HSV legend Horst Hrubesch has had a lasting impact on the history of the DFB. Today, the European champions, former youth coach and Olympic silver medallist celebrates his 70th birthday. Once a formidable presence inside the box, Hrubesch spoke with DFB.de about his current job at Hamburger SV, his time with the DFB and reveals his secret to success.
DFB.de: Mr. Hrubesch, given that it’s your birthday and that we’re in a pandemic, let us start with the most important question: how are you?
Horst Hrubesch: I’m doing well, thank you. I’ve always said that working helps keep me young, especially working with youth. That’s something I’m experiencing again now.
DFb.de: You took on the job as academy director at HSV at the beginning of the season. What does a typical day look like for you?
Hrubesch: Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, our academy sides currently aren’t playing any games, which is why we’re using this time to focus on other topics. I’m in charge of everything relevant to our youth players. There is no ‘typical’ day for me. Most recently, for example, we finalized our squads for the upcoming season, and currently we’re focused on organizing friendlies for several of our teams. Outside of that, we put a lot of work into our online presence and have done a lot of work with podcasts. I’ve been able to learn a lot of new things as a result, and the underlying theme is this: I really enjoy this work, and I work with a great team with lots of exceptional people.
DFB.de: Your forte has always been working together with players, and having close contact with them. That’s lacking a bit at the moment, right?
Hrubesch: Not really, at the HSV academy all the team from the U16s to the U21s are closely linked, so that we’re still in contact with them. Based on my position, I’m a little further removed from the players than I was as a coach. But, I really enjoy having our youth teams train right outside my door on a daily basis, as it were.
DFB.de: How often do you use the opportunity to speak with the players?
Hrubesch: Very often, as there’s plenty of opportunity to do so. Especially at the U17 to U19 level, where the age groups are put together, you have to hold discussions about contract extensions or other alternative solutions in cooperation with other clubs. That automatically creates that contact to the players.
DFb.de: You coached several of Germany’s youth sides for many years. How much does that experience help you in your current position as academy director at HSV?
Hrubesch: I benefit from all the experience I’ve been able to amass over the course of my life so far, so it can’t be limited to only the DFB. Of course I learned a lot during my time with the DFB. I learned that things only work when you’re able to make the most out of the various skills people bring to the table. We always enjoyed success at the DFB when we worked together to develop things and acted as a team. That’s the same feeling I get at HSV now. The job here isn’t dependent on myself as a person, but rather draws on the way it’s structured, with the contributions from several skill sets and people. For us, it’s about coming up with ideas together and to continue developing them further, to be open to new ideas, to get the players on board and to share the responsibilities. That was also the case at the DFB. No matter if you’re coaching the Olympic team, the U21s or the women’s team, the key is to always handle things as a team and to take each individual’s skills and use them to help out the team.
DFB.de: You were the assistant coach of Die Mannschaft, and also coached the B team. You enjoyed most of your success while in charge of the youth sides. When you look back at this period in time, what are some of your favourite memories that come to mind?
Hrubesch: Coaching the youth teams was the area in which I felt most at home in, and it always went well. Although I would have liked to have continued my work with the B team back then, which I viewed as a success, the decision was made to discontinue the team. It’s a decision I don’t fully understand to this day, as there were several players from the B team who went on to play for the senior national side. Which was exactly what we were tasked with doing. I don’t want to complain, however, as I realized very quickly that I had a knack for training young players and giving them responsibility. In that respect, my time coaching various youth sides was a dream job for me. I can’t really answer with just one favourite memory, as there were so many different and special moments. Of course I will always enjoy looking back on the success we enjoyed, such as winning the EUROs in 2008 and 2009 or the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, but our journey to those triumphs is just as important to me. As is the development of each individual player and our growing close as a team. I enjoyed a great time with the DFB, and am grateful for everything I was able to experience during those two decades.
DFB.de: You weren’t only a coach at the DFB, but also the sporting director.
Hrubesch: I wore plenty of hats at the DFB, and enjoyed it all. After Hansi Flick’s departure, I took over as sporting director for just over a year and then moved to the women’s team towards the end of my time with the DFB.
DFB.de: Taking over as coach of the Germany women. Another completely new experience for you, towards the end of your time there.
