Loathe the Australian cricket team

Thomas Broich in a Goal interview: "As soon as it comes to Australia, everyone develops into patriots"


EXCLUSIVE

In the summer of 2010, Thomas Broich had had enough of German football and moved to Brisbane Roar in Australia after stints at Wacker Burghausen, 1. FC Cologne, Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1. FC Nürnberg. The 37-year-old was four times champion down under before ending his active career in August 2017.

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Broich has shaped football in Australia in the recent past and was even named Australia's Footballer of the Decade in 2014. In an exclusive interview with goal He tells of the peculiarities of football among the Aussies and of its importance compared to the popular sports of cricket, Australian football and rugby.

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He also talks about the Socceroos' World Cup chances, how the Australian people are cheering for their national team during the World Cup and names his favorite for the title.

Thomas, almost eight years ago you ventured into Australia. What is the first moment you remember?

Thomas Broich: What really stuck with me were the early morning hours in Brisbane. At the beginning I was totally jetlagged and therefore always the first to train. It was a very special atmosphere, in a new country, far from home, all alone. There was something magical about the first few days of training. It was like a personal spirit of optimism.

How were you received back then?

Broich: I was a blank slate in Australia. The whole hype only arose during the season when we as a team had this mega success. My arrival itself was totally unexcited, there was no media presence or anything like that. The first few months felt closed to the public.

As a European, when you think of sport in Australia, you first think of cricket, rugby or Australian football. How important is football?

Broich: Cricket and the AFL (Australian Football League; editor's note) are definitely ahead, but football can now compete with rugby. There are always different phases. In the past two or three years, for example, there was unfortunately again a slight downturn in the A-League. Before that, there had been an extreme boom - also due to foreign stars like Alessandro Del Piero or Emile Heskey. I would say that football is fighting for third place with rugby. Nevertheless, all of this is very manageable. The clubs have an average of almost 10,000 spectators, that says it all.

How popular is football with the kids?

Broich: Football has long been number one in the youth field. Both girls and boys mainly play football. That is the absurd point: that this breadth is lost in old age and that football then plays a subordinate role.

Has anything changed in the importance of football in the years since you arrived?

Broich: When I went to Australia at the time, the league was characterized by 'kick and rush'. A lot has happened in terms of play since 2010. There were some pretty capable coaches at work who brought football closer to the European way. The sport has benefited tremendously from this. Before football was in a way a form of rugby, now it is much more European. In this respect, football has come a long way in the recent past.

days, players | @Tim_Cahill

The @Socceroos legend has scored in 3 FIFA World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014) & is also Australia's all-time top goalscorer. His volley against the Netherlands at Brazil 2014 is considered by many as one of the # WorldCup's best ever goals. pic.twitter.com/kdGUFaAmsX

- FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 11, 2018

How exactly does the youth work in Australia work?

Broich: The youth work is not nearly as well organized as in Germany, for example. It is now slowly starting to develop youth training centers for A-League clubs. When I was there, Brisbane didn't have a youth team. Much is still in its infancy.

You were a professional in both Germany and Australia: How big are the differences in life as a footballer?

Broich: This can only be compared with the content, i.e. the game preparation and follow-up, the scope of training and the course of the game. The big difference is off the pitch, what happens there and what doesn't happen in Australia. Life as a footballer only takes place on the training ground and in the stadium. All of the trappings that we know from the Bundesliga don't exist. Also, the importance of football and the associated emotionalisation of the people there are nowhere near as large as we know it from Germany. Everything is much quieter.

Do you see that as positive or negative?

Broich: For me personally that was definitely positive, but of course it also says something about the importance of football. The more important or bigger something is, the more emotional it becomes. I think it wouldn't hurt Australian football to have more discussion and coverage of it. But the media attention or the involvement of the fans is limited.

Is one recognized on the street?

Broich: It is very different. After seven years that was the case several times, but even then I never had the feeling that I couldn't move freely. Of course there were situations in which someone wanted a photo, but in principle, in contrast to the Bundesliga, you can separate the professional and the private in Australia.

What about the stars of other sports such as cricket, rugby or Australian football?

Broich: It's different there. Not in the form we know from the Bundesliga, but that's because the Australians simply have more sports. If the interest in Germany were to be spread across basketball, handball and soccer, then not everyone would be such an incredible superstar as is currently the case. It's different in Australia. There some people are interested in cricket, others in the AFL and still others in rugby. This sometimes goes so far that it takes on religious traits. For example, there are two different rugby associations to choose between. The fact that there are several popular sports breaks down the awareness of the individual athletes.

