On Saturday afternoon, after 2,427 days, it will finally come to an end. Hertha’s midfield motor Per Skjelbred will play his final game in a Hertha shirt. The Norwegian is leaving the club after his long tenure, and is returning to his native country to continue his career. And so, when the tea play Gladbach on Saturday afternoon, he will celebrating his final game at the peak of German football. Despite an injury picked up in recent weeks, the midfielder is determined to play in the game and has been working incredibly hard to be back. The Norwegian spoke to us in a virtual interview ahead of the game about his health, his feelings about leaving and his plans for the future. We collected all the important quotes.
Per Skjelbred on…
…his calf injury: The calf is okay and the healing process is going well, it’s much better. I gave my all in the past couple of days to be able to be there in Gladbach. I had two treatments a day and trained. On Tuesday I did a running test. Then we’ll see how it looks. I didn’t start too early on purpose, but I waited a little bit. I want to go to Gladbach and play a few minutes in my last game for Hertha BSC, that’s my hope and my goal. After seven years I want to be on the pitch with the boys once more, and hopefully win the game.
…his emotions while saying his goodbyes: I didn’t really worry too much about saying my goodbyes during the season, but I also didn’t think too much about it either. In the last two or three weeks though, I’ve been feeling more emotional. For example, I just drove through the city and got some final views of Berlin. It’s still strange. Nowadays, spending seven years at one club is a really long time. I’ve really enjoyed it. My children grew up here in Berlin, which is obviously really important for my family. Berlin is something special to me. Just saying a “goodbye” in a few days feels strange. On the other hand, I’m naturally happy to return to where it all started. It’s like we’ve come full circle.
…his favourite moments in Berlin: Of course, games against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are incredibly special, but I loved the games where we dominated for 90 minutes and we threw everything at the opposition. Whether it was Freiburg, or Düsseldorf, where we came back from being 3-0 down at half time to draw 3-3. Those are the moments that really make you love football. It’s not all about playing the big clubs, I’ve had so many nice moments with Hertha.
…his final season with the club: Before the season I didn’t know whether this would be my last one. I told myself to enjoy every game, every training session, enjoy every moment with the boys. I’ve enjoyed every minute of this season, even though it has been a turbulent one. This year we’ve been through pretty much everything possible in football: from the bench into the starting XI, coaching changes, and moving up and down the table constantly. I’ve learnt a lot this season and I’ll take that experience with me, but the most important thing is that I’ve enjoyed it all.
…his role in the dressing room: No one can replace me in the dressing room (laughs). There are already so many young players in our squad. But when one person leaves, it gives another player an opportunity to step up. That won’t be a problem here. I’ll always come back and have a look what’s going on in the dressing room. If it’s not going well, Michael Preetz will have to speak about loaning me back in to sort things out (laughs). I’m sure they’ll continue the fight without me (grins).
...returning to say goodbye to the fans: Playing in front of empty stands is something very, very strange for all of us at the moment. The fans and their emotions play a very big part in football. I hope that I'll come back and will be able to say a proper goodbye to the fans and the team as soon as it's permitted.
...the Old Lady's prospects for the future: I can already tell that the lads are fully invested with the new coaching staff. Bruno Labbadia has a clear plan for how he wants to play football. The team is on the right path and I'm excited to see what the future holds. The environment in Berlin is amazing. Things are looking good for the upcoming years.
...life in Norway: It feels like I'm finally coming home. My kids are really active; they play football and handball, and they do gymnastics. I want to support them and be there for them. In addition, I want to help out the youth teams at my home-town club. So they days will be full: first training myself, then training my kids. My wife also did everything for me over the past nine years, so I now have to play a different role so that she has more time for herself.
...plans for the coming weeks: I'll need to self-isolate for ten days when I arrive in Norway. That'll be like my holiday, then I'm straight back to it. There are two games a week every week in Norway now, the season needs to be completed before Christmas. We'll also have the Cup and eventually the Europa League too. We've got quite a lot of games. Rosenborg haven't started well, a draw and a loss. They're already waiting for me. But first, I'm looking forward to ten days with my family.
...his future in the game: I've signed a contract to coach in Rosenborg's academy once I finish my playing career. It was also my wish to stay in and around the game, and share my experiences with the kids and young players. Trondheim is the best place for me to do this, because RBK is the biggest football club in Norway. I hope to help Norwegian football with my experience. I've also always dreamt of becoming a fireman. There are definite fitness requirements and age limits, but my dream still lives. Maybe I can be a fireman at the weekend, and work in the academy during the week (laughs).