Hrubesch: It was really a great experience. Looking back on my time at the DFB, I was always faced with new situations, got to learn new things and work with new players. Overall, it was tremendous fun. I’m very proud to have been able to coach the women’s team towards the end. I’m very glad to have those memories with the team and the players.
DFB.de: What are the biggest differences between working with men and women?
Hrubesch: I don’t like making comparisons like that. For myself, it’s about people playing football. What I can say is that we are still underestimating the women. The thing that fascinated me the most about them was their honesty and the way the players approached each day. Also, their ability to take on instructions and implement them was something that I’d never witness in that form with the men. My time coaching the women was short, as I only took over on an interim basis, but it was very intense. What’s especially nice for me is that I still have contact with the team today. I always look forward to my phone calls with them. I’m also happy to see how well the team is doing under the guidance of Martina Voss-Tecklenburg and her staff. They’ve laid a solid groundwork with the wins against Australia and Norway recently. I’m confident that if they continue to build on young players, that Germany will have a first-rate women’s national team again.
DFB.de: You’ve achieved a lot over the course of your life and success has followed you wherever you’ve gone. People don’t just have nice things to say about you on your birthday. It begs the question: what is the secret to your success?
Hrubesch: No idea, although I have had my share of bad experiences. But, we don’t have to talk about those today (laughs). I think that first and foremost, it’s important to be honest with one another. I didn’t shy away from speaking my mind, and always did what I thought was right. At the same time, I also tried to get everyone on board, and to get them to share their thoughts and opinions. Both as a player and as a coach, you have to know that success isn’t achieved individually, but rather as a team. It’s also important to demonstrate a willingness to learn new things, to accept differences of opinion and to approach others. For myself, this meant going to the players and showing a real interest in them, setting realistic goals together and following up on those.
DFb.de: Looking back on your entire career as a player and as a coach, are there any moments in time which you would say you enjoyed the most?
Hrubesch: I really enjoyed coaching, and now I enjoy being the academy director at HSV, but there’s nothing that compares to my playing days. It’s not only me who feels that way, but it’s the same for every footballer. Although it may be a bit different for me, as I had a comparatively short career in the Bundesliga.
DFB.de: You joined Rot-Weiss Essen at the age of 24, which was the start of your professional career.
Hrubesch: Yes, and I know that I was extremely lucky throughout my career.
Hrubesch: I always had the right coach at the right time during my career. That was also the case during my childhood and as a youth. I also always played on teams and with teammates who complimented my style of play. I was also lucky to never have to deal with any serious injury. My biggest stroke of luck was the support I had from my wife and my family. If I look back on it now, then I can only be grateful for everything I was able to experience during my career and the opportunities that resulted from it. I was able to travel and experience things that I never would have been able to do, had it not been for football.
DFB.de: Everything started for you at FC Pelkum. What memories do you have of your first club?
Hrubesch: I can still remember scoring five goals in my first five games at the club. Both of my brothers also played for FC Pelkum, and it remained part of my life even after I left the club. I only have positive memories from my time at FC Pelkum. I was able to play the sport I loved, and was coached by experienced people with plenty of enthusiasm. I can honestly say that FC Pelkum are the club to which I owe the greatest thanks to. I’ve lost touch with them a little over the last 10 to 15 years, due to the fact that I was away a lot with the DFB and that I’ve moved from Hamm to Hamburg.
DFB.de: What’s changed over the last 50 years, when you compare football today to back then?
Hrubesch: Of course there’s plenty that’s changed: the intensity is higher, the game is a lot quicker, but the game itself hasn’t changed. There’s been changes made, such as the offside rule, which complicates things a bit more, but the game is the same, no matter if it’s played on the streets or on the pitch. In principle, it’s quite simple: if you try to not concede and score more goals than your opponent, then you’ve won. If you’re successful, that is (laughs).
DFB.de: What are you wishing for on your 70th birthday?
Hrubesch: For me, the most important thing is that my family is doing well. The Coronavirus pandemic has made it clear to all of us just how important health is. I hope that we will be able to get the virus and the pandemic under control. I enjoy being around people, which is why having to avoid contact and keep distance is difficult for me. My wish is then that everyone does their part to behave appropriately so that we can beat this virus. The best gift for all of us would be for life to return to normal as soon as possible.