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19th birthday

Hojbjerg: I won’t let Pep down

No-one will ever forget how 18-year-old Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg stepped up to the big occasion in the 2013/14 DFB Cup final with a nerveless display to help Bayern seal the domestic double. Along with his debut for the senior Denmark national team, the night in Berlin last May was a career highlight for Pierre, who celebrates his 19th birthday in the USA on Tuesday. However, a remarkable year for the youngster also was not without tragedy, because Hojbjerg’s father died of cancer in April. In a birthday interview with the midfield talent explained how he coped: “I can now say the experience has made me stronger.” The likeable youngster is ready to take the next step at club level. Pierre, many happy returns of the day! You’re deep into pre-season training, but will there still be some kind of celebration?

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
: Maybe we’ll raise a glass – of water (laughs). Even without a party it's still an amazing day for me. I'm on the road as a Bayern player on my birthday. It's a dream come true!

You've had an eventful year. You collected a championship winner's medal, and then you started the cup final in Berlin...
Yes, I'll never forget it. A massive game on an incredible stage. I had a bit of luck and the opportunity opened up for me, and I reckon I did pretty well.

Overall, are you satisfied with how your game is developing?

I've taken a very big step. I was still a youth player a year ago, but now I feel part of the first team. Whenever Pep hands me a chance, I won't let him down. I'm looking forward to gaining match practice.

You lost your father a few months ago. How did you cope, and how you feeling now?
It was the worst time of my life and it’ll always be a bad memory. But I can now say the experience has made me stronger. My dad is a huge motivating factor for me because he's in my heart every day. I'd like to thank everyone who helped me, with special thanks to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge...


At the time he called me into his office and explained how there are always crises in your life. You either let it get you down, or you emerge stronger for it. I drew strength from that, and I saw light at the end of the tunnel.

Who are you closest to in the dressing room?

Franck Ribéry talks to me a lot, and so does Holger Badstuber. I'm so impressed by him, the way he's battled back from injury. We seem to have struck up a specially close relationship, probably because he's been through  dark times as well.

You’re very powerfully built for a 19-year-old. Were you born that way, or do you train specially?
I'd be lying if I said I don't work on it (laughs). It's a bit of both. My brother is very robust and my dad was a machine. Obviously I also take great care to eat the right things and live the life of an elite athlete. It's the only way I'll have a chance of making the breakthrough with Bayern.

We're coming to the end of the USA tour. Are you enjoying it?
I certainly am, it's my first time in the States. New York was really special. The boat trip with the Manhattan skyline in the background was seriously impressive. But it was very emotional too, because I'd never really thought about the fact the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood there.

Have you had a problem adapting to the new time zone? We're now nine hours behind Europe here in Portland.
I'm sleeping very well now because I'm so tired after training. The practice ground, hotel and food are all fantastic. We really can't complain. A club like FC Bayern has to go on tour in the summer and the fans needn't worry because we'll cope. Real Madrid do it, Barcelona, Manchester United. It’s normal.

The World Cup winners are joining you tomorrow, but what do you think the rest of the squad has achieved so far?

We're already in good form. We have some work to do tactically but we're making progress. The team spirit is amazing, there's so much mutual respect. I have a very good feeling.

Are you looking forward to the MLS All-Star game?
I think it'll be cool. The Americans really know how to put these things on, so I guess it'll be massive.