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Ottmar Hitzfeld:

'It'll be very moving for me personally'

Ottmar Hitzfeld's record of 25 trophies in 25 years as a club coach, including 14 in seven and a half years at Bayern, speaks for itself. The 59-year-old takes charge of a Munich side in a competitive fixture for the last time on Saturday when the champions entertain Hertha BSC Berlin. The General is quitting club football at the end of the season to take the Switzerland national helm.

Before bowing out, Hitzfeld sat down with groups of reporters to reflect on the past, present and future. Naturally, was there.

Ottmar Hitzfeld talks to reporters:

Question: Ottmar Hitzfeld, do you have any idea how often you've spoken to the press in your time at Bayern?
Hitzfeld: "That's all part of life here. I've always enjoyed it, and it's been interesting as a way of assessing my own work. Talking to the press isn't just an obligation, it's helpful for a coach."

Question: You've seen it all as a coach, but what's the most memorable experience of all?
Hitzfeld: "It has to be Patrik Andersson's shot to make it 1-1 in Hamburg (The stoppage-time goal which won Bayern the 2001 Bundesliga title on the last day of the season). There was so much at stake, because the Champions League Final was just four days later. If we'd thrown away the championship, the Champions League would have been very doubtful. That shot was such a morale-booster, and gave us so much impetus. It gave us the strength to win the penalty shoot-out against Valencia. It was amazing, unbelievable, there was a higher power at work. It was a historic moment."

Question: What was the riskiest decision you've ever taken as a coach?
Hitzfeld: "It was back in 1983 in my first job as coach of Sportclub Zug in the Swiss second division. It was the most pressure and fear I've ever had, because as a new boss you just don't want to be fired, and it was the biggest challenge, because the club President was a loose cannon. I was permanently on my guard, he came for me physically in the dressing room once, he raged and moaned. Criticism from Franz Beckenbauer was a stroll in the park by comparison. The president in Zug had plenty of money too. I wanted five new players but he went out and bought ten, three or four of them on the last day. We were aiming for promotion in two or three years, but the way it worked out, he was demanding immediate promotion with only three games played. We were eighth or ninth in March and basically out of the running, so he threw in the towel and quit. We then won ten of our last twelve matches, finished top and went up."

Question: Have you had any time to reflect over the last few weeks?
Hitzfeld: "I tend to live in the present and look to the future. That's my philosophy, and that's how you have to think as a coach. In this job, you get used to not dwelling on the past. I live for the moment. If a game from the past comes on the TV, I'll watch but it makes no impression on me. A coach always has to deliver. You come back from your holidays, and the past is already forgotten. You win the league, you have the summer off, and then you're asked all the same old questions."

Question: When you first left Bayern in 2004, you declined the job of Germany coach, but now you're taking over the Swiss national team. What's the attraction?
Hitzfeld: "I'd love to have done it in 2004, but the timing was wrong. I lost a couple of nights' sleep over it, but I was burnt out and urgently needed a break. It was one of the best decisions in ever made, otherwise I'd certainly have ruined my health. The timing was right this time, and also it's close to my heart. I've always had an intimate relationship with Switzerland. I worked there for 17 years, and I have a lot to thank them for. And I have the strength for it, because it's 15 games a season rather than 60."

Question: But there'll still be a lot of pressure…
Hitzfeld: "The target is qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Switzerland can't take that for granted, but expectations are huge there and it'll be hard to match them. There's a risk involved, but I've never shied away from risky decisions, and I've often been proved right. I hope I'm right again this time."

Question: Would the 2010 World Cup be the right time to retire?
Hitzfeld: "When Otto Rehhagel was 40 or 45, he said he'd retire at 55, so I'm wary of predicting what might happen in two or three years' time. When I left Bayern in 2004, I never imagined I'd coach again. But lo and behold, I returned. Uli Hoeneß rang, and within a second, I'd said yes. But it was a fantastic decision, because I've not felt the same pressure, I've found the strength, and I've enjoyed the work in a way I wasn't doing any longer in 2004."

Question: When did you notice your strength was slipping?
Hitzfeld: "I've been short of strength since 2001, when I first wanted to step down. I offered my resignation to Uli Hoeneß when we flew to New York after winning the Champions League. I was pretty drained back then, but I carried on for another three years. It was a mistake, but I think you need a few negative experiences in life, it makes you smarter later on. I announced I was moving on last December, because I still had the strength to say no. Once you're back in the trench of the daily routine, the strength might have dissipated. But it was a victory for good sense."

Question: You've said you never think long-term about the future, so might you return to the Bundesliga one day?
Hitzfeld: "Not if it's humanly possible. My intention is never to coach in the Bundesliga again, but I'm not making any promises. I hope I won't be as perverse as to make another comeback."

Question: You first farewell in 2004 was a very emotional afternoon, and you shed a few tears. Will it happen again on Saturday?
Hitzfeld: "You can't tell with me, although it'll certainly be a struggle to hold back the tears. I'm just looking forward to a festival of football. I hope we put on another good show for the 69,000 at the stadium and win the match. The stadium, the Marienplatz and a last victory banquet with Bayern - it'll all be very moving for me personally."

Question: What will you miss about the daily business of coaching?
Hitzfeld: "I've not thought about it at all. After all, I'll still be a coach. I consciously chose not to remain at Bayern so I'd have fewer games per season. I have an exciting new challenge, and I'll continue to be involved with young players. It helps you stay a little younger too. With hindsight, leaving Bayern is the right decision. Every extra year increases the risk of being fired, and it's hard to put things right after that. There can hardly be a better farewell than winning three out of four trophies, you can't plan for that. I'm sleeping very soundly at the moment."

Question: You've also said you expect your quality of life to improve. What does that mean to you?
Hitzfeld: "Quality of life to me means not having the stress of 60 Bundesliga fixtures. We had two days off over Whitsun for the first time in ages, but otherwise I've not had a day off since January. I'll have a lot more flexibility in the future, and I'll be the one deciding how to use my time."