After 19 years with the DFB, Horst Hrubesch is finally hanging up his boots to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Most recently with the women’s national team and as the DFB’s sporting director, Hrubesch’s career has seen him coach various youth teams from the U16s through to the U21s where he enjoyed success at the 2009 U21 Euros and won silver at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. In an exclusive interview with DFB.de, the 67-year old looks back on his stellar career and shares his travel plans.
DFB.de: Mr Hrubesch, has the travel bug got you yet?
Horst Hrubesch:: Yes! It all kicks off in February at last.
DFB.de: So you’re sticking to the plan, no phone call will stop you now?
Hrubesch:: Absolutely not. My wife and I have been planning this for so long, now we’re finally going to see it through. Now I finally have the time for it, we’re taking six weeks in New Zealand, then on to Malaysia, Singapore, Hawaii and then Las Vegas to wrap it all up.
DFB.de: Are you not sad at all that it’s finally over?
Hrubesch:: It is the right time. I would like to spend time with my wife, mother and family. It won’t get boring for sure. In any case, I promised I’d go along to watch the women’s World Cup in France next summer. I’m looking forward to it, as are the ladies!
DFB.de: The women’s national team and you – it was a match made in heaven, albeit a little too late, wasn’t it?
Hrubesch:: Don’t be saying that near my wife (laughs)! No, fun aside. I knew the team from the Olympics. The connection had been there since 2016 already. We met them before the tournament with the U21s, they gave us lots of tips about what to expect at the Olympics. Then it was more of the same in the Olympic village. It was just amazing how that took us all in.
DFB.de: The women took gold, the men silver – a historic double success. What are your fondest memories looking back on that tournament in Brazil?
Hrubesch:: It was a unique time for everyone involved. Every player and staff member looks back on full of joy and pride. In such a short space of time we became such a close team. Despite many setbacks, and with many doubters, we made it all the way to the final and fought for Germany’s first ever Olympic silver medal in football. It was great to be in the Olympic village in Rio, the atmosphere was sensational. On our first evening meal in the huge canteen we met up with the handball team. As I said before, we shared accommodation with the women’s team. You wish each other luck and feel part of a huge sporting family all living there together. The players will share stories of this time with their children.
DFB.de: You actually wanted to end your career back in 2016 after the Olympics…
Hrubesch:: Yes, and then I took over from Hansi Flick as sporting director. They needed someone, and the DFB thought I should take the role. And when my employer needs help, I’ll be there.
DFB.de: It was a similar story with your role as head coach of the women’s team, wasn’t it?
Hrubesch:: After Steffi Jones left, we couldn’t immediately fill the position as we would have liked, so rather than just give it to anybody, I said I’d rather do the job myself.
DFB.de: You had some great results, winning seven games, drawing one and losing none. What was the key to those results?
Hrubesch:: Gain confidence and share responsibility. At the start I told them to live by one single motto: simply play football. And there’s a double meaning there. I wanted them to start playing football the way they know how. Initially it was all about winning, as we needed to qualify for the World Cup. That was the most important thing. Once we achieved that, we could bring a few other new things into our play. The team has shown recently how much potential they have – and there’s more to come.
DFB.de: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg has now taken charge of the team.
Hrubesch: She is a great coach, who has a lot of experience and is very articulate. She knows exactly what she wants and along with her team consisting of Thomas Nörenberg, Britta Carlson, Michael Fuchs and the new fitness coach Patrik Grolimund she will prepare the team well for the World Cup.
DFB.de: What impressed you the most about working with the women?
Hrubesch: The fact that they were so approachable and authentic, as well as being so professional. The ladies always give 100%, whatever they are doing – its very commendable. Some of them are still working or studying, but they still cope well. It was very interesting for me to see. As their coach, you must sometimes tell them to take their foot off the gas. It was a great experience to work with them. If I hadn’t have worked with this side, then I would have missed out on something in life. I’m very thankful.
DFB.de: Your career has ended with a role that you had never done before. You have worked for the DFB since 1999, taking charge of several academy sides and being the assistant coach for the national side at Euro 2000. What interested you in working with talented young footballers?
Hrubesch: I have simply always enjoyed working with young players. This was always the case even before I started working for the DFB. When first-team players were injured, I was forced to call up some youngers players and I then realised that it was a fulfilling job, trying to help young players reach their goals. The best cases are when they take on your advice and profit from your experiences. This isn’t always possible with older players. Working with the U16s alongside Bernd Stöber in 1999 was a great experience from the beginning. I learnt a lot from him – especially how to deal with younger players. I was also able to exchange views with my other colleagues, Jörg Daniel, Paul Schomann and Erich Rutemöller. I used these experiences in my work with the other youth teams later in my career.
DFB.de: How would you describe your leadership style? Has it changed over the years? Would you say you have become calmer?
Hrubesch: I have always been direct and fair, which is the attitude I had as a player too. I looked at what I was doing wrong and did everything I could to fix these problems – I have also demanded the same from my players. With a lot of players, I have always been happy to give them assistance in their careers. They have to want to be successful too though. Naturally there have been some conflicts over the year, but that’s normal for sport. The players all realise that too. All my players have known that they can ring up me at any time to discuss any problems they might have. I have even been known to drive to see them in some cases.
DFB.de: Have you ever seen yourself as a father figure to your players?
Hrubesch: I wouldn’t compare my relationship to my players to a father, no. It was more a relationship, whereby both partners were equal. They could demand things from me and I could demand things from them. Obviously I am happy when players like Neuer, Boateng and Hummels go on and become World Champions with Germany, as well as when they win numerous domestic honours. It makes me proud, but at the end of the day they achieved it themselves. Not one coach is responsible for their success. I also try to let people know that everybody is responsible for their own achievements and must work for their own careers. If players realise that, then they are already a step ahead.
DFB.de: So, you are now a pensioner…
Hrubesch: That doesn’t matter to me. What’s important is that I don’t have to rush around trying to make meetings. I can simply stay at home for a week instead. I cannot wait to enjoy this freedom now. Working with young players and people in general always kept my young and was a dream job for me. But now I’m looking forward to what my future has in store for me.###more###