Arne Maier of Hertha BSC has spent more than a year out of the U21 Germany team with injury. In an interview with DFB.de, the 21-year-old midfielder discusses the difficult period on the sideline, the lessons learned and his role in Stefan Kuntz's team.
DFB.de: Arne, after more than a year out, you're back with the U21s. How did the first few days feel?
Maier: They've felt very good. Last year, I was injured a number of times so unfortunately I couldn't be here, but now I'm happy to finally be with the team.
DFB.de: You mentioned all your injuries, how did you get through this time?
Maier: Mentally, a time like this is always difficult of course. I did suffer during the time sat out, but I was lucky that my family and friends supported me very well throughout it. But it's in the past, and I'm looking forward now.
DFB.de: Have you been able to learn anything from this time?
Maier: Yeah of course. Things move quickly in football. But I think that you can learn from every injury. In my case, I've learnt that I should listen to my body more now.
DFB.de: Have you changed the way that you deal with your body?
Maier: I often had problems with my knees, so I pay particular attention to them now. I'm spending even more time in the gym now and I've also changed a few things with my diet. I try to avoid meat as much as possible and eat good foods. I also do yoga, which does me a lot of good.
DFB.de: Did you have much contact with Stefan Kuntz during this time?
Maier: We spoke to each other regularly and he came to visit me at Hertha every now and then. He's even come to Berlin during pre-season, so there was constant contact. For my part, I followed the U21s closely of course and watched the games.
DFB.de: You had become an established part of the U21 team but now after a year out, you're also kind of a newcomer to the squad. This must be a bit of a strange situation, right?
Maier: No, it doesn't feel new to me as I know a lot of players and staff here already. It was nice to come back though - that was something really special. I received a very warm welcome and was well received so I definitely don't feel new here.
DFB.de: Do you see yourself as a leader amongst the U21s because of your experience?
Maier: Yeah definitely. That's what I expect from myself, and the coach has made it clear in the media that I should adopt that role. I have no problem with that at all. I want to develop myself further, and part of this development process is getting involved here as a leader.
DFB.de: What roles and responsibilities does this entail then?
Maier: Off the pitch, I want to be approachable for the boys at all times. If someone has something on their mind, they can always come to me. On the pitch, my aim is simply to lead by example and perform well.
DFB.de: What do you bring to the team in terms of playing?
Maier: I try to give the team stability and make sure everyone is enjoying their football. You can always play against me, no matter how.
DFB.de: You experienced the U21s last year, when they were runners-up at the European Championship. How does the current team shape up against them?
Maier: I only joined the U21s towards the end. In the beginning, things didn't go quite so smoothly in terms of qualification, for example when the team lost to 3-1 to Norway. I've met some of the new faces in the team now and I think that if the team plays more games with each other, we'll start to improve as a team. Then things will definitely move forward.
DFB.de: Next up, you've got games against Moldova and Belgium. What are your expectations for these matches?
Maier: Moldova will play their hearts out and run until they drop. Above all, we want to try and break teams down with good football. Against Belgium, it will probably be a completely different game.
The first leg didn't go to plan as Belgium won 3-2, so we definitely want to do better and get a win there. At the end of the day, we shouldn't underestimate either opponent and go out to win the three points in both games.