As Hertha boss, Fredi Bobic accepted what was probably the most difficult challenge of his career. After the almost relegation last season, things are going modestly in Berlin at the start of the new season – Cup failure in Braunschweig, plus the derby bankruptcy against Union on the first day of the game.
In an interview with SPOX and GOAL, Bobic explains why the situation at Hertha has nevertheless improved and why the path they have chosen will not be abandoned even if there are further defeats.
The 50-year-old also talks about his great NFL passion, remembers his first trainee salary and reveals what Hertha can learn from his favorite club, the San Francisco 49ers.
Mr. Bobic, the Bundesliga season has started again, but the start of the NFL season is finally getting closer again. Sundays finally have a purpose again, don’t they?
Fredi Bobic: (laughs) That’s right. I’ve already looked, we don’t play with Hertha on Sundays on the first two NFL game days, that’s good. During my time in Frankfurt we had a lot of games on Sundays because of our Europa League appearances, so I always hoped that we would have the 3:30 p.m. game and not later. If I did, I obviously missed the first two hours of the Red Zone. But fortunately the Red Zone goes on into the night and my 49ers always play late anyway. Although I have to admit that sometimes I can’t make the Night Games, it’s tough. But then I can at least look at the highlights in peace the next day.
You’ve been with the NFL for over 30 years now. How did it all start?
Bobic:Tele5 was one of the most important channels on my remote control back then. They broadcast two things that spilled over to Germany from America – wrestling and American football. I also got into wrestling for two years, but at some point it just became too much of a show for me.
I recently watched SummerSlam 1994 again.
Bobic: It grabbed me for a while, but my love for American football was much greater and has remained to this day. At first I had little idea of the rules and had to read up. It wasn’t that easy, but fortunately there were already magazines about American football that you could get hold of. Magazines, that’s the thing with paper, for the younger ones at this point. (laughs) Not every kiosk had it on offer, but if you looked in the back corner at the train station, you could discover a few treasures. But they also cost a few marks more back then.
Of course, your love for the 49ers was obvious, that was the heyday of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Co. – what do you remember spontaneously?
Bobic: The first Super Bowl I saw was 1989. 49ers vs. Bengals. I could tell you almost every move to this day. How Montana throws the pass at Taylor for a 20:16 victory shortly before the end. That was it for me. Joe Montana is the reason I adore this sport so much.
What happened next?
Bobic: I got one from my first trainee salary premiereBought a decoder. That was a big investment. I was at the very beginning of my career and played for Ditzingen in the Oberliga. premiere (Predecessor of sky, note d. Red.) didn’t even have football back then, it came later. But I put the key, who still remembers, into the decoder and watched NFL in my booth – up and down. With the legendary Günther Zapf as commentator. When I was cleaning out a bit at home during the Corona period, this contract of all things fell into my hands again. Really funny. An unforgettable time for me.
Bobic: “It was freezing cold and I almost froze to death”
Can you summarize what fascinated you so much?
Bobic: I had a connection to US sports very early on because I grew up in Bad Cannstatt, a district of Stuttgart, not far from the American military base. We used to walk past that as kids and pick out what kind of sports the Americans do. At some point we started to emulate them and played baseball, for example. But with tennis balls because the real balls were too expensive. In this respect, I had a general connection to US sports. But with football it was above all the tactical aspect that fascinated me so much. When you see the game for the first time, you only see buffaloes running wildly at each other and throwing some weird egg around. But the more you engage with the game, the more fascinating it becomes. Just understanding how damn hard it is to get those ten yards for a new first down is so exciting. And then a lot changed for me when I saw a game live for the first time.
What was your first game there?
Bobic: That was in the mid ’90s, Jets vs. Patriots at old MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. In the winter. It was freezing cold and I almost froze to death. But above all it was an amazing experience to see the speed and the whole game with my own eyes. Over time you dig deeper and deeper into the matter, all the moves become second nature. Until that point, as any NFL fan probably knows, when you think you’re the better offensive coordinator and start calling plays. But the craziest experience was something else.
Bobic: Funnily enough, a lot was similar to my first game. It was Jets vs. Patriots again. It was winter again, Boxing Day, and it was freezing cold again. And of course the Jets lost again, just like they almost always lose. (laughs) But the cool thing was that the Patriots had a new young quarterback on the field named Tom Brady. The game was great too, but the real problem was the cold. I was at the game with a buddy and we both had our daughters with us. Unfortunately, at some point in the third quarter we had to call it quits, otherwise our girls would have froze to death. They just jittered, that was borderline. So we’re out of the stadium… find a cab in front of the stadium in New Jersey, that was an adventure too. The end of the story was that we watched the rest of the game at the hotel. But for me that’s part of the fascination that the NFL actually plays in any weather, no matter how disgusting it may be. It used to be the same in football.