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Interview: Hojbjerg

‘I wanted to prove I was worth my place’

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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has generally come up against lesser known teams this term, the likes of Memmingen, Buchbach and Rosenheim in the Bavarian regional league. However, the 18-year-old took to a much bigger stage in the climax to the campaign when Pep Guardiola handed him a start in the DFB Cup final against Borussia Dortmund – watched by a crowd in excess of 76,000 at Berlin Olympiastadion.

“The whole team is proud of him. Huge credit to him for appearing in a massive final at the age of 18,” commented Arjen Robben. The young Dane looked assured and comfortable from the off and excelled up until he was substituted in the 102nd minute. It was Hojbjerg’s 11th appearance for the senior team and his third start of term, to go with 14 outings for the fourth-division reserves.

The 18-year-old, who received a maiden call-up to the Denmark national team a few days ago, spoke to about the final and an emotional few weeks both professionally and personally.

Interview: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg Pierre, what was it like appearing in the cup final as an 18-year-old and then laying hands on the trophy at the end?
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: To put it simply – it was just wonderful! I’ve been through some emotional and hard days recently, but this is the reward. That goes not just for me but also for the team and the coaching staff.

When did you find out you were playing?
On the evening before the match when it became clear David [Alaba] wouldn’t be fit.

What advice did Pep Guardiola give you before kick-off?

He told me just to play my football and that the whole team was right behind me. And I felt their support out on the pitch. I have so much to thank the team for. I’d never have managed it on my own.

How nervous were you before the match?

I was certainly a little bit tense, but I wasn’t nervous. I was looking forward to it and I wanted to prove I was worth my place.

Playing out on the right isn’t your normal position.

Yes sure, but if you’re mentally prepared and focused, you can play anywhere.

This evening in Berlin and the call-up for Denmark – it’s all going like a dream for you professionally. Has that helped, given that your father passed away just a few weeks ago?

I felt very emotional out there on the field after the match. It was a moment where I felt freed up and relieved.

You had two very special fans in the stands.

Yes, my mother and sister were there. I love my family. It’s great to have that supportive environment, especially when things aren’t going according to plan.

Do your family help you keep your feet on the ground?

They don’t have to. I’m a very down-to-earth personality by nature. I’m very well aware you can win the World Cup today and lose it all tomorrow. I’m thrilled I got to play today – but what matters is that we won as a team. We showed tremendous team spirit again today.

What are your targets for the new season?

I’m not there yet mentally. We’re at the cup winners’ party for now, then I have two international friendlies – and then I’m going to lie on the beach.