Berlin – Fabian Lustenberger was in the right place at the right time when he received a pass from Arne Maier and diverted the ball across the goal line. The first strike of Hertha's pre-season belongs to the man from Switzerland. "I've scored more difficult goals," said the Swiss. However, this will hopefully be the first step on the road to a full pre-season for the Hertha man, who last played a competitive match for the club in February because of injury. He was able to play in a friendly in Falkensee once the season had finished, but now 'Lusti' is fit again and looking sharp.
herthabsc.de: Lusti, we're convinced that you're going to have a good season. For one particular reason...
Fabian Lustenberger: Now I'm relaxed...
herthabsc.de: You scored Hertha's first goal of the season, albeit only in training.
Lustenberger: Yes. And what a goal it was too (laughs). I got free and was just there where you have to be.
herthabsc.de: You appear to be very jolly around the place. Are you just happy to be fit again after missing so much of the second half of last season?
Lustenberger: That's part of it. A groin injury like that is awful, basically because you don't know how long you're going to be out for. I was fit at the end of last season and had reached a certain level. But now it's a bit different.
herthabsc.de: You've been at Hertha since 2007. As the longest serving Hertha player at the club, you know how things work here better than anybody, especially pre-season. What's your experience been of what is generally regarded as an unfavourable time of the year
Lustenberger: Generally pre-season is the same every year. The first three or four weeks are very strenuous. The fitness coach is the boss. That was the case with Lucien Favre and hasn't changed under Pál Dárdai. Of course, every coach has his own ideas and experience and contributes these. I don't wake up at night in a hot sweat during pre-season, but at the same time I don't exactly look forward to it (laughs). Joking aside: we know that a rigorous training programmes helps us in the long run. We need to get through it and then in a couple of weeks time we'll be able to do things which are more specific to football.
Back on the training pitch: Fabian Lustenberger (l.) and Salomon Kalou.
You had nearly six weeks off. Were you able to enjoy the time off or did you have to work on your conditioning? Lustenberger:
I was in Greece with my family, by the coast and managed to take in some sun with ex Hertha player Steven von Bergen and his family. I also visited my relatives in Switzerland and saw some friends. The rest of the time I spent here in Berlin - where you can actually relax really well. The holiday was nice and restful - mentally as well. I still did my training programme. Some of the training was quite rigorous. But as I said, it does us good. That way we return stronger for pre-season and aren't starting from zero.
Lustenberger: Hertha BSC will celebrate its 125th birthday on 25 July and there will be a big celebration. A particular highlight for the team will be the season opener against Liverpool on 29th July.
herthabsc.de: It will be a special game against Liverpool. Liverpool is one of the most well-known English clubs, if not the most well-known. The club has a long tradition, a famous name. It's a friendly, but we want to see where we're at, we want to win. It will be a great experience and I'm looking forward to seeing lots of fans at the Olympiastadion supporting us and celebrating with us.
herthabsc.de: You played European football with the 'Old Lady' in 2008/09. What memories do you have of that and how will that help you in the coming season?
Lustenberger: At the time I had no real problem with the burden of playing in Europe and domestically, but I was a bit younger (laughs). I felt good playing on Sundays and Thursdays. But football has changed since then. It's now faster, more athletic and better. Therefore, the demands of us are greater. It will be a challenge for us, but we wanted to qualify for Europe and we managed it. We need to play together as a team, but also rotate. We're looking ahead positively and we're looking forward to the challenge, the competition and exciting matches.
herthabsc.de: What perosnal aims have you set for the 2017/18 season? What do you want to achieve with the team?
Lustenberger: After last season I want to stay injury free if possible. That's the main aim for me personally. Obviously, I also want to play as much as possible and help the team, but I can't decide that by myself. We haven't spoken about our aims as a team as such yet. It's still a little bit early for that. Right now we're just laying the foundations for the season.