In the documentary "Tom meets Zizou" there is a scene from your shared flat life in Cologne in which you can be seen having a drink with your roommates and smoking a cigarette. In the public perception of a football professional in Germany, this is by no means a matter of course. How free are you in Australia in this regard?

Broich: The Australians are mega-professional and have extremely high expectations when it comes to the role model function of the athletes. I would say that the players are incredibly professional - especially when you consider that it is such a small league that often takes place behind closed doors.

Is it a matter of your own attitude or is this behavior expected by the clubs and associations?

Broich: I would say it comes from within. There are also cultural reasons for this. The Australians are a sports nation; swimming, cycling and other sports are also practiced there. The Australians are also at the forefront when it comes to health and nutrition. Smoking is even frowned upon, in contrast to Europe, where it is still widespread. Australia is very exemplary as a sports nation.

What role did pressure and expectations play in Australia?

Broich: That probably depends on who you ask. Personally, it was relatively easy for me because I was probably at the top because of my sporting potential, so it wasn't often difficult to perform. Without this media pressure, it was easy to perform. The Australians are more likely to feel the pressure that they want to make football their profession first and then assert themselves in it. In the best case scenario, you can make it to Europe and save something for the time after football. Therefore, it is more the existential pressure that weighs on many Australian footballers. Where will my next contract come from? Can I make it abroad? Those are the crucial questions. Presumably this is comparable to players from the 3rd division in Germany. So that's the kind of pressure you feel here. At the same time, even in the most blatant crisis situations, you don't get any problems with the fans or your own board. Failure is dealt with completely differently in Australia.

Australians know "only fifth gear and full throttle"

When you think of the Australian lifestyle, you think of surfing beach boys enjoying their freedom. Can the Australians really be described in such cliché?

Broich: It's not wrong, anyway. For example, we had away games in Sydney, there was the team hotel on Coogee Beach. You then go swimming again in the morning or drink coffee in the sun, everything is easy. This outdoor culture in particular is very popular. If the weather is good all year round and you enjoy being outdoors and being relaxed, then this is reflected in all areas of life. At the same time, Australians have this incredible attitude when it comes to sport. There is a certain nonchalance and relaxation in life, but as soon as the football boots are laced, there is only fifth gear and full throttle.

Was there a situation in Australia that particularly surprised you?

Broich: For me it was actually the attitude towards sport. I haven't seen anything like it in Germany. As footballers, we were spoiled and often diva-like, something that doesn't exist in Australia. Regardless of whether it is the first or last training session of the season or whether you lead 3-0 in a game or are behind, you only know full throttle. It is a work ethic that does not allow for excuses and does not condone laziness or extravagance. If there was a phrase to describe it, hard and honest work is absolutely paramount.

Which experience shaped your time in Australia the most?

Broich: Probably the first Grand Final we've played. We were already 2-0 down in extra time, we almost scored 2-2 with the final whistle and then won the thing. The whole stadium went nuts. It felt like playing in Istanbul right now. Feeling the support like that was intense and showed what would be possible in this country.

The emphasis is on "would"?

Broich: Unfortunately yes. Such stories only happen occasionally. On the last match day of one season in the final you have over 50,000 spectators in orange jerseys in the stadium, who are completely freaking out as if their lives were at stake, and a few weeks later there are only 9,000 at the start of the season. That actually describes it quite well.

Australia has been a regular World Cup participant since 2006. How much are people looking forward to the tournament in Russia?

Broich: The Australians are really looking forward to it. Of course, it depends on how the team sells on this stage. Ultimately, a lot of it falls back on the domestic league. The Australians have a particular pride in this regard. If they can compete with the great nations of the world, that is an enormous boost for football and also for the league. At the same time there is a certain amount of skepticism. On the one hand, Ange Postecoglou, the coach who has mastered the qualification and is something like the shining light of Australian football, has resigned. On the other hand, the golden generation of players is now history. Tim Cahill is still allowed to participate, but other stars like Mark Viduka or Harry Kewell have long since ended their careers. Unfortunately, little comes from the offspring, so people are quite skeptical about the team's potential.

Did you get to know Tim Cahill personally?

Broich: In the late autumn of his career, Cahill played in the A-League for a few more years, we met there, but we had nothing more to do with each other. Cahill is already a real star in Australia, he played in the Premier League for years and is really a number. But at the age of 38, of course, Cahill is past his zenith and should rather set accents. He is no longer a real bearer of hope.

How did you experience the 2014 World Cup?

