VfL Bochum’s Maxim Leitsch recently made his first appearance for the Germany U21 national team. The 22-year-old spoke to DFB.de about his debut against Moldova, the injuries that plagued his early career as a professional, and Tuesday’s game against Belgium in qualifying for the U21 European Championship (16:00 CEST).
DFB.de: Mr. Leitsch, you have now spent a week here with the U21s. How are you getting along with the team?
Maxim Leitsch: Very well. I already knew Vitaly Janelt from my club, as well as a few of the others from various other youth teams. So it was actually really easy for me to settle in.
DFB.de: Had Vitaly Janelt already told you anything about the U21 side?
Leitsch: Lots of good things. He had told me that the U21 team has a really good, relaxed atmosphere, not just among the players but also among the coaches and all the staff. So I have really enjoyed my time here.
DFB.de: You made your debut in the 4-1 win over Moldova on Thursday. How did that feel?
Leitsch: Playing for your country is something that you dream about as a kid. It was a great feeling. Not only did I make my debut, but we won the game as well!
DFB.de: You came on as a 79th minute substitute. Were you happy with your first few minutes for the U21s?
Leitsch: Obviously I didn’t have the chance to make a huge impression, as I only entered the game late on. But I think I put in a solid performance.
DFB.de: You are 22 years old, but you actually made your 2. Bundesliga debut for Bochum back when you were 18. You’ve suffered a lot of injuries in that time.
Leitsch: Yeah, since my debut I’ve only been able to play a few matches at a time before getting injured and having to spend time on the sidelines. It’s been quite annoying.
DFB.de: What have you done to get through this injury hell?
Leitsch: It wasn’t easy, especially after the second and third injuries – it all starts to pile up on you. You are completely out of action for several months at a time, right at a stage when it’s important to be getting regular game time to progress as a young player. I missed out on that during the time that I was injured. But I pulled through – I never let my head drop and I always believed that I would get back to playing.
DFB.de: That was certainly the case after the winter break last season – you played 15 consecutive matches in the Rückrunde, completing 90 minutes each time. Was that a breakthrough for you?
Leitsch: Definitely. After winter training, I was thrown in at the deep end and was able to play the full 90 minutes every match from then on. That did me the world of good – I managed to find my rhythm and play regular football.
DFB.de: And your selection for the U21s makes a good argument for you to play more matches for your club…
Leitsch: Yeah, I hope so, and I expect that to be the case. If I keep working hard then I have a great chance to get even more playing time for VfL.
DFB.de: Let’s get back to discussing the U21s – up next is an important match against Belgium. At the weekend there was a training session filled with fun activities like charades and a game of frisbee. How important is it to do things like this alongside more serious match preparation?
Leitsch: It’s great – it really lifts the mood and brings you a little bit closer as a team. Personally, I don’t do things like that very often, making it even more fun.
DFB.de: Has it also strengthened the team spirit?
Leitsch: For sure. We shared a lot of funny moments and laughed a lot. That is so important for team spirit.
DFB.de: How is the team approaching the Belgium clash?
Leitsch: We all know that Belgium will be a completely different challenge to Moldova. We also know that we will have to perform better than we did in Thursday’s match.
DFB.de: What sort of match are you expecting?
Leitsch: It’s going to be a tough game. Belgium have a great squad which is full of quick players. They may also have a better rhythm than us, as they have already played a few matches of their league season. Belgium are a strong opponent regardless, and we will have to give everything to come away with the points.