Jean-Paul Boëtius is well known for his smile and joyful character, but our midfielder suffered a shock at the end of September when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, just a few weeks after Hertha teammate Marco Richter. However, the 28-year-old approached the challenge full of optimism. “I received a lot of messages and loads of support from the club – that was a real help and helped me stay calm throughout,” said Djanga, who recently returned to action. As well as a look back over the past few weeks, our number 10 also speaks to herthabsc.de about the upcoming game against FC Bayern Munich (05/11/22, 15:30 CET). “If we can bring our fighting spirit onto the pitch as a team, we’re hard for any team to beat,” said Boëtius, who discussed his recovery, emotions and excitement ahead of the game against Bayern in his first interview since his diagnosis.
herthabsc.com: Djanga, you’ve got a few emotional weeks behind you. Tell us how it all was. What thoughts went through your mind?
Boëtius: After feeling that something might have been cancer-related, I spoke to our doctors and Marco Richter straight away. Luckily I didn’t have any pain; I just noticed something. I wasn’t shocked when I heard the diagnosis, just a little cautious. Marco told me how it all went for him and that gave me some determination. When you hear the word cancer, everyone thinks that you’re seriously ill and are likely going to die. I received a lot of messages and loads of support from the club – that was a real help. Sébastien Haller also messaged me – I got messages from all over and they all made me happy. That helped me stay calm throughout. Two weeks after the operation I started training again.
When I stood in front of the Ostkurve at the end of the game, I could see people’s eyes radiating – it was a huge boost for me.[<]
herthabsc.com: You spoke to Marco. How important a role did he play throughout it all?
Boëtius: I wasn’t there when the head coach told the team about my diagnosis, but I heard that it hit everyone very hard. Marco messaged me and told me that he loved me. Marco is a great guy, he’s my boy. We always laugh about things together and even throughout the illness we were still laughing. That was a big help when dealing with the diagnosis. It helped both of us overcome the step relatively quickly and look ahead to the future.
herthabsc.com: We’re all pleased that it passed quickly. You ‘only’ missed three Bundesliga games. Honestly, did you think that was possible?
Boëtius: Luckily the cancer had not spread so we knew from the start that the recovery process was ‘just’ about healing from the operation. That usually takes around two weeks. During that time, I rested a lot and the most I did was go for a walk. After that I could get going again.
herthabsc.com: Your comeback couldn’t have been written any better. You came off the bench in front of your own fans during the home win against Schalke. That must have been a great feeling…
Boëtius: I’m really grateful for that moment. I can’t really put it into words. When I stood in front of the Ostkurve at the end of the game, I could see people’s eyes radiating – it was a huge boost for me. Normally I’m not the kind of person who demands a lot of help and support from others, but the support from all the fans means everything to me.
If we can bring our fighting spirit onto the pitch as a team, we’re hard for any team to beat.[<]
herthabsc.com: FC Bayern will visit the Olympiastadion on Saturday (05/11/22, 15:30 CET). Despite having played 130 games in the Bundesliga, is this fixture still special for you?
Boëtius: Bayern are a really strong side – they’ve shown that recently by winning all six of their Champions League group stage games. It will be a great game because we can go up against some of the best players in the world; there’s no greater feeling for a footballer. Hopefully we can keep the points here in Berlin with our fans behind us.
herthabsc.com: During your time with former club Mainz, you won your previous two home games against Bayern and you’ve scored two goals in eight games against the German champions. What gives you confidence to be able to take something from the game on Saturday?
Boëtius: Unfortunately I’ve lost more than I’ve won in those eight games (laughs) but we don’t have to carry on like that. I really enjoy playing against Bayern. We’re the underdogs so we can play without any pressure and want to show everyone the opposite. With all respect to Bayern and the quality of their players, they’re just humans at the end of the day. If we can bring our fighting spirit onto the pitch as a team, we’re hard for any team to beat. This is the exact belief that we need as we go into the game and give it our all.
herthabsc.com: It’s safe to say that you will be backed by the fans as the Olympiastadion is sold out for the first time this season. Does that provide some additional motivation?
Boëtius: Generally our approach won’t change if there were 25,000 more fans there, but the atmosphere in a sold-out stadium is always special, particularly when it’s the first time of the season. We’re looking forward to it.