Broich: I was in Australia at the time and always had to get up early for the games. I watched the World Cup semifinals at 4 a.m. in a pub in Brisbane, that was really awesome, this dismantling of Brazil. It seemed almost surreal.

How exactly can you imagine watching a World Cup semi-final in an Australian bar at 4 a.m. as a German?

Broich: A lot of live sport is broadcast in Australia, where people from all over the world come together and just watch football together. There is definitely a World Cup fever in the country, one can say that.

What about the Australian games? Public viewing is widespread in Germany.

Broich: The Australians tend to watch the games in pubs or restaurants, there are no such mega-events. People are all glued to their screens, but they prefer to do it with friends at a barbecue or in the next pub.

In Germany you have the feeling that an entire country is falling into football fever for a few weeks. Is that similar in Australia?

Broich: As soon as it comes to Australia - regardless of the sport - everyone develops into patriots, and the enthusiasm is enormous. Everyone watches the games and wears a jersey or scarf. In this regard, there are already parallels to Germany.

How much do they care about legionnaires in Australia?

Broich: These are the ambassadors of football, they play an incredibly important role. Unfortunately, they are currently not under contract with the very big clubs, which is why it is difficult to generate a lot of public interest in them and to create new heroes. The closest to this is Aaron Mooy from Huddersfield. In addition, one is happy when Mathew Leckie or Robbie Kruse play a role in the Bundesliga or in the 2nd division, that is well received. However, it is not enough to start a fever.

What do you think Australia can do in a group with France, Denmark and Peru at this World Cup?

Broich: In all honesty, it will be very difficult. First, there is a new trainer with new ideas. Second, the pool of players and the quality are manageable. Third, the group isn't necessarily the worst. The Australians are therefore already blatant outsiders. A lot has to fit so that they can tear something.

What expectations do people have of their national team?

Broich: It's not that people would be disappointed if it didn't get past the group stage. You can assess that realistically. Of course, one has hopes at the same time. This characteristic of never giving up is prevalent in Australia, it is part of the basic equipment.

As a fan, how excited are you for the Australian games?

Broich: I'm not just excited as a fan, because I've been part of the domestic league and this football nation long enough. In a way, the performance can fall back on you because it would also put the league in a different light if the national team were to tear something on the big stage. Should you drop out without a hitch, you would quickly be branded as a third world footballing country. That's why I have my share in it. I hope Australia is successful, I just lack the belief in it a little.

"I definitely trust ourselves to defend the title"

Where are you following the World Cup this year?

Broich: I now live in Cologne again, so I'll be watching the World Cup in Germany and be here and there. I'm really looking forward to seeing another big tournament in Germany after all these years.

Who is your favorite for the world title?

Broich: I think our guys will be at the forefront again. I definitely think we can defend the title, especially because I don't have the impression that anyone is full. It does not seem to be a generation that is satisfied after the success of 2014 and is therefore missing the last five percent. Maybe that's because the team looks a little different. There's definitely a good move in there.

Will Bayern's exit in the Champions League and the defeat in the cup final have a positive effect on the national team?

Broich: I do not think so. That shouldn't have a big impact on the national team. Rather, what should encourage us is the fact that Bayern were superior against Real Madrid and were eliminated due to individual mistakes.As a player you can feel when you were actually the better team. So that could even have a positive aftereffect.

Broich is already working on entering the coaching business

You last started your trainer training and completed your internships. What's next?

Broich: I will soon be doing my first license, in the meantime I will work as an expert on television. So it will definitely not be boring. In addition, I first have to rearrange myself in Germany and clarify for myself which direction it should go for me personally.

Do you want to work in the professional business?

Broich: I would like to be a good coach. Where that leads me - whether it's the youth sector, abroad or maybe even the Bundesliga - that will be seen. I probably wouldn't say no and it might be the big goal, but that doesn't mean everything stands and falls. For me, it's primarily about having the feeling that the work as a trainer is fun and fulfilling. I see it all relatively relaxed.

What does coach Thomas Broich value?

Broich: I have yet to find out. The coach Broich doesn't exist yet, he'll have to be formed in the next few years. First and foremost, I want to look at and learn a lot, at the moment I see myself as a kind of football student.

Do you already have an idea which trainers you would like to use as a guide?

Broich: I think Pep Guardiola is world class and sometimes revolutionary. I am also one of those people who find Julian Nagelsmann totally exciting. I also find other ways of playing football interesting. Domenico Tedesco plays a very special football with Schalke and Jürgen Klopp also has something unique with his style. In this regard, football has so much to offer that you shouldn't stick to one style of play.