The spread of Coronavirus both nationally and internationally is beggning to have more and more of an effect on sport. The Bundesliga has been at the heart of that this weekend too as sadly all nine games will be played behind closed doors. That goes for Hertha’s away game at TSG Hoffenheim, as it will be an unusual situation for all involved. As a footballer you neverwant to play in a ‘Ghost Game’. Fans and atmosphere are part of football. But we have to just deal with the situation because health is the most important thing. If we want to beat Coronavirus, it’s just something we have to do,” commented central defender Niklas Stark on the current situation. The 24-year-old spoke to us about the upcoming task against the Breichgauer, statistics, and conversations with the fans.
herthabsc.de: Nik, the Coronavirus is continuing to spread - in Germany and Berlin. Have you been keeping up to date with the developments of the disease?
Stark: Of course I’ve been keeping up to date. The Coronavirus is a massive topic worldwide, and we have to be aware of it. Whether you fall into a high-risk group or not, we all have a responsibility to each other to help prevent the spread. We have to take measures , however, to stop a lot of the panic surrounding the topic.
herthabsc.de: The sporting world, and especially the football world has been massively affected with Italy in lockdown now, and all Spanish games being postponed until the international break, even Germany has taken action by announcing games will be played without fans, including yours against Hoffenheim on Saturday. How do you prepare for something like that?
Stark: We have to just focus on our jobs, which we have to continue to do to the best of our abilities. With or without the fans, we want to go out and get three points every time. As a footballer you never want to play in a ‘Ghost Game’. Fans and atmosphere are part of football. But we have to just deal with the situation because health is the most important thing. If we want to beat Coronavirus, it’s just something we have to do. There are too many people coming into the stadium who are either already affected or could be affected themselves.
herthabsc.de: As you’ve already said, whenever you go out and play it’s about getting those important points to stay up. Despite plenty of draws in recent years, your last win in Sinsheim came six and a half years ago. What makes you confident that you can break this trend?
Stark: I don’t really pay attention to things like that. It’s a cliché but the next game is the only thing that matters. Once the whistle goes, what has happened before doesn’t matter. Our goal has to be to start games better than we have done recently. We can’t concede straight away again. We have to be more confident going forward, and take more risks. It’s important to have balance. Then we’ll have a good chance of getting a result.
herthabsc.de: After last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Bremen, you explicitly stated how much is frustrates you to have an early deficit and to have to come from behind, like you did against both Werder and Düsseldorf. Why haven’t you been able to control these ups and downs better?
Stark: That’s always difficult to say. We train, we go into games well prepared and focused; there isn’t much more we can do. Perhaps we just have to put in that extra percent. Even if we start badly, we can’t let our heads drop. Football is largely a mental thing and that can sometimes be the most difficult thing. If it was just purely a physical thing, it would be a lot easier.
herthabsc.de: Nevertheless, the fans have kept up their support over the past few games and you spent a long time talking with the fans after the game. Can you tell us what you spoke about?
Stark: Of course it was about the early goals we conceded, which made life a lot more difficult for us. We’re all in the same boat and we were all frustrated about it. The fans also made it clear how important the upcoming derby is. Of course we have the game in the back of our minds, but first of all we need to focus on Hoffenheim. Then the derby comes after that.
herthabsc.de: Let’s have another look at your individual statistics. Other than your current team, TSG Hoffenheim are one of only two Bundesliga clubs that you have failed to pick up three points against. The other one comes from Köpenick.
Stark: Look above (laughs). I don’t pay too much attention to these types of statistics because this year is only the first time that the derby has ever taken place in the Bundesliga before. But of course, when I hear that I’m desperate to change it!