Anybody who needs proof of how quickly things can change in football need only look at the last few weeks in the life of Alexander Schwolow. After arriving at Hertha BSC, the ex-Freiburg keeper won the battle to be the new number one in Berlin. There was great excitement ahead of his competitive debut, but even greater disappointment after conceding five goals to Eintracht Braunschweig and crashing out of the cup. The 28-year-old labeled the game as a “nightmare”, but Schwolow and co. made amends on Saturday as they won 4-1 away in Bremen and showed an entirely different side to the team. Despite conceding, Schwolow was a safe pair of hands when called into action. “As a keeper, I always want to keep a clean sheet, but I’m not too annoyed by the Werder goal. We won the game, so it’s easy to get over conceding,” says the keeper. The former Germany youth international spoke to herthabsc.de about his first matches for Hertha, training with goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry, and the upcoming match against Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday (25/09/20, 20:30 CEST).
herthabsc.de: First of all, Schwolli, let us congratulate you on being named as our new number one – an achievement that shouldn’t go unnoticed. How happy are you with Bruno Labbadia’s decision?
Schwolow: Thank you. I was obviously really pleased. This was my first aim, and I’ve managed to achieve it. The coach informed us of his choice the day before the Braunschweig match. Now I want to perform well and repay his faith in me.
herthabsc.de: The head coach said that there was a three-way battle for the goalkeeper’s jersey with Rune Jarstein and Nils Körber competing alongside yourself. What has been your impression of the other keepers in the squad?
Schwolow: Rune and Nils are great lads and it’s a lot of fun to train with them every day. Obviously there’s some competition between us, but that’s healthy – it pushes you to improve. I know that I can never relax and have to keep giving my all. In the end, only one of us can play – that’s the life of a goalkeeper. If you play outfield, maybe you can slot into another position, but unfortunately we don’t have that luxury. (grins) I know how it feels to sit on the bench, as I had to do it at the start of my time in Freiburg. It’s always disappointing not to play, but it’s important to put the club’s success first and be ready to go if the team needs you. As hard as it is, you have to leave your ego at home.
herthabsc.de: Zsolt Petry has a great reputation as a goalkeeping coach and is known for helping players to develop. How are you feeling about working with him?
Schwolow: Every goalkeeping coach has their own style – the sessions with Zsolt are completely different from what I experienced in Freiburg. I actually find his sessions weirdly fun! What I like about Zsolt is that he speaks so openly. Likewise, I know that I can tell him if I have any issues affecting my game – we find solutions together. He’s not the type to push you all the time without considering your wellbeing first. He has tons of experience, so he knows what us goalkeepers need in certain situations. As a former keeper himself, he knows how we’re feeling and his careful approach is really helpful.
Colleagues and rivals: Alexander Schwolow and Rune Jarstein in discussion.
herthabsc.de: When you arrived in Berlin, you described yourself as a communicator and as a goalkeeper who likes to show what he can do with the ball at his feet. Can you tell us which areas of your game you’re looking to improve?
Schwolow: I prefer to keep my personal goals to myself. (grins) I would say that I’m already a pretty complete package, but with the potential to keep improving. I’m firm in the belief that I can get even better. It would be a shame if I had already reached my peak at age 28! (laughs) I try to get a little better each day.
herthabsc.de: Let’s talk about the fixtures so far. The “catastrophe” in Braunschweig was followed by a great reaction in Bremen – you also made one or two great saves in the Hertha net. How delighted were you with the Werder game?
Schwolow: The win felt even better after such a disappointing result in the cup. We did really well as a team. I think that we controlled the match for the most part and it was a well-deserved victory in the end. For me personally, it was nice to help the lads out a few times.
herthabsc.de: Was it frustrating to concede?
Schwolow: Obviously I always want to keep a clean sheet, but I’m not too annoyed by the Werder goal. We won the game, so it’s easy to get over conceding. I always analyse my game and see whether I could have done better in certain situations, but after the Braunschweig match I laid in bed all evening replaying the match in my head. I was asking myself how we could have been so stupid as to let the match slip away. We have to just draw a line under it, learn from it, and do better next time.
herthabsc.de: The first home match of the season is coming this Friday (25/09/20, 20:30 CEST). 5,000 spectators will be allowed into the Olympiastadion. Maybe you had imagined your home debut rather differently…
Schwolow: I’m really looking forward to this match. I always drive past the stadium on my way to training. Friday night under the floodlights, and with the fans back in the stands – amazing! It’s just great to be able to play in front of a crowd again. With the current circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus, it’s only right for politicians to gauge the situation and decide what is possible. For the players, something changes when the fans are there. You get the support from the stands, which is really cool and also gives you that home advantage. It feels a bit more like regular football. But obviously the public’s health is the most important thing – football needs to take a back seat and react to the pandemic with care and understanding.
"Berlin is the best! I’ve not been here long but I love it already."
herthabsc.de: You were born in Wiesbaden, Hessen and you spent your youth career there too. Because of this, does the game against Eintracht Frankfurt have a special significance for you?
Schwolow: I was born in Hessen yes, but we only lived 500 metres from the border with Rhineland-Palatinate. The Hesse dialect was still strong there, though. (smiles) There are obviously a lot of Eintracht Frankfurt fans in that area, so it was always the highlight the season when we played them, because of my history with Wehen Wiesbaden. That is something that has stayed with me. I remember years ago, we had we had a long unbeaten run in one of the Freiburg youth teams, and I especially remember the one game against Frankfurt which ended 3-3. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. I felt like there was a shot on goal every two minutes! That was the wildest game I've ever experienced. I’m hoping for a more controlled performance on Friday.
herthabsc.de: We’ll finish with a personal question. It’s been extremely busy since you arrived here in the capital, so how have you found settling in to your new home? On top of that, you and your girlfriend are expecting your first child in October!
Schwolow: Berlin is the best! I’ve not been here long but I love it already. Everything I need is within walking distance from where I live, and there are a lot of really nice areas with cafés and restaurants nearby. It suits me down to the ground. We’ve been in our apartment for just under three weeks now, and although not everything is perfect quite yet, we’re feeling very much at home. And yes, we’re expecting our first child at the beginning of October. That could complicate the game against Bayern, but that would be quite a coincidence! (smiles) The baby will arrive whenever it arrives!