de: Your former coach with Die Mannschaft, Joachim Löw, will say his farewell in Wolfsburg. You’re part of organising his farewell. What made Jogi so special, both as a person and as a coach?
Höwedes: Jogi is a very affectionate person, who managed to create a great mood and balance within the team. With an eye on the tournaments, he managed to create the right mix of individuals, of team players, extroverts and introverts, of youth and experience in order for a real team to form. He has a real knack for that. That, coupled with the style of play he had developed over the years, which focused on attractive, exciting football. Jogi was always able to judge what he would be able to accomplish with the players available to him, and what was needed to be successful, for example in Brazil, where we needed a solid backline. Personally, I owe him a lot because he played me in a position – where I didn’t miss a minute at the 2014 World Cup – that no one, not even myself, would ever have envisioned. Our relationship was characterised by trust, loyalty and mutual respect.
DFB.de: There have been two international fixtures in Germany since Joachim Löw’s farewell after the EUROs this summer. Why will Löw’s farewell, along with former Germany goalkeeping coach Andreas Köpke and former assistant coach Thomas Schneider, only be taking place now in Wolfsburg?
Höwedes: Jogi didn’t want to be the centre of attention on Hansi Flick’s debut, and instead wanted to allow the new coaching staff to get to work with no distractions. That’s just the kind of person he is. To be honest, there’s no game and no stadium that’s fit to say farewell to such a successful coach. He’s part of the same group as our other World Cup-winning coaches: Sepp Herberger, Helmut Schön and Franz Beckenbauer. Personally, I think the people will be the main focus. In Wolfsburg, there will be several of Joachim Löw’s former players and companions in attendance to honour him and say farewell. The fans will also certainly show him their appreciation for so many great years and games. I hope it will be a sold-out crowd and that it will be a fitting goodbye to one of the most successful coaches in our history. We want to make this a very special game. The DFB will also be organising a huge jersey campaign to mark it.
DFB.de: What will his farewell in Wolfsburg look like?
Höwedes: Part of the Die Mannschaft family will come together, including players, coaches and staff that worked closely with him over the years and won the World Cup together with him. Lukas Podolski, for example, or Per Mertesacker and Sami Khedira, just to name a few. They will welcome him with a guard of honour ahead of the game. Jogi always held his players and staff in high regard. I’m certain that he will feel that same respect from the players, friends and fans in Wolfsburg.
DFB.de: You were part of the team under Löw and are now back in a different role. How have you experienced the start of the ‘new era?’
Höwedes: We witnessed the team play with a lot of fun and passion in their first games with the new coaching staff. In particular, the team displayed great desire and willpower against Romania, and recorded a comeback win. Hansi Flick’s positive, open and authentic manner of communicating is really working with the team. There’s a great mood building around the team. We want to use this momentum to record two more convincing performances against Liechtenstein and Armenia to take with us into 2022.