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“I knew from the start that Hertha was the place for me”

In his first interview since putting pen to paper on a new deal with Hertha BSC, Pascal Köpke speaks about Pál Dárdai, old friends and what he’s looking forward to most about playing in the capital of Germany.

Berlin - Pascal Köpke wasn’t exactly lacking for footballing role models growing up. His father is none other than Andreas Köpke, the long-time world class goalkeeper, 1996 European Championship winner and current goalkeeper coach of the Germany national team. “We used to play against each other in the garden all the time. There would have definitely been worse people to learn from than my dad,” said Köpke Jr., who became Hertha’s third signing of the summer on Monday. As a player, however, the 22-year-old is very different to his father.

Herthabsc.de: Welcome to Hertha BSC, Pascal! What was your reasoning for making the move to Berlin?
Pascal Köpke: Thanks very much! I was really impressed when talking to Michael Preetz about what he had to say about the club. I skyped Pál Dárdai, because he was in Hungary at the time. It was a bit unusual, but I had a great talk with him. I know Berlin and the surrounding area very well from my days as a young player, as I played here often with 1. FC Nürnberg. Even then we were all really impressed with Hertha as a club. I knew that from the start that Hertha was the place for me and that I wanted to move here.

Herthabsc.de: You’ve played alongside Niklas Stark earlier in your career. The defender is just one of a lot of young players that Hertha has at its disposal. To what extent did that commitment to youth influence your decision?
Köpke: Yeah, I’ve known Niklas for a long time. We’ve been in touch a lot over the last few days, and I’ve also chatted with his dad. We’re really looking forward to being teammates again! I also know Marvin Plattenhardt really well from our Nürnberg days and I’ve spoken to Davie Selke a bit too. We were in the same hotel with our girlfriends last year and got on really well. I could tell very easily that Hertha is willing to give young players a chance!

Herthabsc.de: You scored 20 goals and collected eleven assists over the last two seasons in the 2. Bundesliga. What do we need to know about Pascal Köpke as a player?
Köpke: I’m a different type of player to Davie or Vedad Ibisevic. I think that we can complement each other well. It doesn’t make much sense to me to talk about individuals - football is a team game. I’m a team player and I’m willing to track back and do the defensive work too. I think I also have a good eye for goal, without being too arrogant. In general, I’m a laidback guy who gets on with everyone (grins).

Herthabsc.de: The management are trusting that you can make the jump from the second division to the German top flight. In what areas do you have to improve and what are your expectations of coming to Berlin?
Köpke: I’m already really looking forward to next season! It will be important to get to know the team at the start. My time in Aue is behind me now and I’m ready for the next challenge. I will utilise the preseason to give my all and show what I can offer. I want to prove to the coaches that I deserve playing time. And I’m confident that I will be integrated into the team quickly.

Herthabsc.de: Berlin is the city that never sleeps. Have you had much contact with your new home before now?
Köpke: Aue is only about two hours out from Berlin by car. I’ve visited the city with my girlfriend quite a few times when we’ve had the time to on weekends. We met up with Davie and his girlfriend and went to restaurants and cafés. We really like the city - there’s so much to do and to discover here. My girlfriend is currently studying back in Nürnberg. We want to try and see if she’s able to do her winter semester here in Berlin.

Herthabsc.de: You were raised as a very small child in France, are multilingual and enjoy playing basketball. What should the fans know about you and are there any other things that you enjoy doing in your spare time.
Köpke: I’m quite a quiet guy and I like going out for coffee with my friends or my girlfriend. I play PlayStation now and then, but I’m not someone who will spend their whole day in front of the screen. I want to read more in the future. From time to time I hear that I’ve neglected that a little bit (laughs).

Herthabsc.de: Just like a few other Hertha players, you have quite a recognizable name. How does it affect you?
Köpke: I had to deal with it from an early age and come to terms with it. There were a lot of people at Nürnberg that said “you’re only playing here because of your dad!” After a while I just shut it all out. I don’t let it get to me anymore. People will say what they want.

Herthabsc.de: Your father was a 1996 European Championship winner and has acted as Germany’s goalkeeper coach since 2004. Is he your biggest fan or your biggest critic?
Köpke: My dad isn’t really harsh on me, because my granddad definitely is (laughs). He’s a really good role model and giver of advice nonetheless and for that I’m grateful!

Herthabsc.de: The preparations for next season begin officially on 28th June. There are almost three weeks until then. How do you plan to use the rest of your time off?
Köpke: I’m going to be with a few other players who are represented by the Rogon agency and go walking with a fitness coach in South Tyrol. That’s a positive thing for me, as I want to turn up to preseason in top shape. It’s always easier when you’re being pushed by people around you too. Nevertheless, I am really looking forward to playing at the Olympiastadion!

Teams, 11.06.2018
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