It was a scene representative of this season’s performances. In Sunday’s game against Bayer Leverkusen, the hosts once again pushed forwards towards Schwolow in the Hertha goal. However, once again, Dedryck Boyata was on hand to do the thing that distinguishes him as a defender, as he slid in with a well-timed challenge to clear up the danger firmly but fairly. Since his arrival in Berlin in the summer of 2019, ‘Dedo’ has consistently impressed with his defensive performances in a blue and white shirt. Recently, he moved even more into focus and taken on the role of the leading presence in the centre of the Hertha defence following his strong start to footballing life in the capital. A natural result of this was being elected as captain by the rest of the squad in the summer, but that hasn’t changed much for the Belgian. “I’ve always embraced responsibility since I first arrived here at the club. Being club captain doesn’t change that. I am who I am,” emphasises Hertha’s number 20.
Leading by example
Nevertheless, the experienced defender was honoured by his teammates’ decision to elect him captain. “I’m obviously very proud to be the captain of this team. It's a tremendous vote of confidence from the boys and I’m very appreciative of that," says Boyata, who prefers to lead by example rather than being the loudest player in the dressing room. "The most important thing for me is to consistently perform at a high standard and earn the respect of the team. I'm not necessarily the loudest in the dressing room, but out on the pitch you can always hear me," smiles the Belgian international. This style of leadership is especially important for Bruno Labbadia’s side in tight games with a lot riding on them. Friday’s match is a prime example of this, with a tough contest against 1. FC Union in the Olympiastadion waiting for the Hertha players (20:30 CET).
The most recent Berlin derby ended with a 4-0 win for Boyata and Hertha!
Derby experience from Glasgow and Manchester
It is far from his first derby experience for the 188cm Belgian. "I have played in a few derbies and I know the intensity and pressure that comes with them. It’s a relatively new derby against Union so it’s difficult to compare with others that I’ve played in,” says Boyata of the Berlin derby, which saw Hertha win one and lose one last season. “I’ve got one positive memory and one less pleasant memory from last season’s derbies. A win is a must in this game for me. I’m going to make sure that I underline the importance of the game to the rest of the team," emphasises the captain. His impressions of the game could hardly have been more different last season. In the first derby, it was Boyata who conceded the penalty that led to Union emerging 1-0 victors. However, Boyata played a pivotal role in the return fixture at the Olympiastadion as he put in a strong defensive performance, while also chipping in at the other end with a goal in the 4-0 win. In addition to his two appearances in the Berlin derby, the experienced pro has also featured in the Manchester derby as well as the famous ‘Old Firm’ derby in Scotland playing for Celtic. Boyata knows exactly how important these games are. “Derbies are what we all look forward to as players. I take these games personally! As a pro, you have to understand how important this match is for the fans and the club as a whole," explains the Brussels native.
"Derbies are what we all look forward to as players. As a pro, you have to understand how important this match is for the fans and the club as a whole."
Blue and white flags as motivation and a good feeling
It’s clear that it’s the case for both sides. Hertha’s defensive chief expects Union to be “compact and organised with lots of energy. They’ve had a good start to the season which is good for them, but it’s a long campaign and we’re concentrating on ourselves,” says Boyata, who makes no secret of the fact that Hertha have room for improvement. “The season hasn’t gone as we hoped so far, but I’m certain that we have the quality to pick up more points.” And the ‘Old Lady’ want to get going under the lights on Friday night. The Blue-Whites won’t have their supporters’ backing in the stadium, but it’ll be there in their heads. “I saw fans with Hertha flags whilst I was on the way to work on Tuesday. That motivates me and it was a good feeling,” says the Belgian. “The fans can’t be there with us, but we will do everything to get the win for them!” As a rock in the side, Dedryck Boyata will lead his team on the field, trying to create new, blue and white, derby memories.