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Out of the starting blocks

Jessic Ngankam runs hard in the Florida evening sun.

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Dodi Lukébakio is in space on the right wing. He looks up and spots Jessic Ngankam in the centre. The striker is round the back of the defence, meets his teammate’s cross at the far post and forces the ball over the line. He gives a quick thumbs up to Dodi for the cross, gets back to the half-way line and carries on. This is just one of the moments from our Florida training camp so far, which underlines the fact that our number 24 wants to show himself off in America and not waste any time. “The training sessions are all very intense – we’re honing our game so that we can improve for the rest of the season. We want nothing but points when we get back! That’s where I want to do my bit,” said the 22-year-old as he spoke to herthabsc.com about the first set of training sessions in Bradenton, where the whole team “are coming across as dangerous and fighting for every ball.”

Finally pain-free

Berlin-born Ngankam’s full participation in the USA training camp is largely down to the fact that he is finally pain-free, after a long struggle. “It’s been a long time since I was pain-free, I think 2020/21. Since then, I’ve been fighting injuries again and again,” Jessic mentioned, looking back on the list of issues he has had to overcome: “It all started when I tore my ACL, and then the little aches and pains came, whether they were in my back, knee or even the thigh – I never really got out of that hole”. At long last, the attacker has finally done away with all those issues. “I’m just delighted that I don’t feel anything anymore – apart from the muscle aches!” he joked.

The academy graduate has been spreading his positive outlook all across the camp in the US, both on and off the field. One might see him chatting with Marc Kempf, or having a laugh with Marco Richter – since his loan to Greuther Fürth last season, Ngankam is fully integrated once again. “I was at Hertha a lot last season because of my injuries, so I watched a lot of the first team and U23 games live. I was travelling back and forth a lot, so I was able to keep in pretty good contact with the guys,” explained the striker. Between training sessions and meals, Ngankam is often hanging out with Kempf, Richter, Suat Serdar or Márton Dárdai. “There’s a good mood in camp and we get on well,” the Berlin boy commented on the team spirit.

Changing habits

Despite all his setbacks, Ngankam, part of the Hertha team which won the German youth championship in 2019, has found his way back into the setup – thanks in no small part to personal changes. “I’ve learned a lot over the past two years and have taken many things on board. I’m behaving more professionally, eating more healthily and I now know what things do my body good. Living alone in Fürth also helped me a lot – I matured and learned to be a man,” the attacker said, adding: “I’m avoiding meat and milk, and placing a lot more value on regeneration.”

Sunshine and smiles: Jessic Ngankam is enjoying Hertha’s camp at the IMG Academy.

Jessic Ngankam smiles for the camera, outside the IMG Academy in Florida.

All of these measures mean that the Herthaner, who is yet to make a Bundesliga appearance for his hometown club this season, is generally very positive. “I’m doing well and I’m fit! Even if I’ve played a couple of Bundesliga games in the past, it feels as though I’ve spent the whole time in the starting blocks and haven’t been able to sprint forward – I’ll be changing that now. I’m motivated and really hyped to finally get started,” underlined the Germany youth international. If Jessic Ngankam is able to turn these words into deeds, then the attacker will almost certainly be sneaking behind defences to score, not just in training, but in competitive Bundesliga action.

Out of the starting blocks

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