Biking to training twice a day. Training hard ahead of the U21 European Championship in Italy and San Marino. Biking back to the hotel twice a day. Recovery training. Then, doing it all over again the next day.
“We are all pretty sore, and the training was very intense the last few days,” said team member Suat Serdar. “But, you’ve got to do it, if you want to be successful.” The midfielder from Schalke 04 is working hard to get in the best possible form at training camp in Natz with his fellow U21 teammates ahead of the European Championship. “It’s not only physically intense, but also mentally,” said the 22-year-old. “We also do a lot of tactical work, which is very demanding. It’s the only way to make sure that it becomes second-nature for us.”
With all the hard work under the burning sun in South Tyrol, the team aren’t neglecting some fun and variety. Patrick Esume, the coach of the French football team and a TV expert for ranNFL, stopped by for a visit with head coach Stefan Kuntz’ side. In addition to a motivational coaching session complete with stories from Esume’s own experience as a player and coach, he also showed videos from the NFL. The 45-year-old Hamburg native also led an American football training session for the U21 players.
“Coach Esume’s presentation was world-class and really motivated us,” said Serdar. “The training session was a really cool change and good for our team spirit.” Esume made it clear to the team that having unity on the pitch is essential. He added that you have to back up every performance, and quoted NFL player J.J. Watts by saying “Success isn’t owned—it’s leased. And the rent is due every day.”
Suat Serdar can relate to that mindset. As a defensive midfielder, he defines his way of playing as “aggressive” when it comes to winning challenges on defence and “controlling the ball" when under pressure on offence. During his first season with Schalke, he featured in 26 Bundesliga matches and made seven Champions League appearances. He emerged stronger after this difficult last season, and is looking to take this experience with him into Germany’s U21 team.
“As a young player I was able to feature in relatively many matches for Schalke, despite having a difficult start. In particular, getting to play in the Champions League really helped my development, for which I’m grateful,” he said. Serdar made his way up through Germany’s U16 to U21 teams, and has now set his sights on qualifying for the 2020 Olympics. “Jannik Huth, my then teammate at Mainz 05, told me how special the Olympics are for an athlete. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we want to take that chance.”
The U21’S will finish their training camp in Natz on 11th June. The final 23-man squad will head to Italy on 14th June ahead of their first group stage match on 17th June against Denmark in Udine (21:00 CEST). On 20th June, Germany will face Serbia in Trieste (21:00 CEST). Their final group stage match will be against Austria in Udine on 23rd June (21:00 CEST). Only the top team in each group and the best overall second-place team will qualify for the semifinals and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.