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Interview

Neureuther: You need a Campus these days

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Felix Neureuther won 13 World Cup races during his career, making him the most successful German alpine ski racer of all time. At the start of July, the 35-year-old visited the FC Bayern Campus to give the record champions’ youth players an insight into his career. In an interview with fcbayern.com, the Munich native spoke about what he wanted to give the youngsters, his own youth as a competitive sportsman and his relationship with FC Bayern.

The interview with Felix Neureuther:

While you retired from sport in March, the boys at the Campus have their entire careers ahead of them. What did you want to impart on them during your visit?
Felix Neureuther:
“Just experience. Especially with the lads here at the Campus, football is at the centre of everything. As a sportsman, it was always good for me to talk to athletes from different sports and discuss our experiences. How they deal with injuries, how they train or how it feels to race down a slope in front of 50,000 people. I don’t have 90 minutes where I have to perform, just the one minute. I can’t allow myself any mistakes. These boys can afford to make mistakes. I think discussing such experiences is something good, especially for young people. That’s why I was so excited when FC Bayern rang and asked if I was available for a lecture. It’s a pleasure to do something like that, especially when it’s with youngsters.”

Is being a competitive sportsman the same across the board, or is there a difference, for example, when you’re battling against the clock or battling for an entire team?
Neureuther:
“It is different. As an individual sportsman you really are accountable for yourself, but when you’re in a team sport then there are other factors involved. All in all though, the values are the same, namely how you manage to make it to the top. Talent is very important on the one hand, but on the other there’s absolute desire and hard work. There are a lot of parallels, especially the tricks you need on days where things aren’t going so well or you’re struggling to get up and go to training.”

How was your youth as a competitive sportsman? Was it hard missing out on certain things?
Neureuther:
“Of course it was tough but it was also a different time. Things have changed a lot and are a lot more professional than 20 years ago. Nowadays, at the age of 13 or 14, the course of your future career is already being plotted via your training management. There’s less time for other things because back then you could still get up to mischief (laughs). You can’t really do that now. I was lucky to have a childhood and adolescence. It isn’t so easy today, also because of social media and the influence that comes with it. But as I got older it was also tougher for me to keep up with the younger ones because they arrive at the top level so well-trained.”

You grew up in a sporting family. Do you think somewhere like the Campus can provide similar conditions?
Neureuther:
“When I was 14 or 15 I asked myself whether I should move away to attend a sports college. I didn’t go because I didn’t want to be apart from my family so early and I was easily able to combine skiing with school back home in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Not a lot of people could do that. It’s why you can’t make it these days without facilities like the FC Bayern Campus. Especially when you look at how other clubs are setting up their academies – it’s amazing. You can’t compare it with when I was young.”

Bastian Schweinsteiger is a good friend of yours who made it into the Bayern first team. How closely did you follow his career?
Neureuther:
“Very closely. We’ve known each other since we were seven and have been through a lot together. Basti decided at 13 that he was going to FC Bayern, I decided to be a skier. He then went to the youth academy at Säbener Straße and we lost touch a bit because there were no mobile phones back then. Five years later when he was in the first team and I was already in World Cup events, a newspaper found out we knew each other from years before. We met up again and have been close ever since. We even had mobiles by then (laughs)!“

Did you ever flirt with a career as a footballer?
Neureuther:
“I showed a bit of talent as a footballer but was always better at skiing. It was clear from an early age which way things were going. Football has always been a passion of mine and still is. I really enjoyed playing team sports. The thought of winning and losing as a team really captivated me. I played quite a while at U19 level even though I was already competing in the World Cup but eventually the time came where I had to say, ‘Come on lad, be smart. Anything can happen on a football pitch. Concentrate on what makes the most sense’ (laughs).”

You’re known to be a big Bayern fan. How did that come about?
Neureuther:
“My father is also a Bayern fan, so I didn’t really have any other choice. He used to take me to the Olympiastadion when I was four or five.”

Which Bayern games do you remember most?
Neureuther:
“The Champions League final against Manchester United was crazy. I was at the Finale dahoam [against Chelsea in 2012] when Basti hit the outside of the post. I’ll never forget that. The year after I was at the final against Borussia Dortmund in London where Bayern won it. When you think of how long Basti was distraught after the Finale dahoam and then finally got to lift the trophy, that was a great experience. I still get tingles thinking about it.”

What does a normal Bundesliga Saturday look like in the Neureuther household?
Neureuther:
“If I was due to race the next day then I‘d watch the match on my laptop as I was preparing on the exercise bike. I prefer to watch it at home with the boys in the TV room, and if time allows of course in person at the stadium.”

As a (former) competitive sportsman, do you watch Bayern games from a different perspective than a normal fan?
Neureuther:
“First and foremost, I am a fan. There are 80 million people who think they could be Germany coach  - including me (laughs), but I’ve also watched games with Basti. The way he understands the game is far beyond any of us. That’s also normal, because as a competitive sportsperson you can see whether a player is fit. You’ve got an eye for it, but in terms of technique and tactics you’re a long way off.”

It looked for long periods last season like we wouldn’t win a title, but in the end we got two. Does a tight finish mean greater joy for supporters?
Neureuther:
“Of course, because it gets more emotional. A suspense arc gives you what sport needs: emotion. The more emotional it is, the better it is. That was the case in 2001 when Patrik Andersson scored in injury time at Hamburg. Those are the greatest moments you strive for because then you’re gripped by it. Of course there was some boredom in recent years, which is what made the battle with Borussia Dortmund last season so good. But at the end of the day we had the quality and supremacy to land a telling blow, and Bayern saw it through comfortably.”

What are you expecting from Bayern next season?
Neureuther:
“It’ll be exciting. There have been some interesting moves in the transfer market, for example Mats Hummels going back to Borussia Dortmund. I can't wait to see what'll happen at Bayern too. But at the end of the day, the others can buy whoever they like. The quality in the Bayern squad is always higher and that’s why they’ll be champions again next season.”

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