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“The coach exemplifies feeding off emotion!”

Marc Kempf on the ball during the game against Millonarios FC.
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Alongside the perfect conditions on the Golf Coast, there are further positives of a training camp in Florida – especially for those interested in sports. The time differences means that it is very easy to watch live sports in the evening once the hard work is done, with NFL and NBA game as well as College sports almost around the clock. Marc Kempf belongs among the Hertha players that keep an eye on ice hockey and with it the NHL. I like the dynamism, the coordination – but also the toughness,” said the central defender, who seemed to be enjoying himself during the trip to see the Tampa Bay Lightning. Our number 20 spoke in an interview with herthabsc.com about Bundesliga statistics, lessons from the last few months and the work done during Hertha’s training camp in America.

herthabsc.com: Kempfi, where does your passion for ice hockey come from? Does it perhaps come from the fact that as a centre-back your way of playing involves a certain toughness?
Kempf: I grew up with ice hockey. As a kid, I regularly went with my family and friends to EC Bad Nauheim games, who are currently in DEL 2. Also, my older brother plays ice hockey and skate hockey. So, the trip to the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL game was really cool. In Germany, I try to follow the games and results as often as possible. I like the dynamism, the coordination – but also the toughness. It is a sport that overall I really enjoy.

Marc Kempf sitting by the pool.

herthabsc.com: Probably less fun, but really important nonetheless, is the work on endurance and fitness. The training camp in Bradenton is now almost at an end. How is the team looking ahead of the first competitive game against VfL Bochum (21.01.23, 15:30 CET)?
Kempf: We’ve pushed on here in the best conditions and worked hard – there has been a good atmosphere, but also the necessary seriousness. Even if the break was slightly longer this time, we still have the necessary fitness levels. Henrik Kuchno gave us a special plan over the festive period to make sure of that (grins). You feel that we back at it!

herthabsc.com: What lessons have you taken from the friendlies and daily training sessions?
Kempf: In the first part of the season, we built patterns of play and took in ideas from the coaching team. So, we were in the position now to implement things more directly. We went even deeper into the details of things – always with the aim to improving even further. Having so much time together also helps with this. The first three friendlies were a good way to get back in a playing rhythm. Against Millonarios, we played too loosely in parts of the first half and gave the ball away too much. After the break we showed that we don’t give up and have the ability to come from behind. After 90 minutes, we had every opportunity to win the game.

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In the first part of the season, we built patterns of play and took in ideas from the coaching team. So, we were in the position now to implement things more directly. We went even deeper into the details of things – always with the aim to improving even further.

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Marc Kempf

herthabsc.com: Sandro Schwarz worked with you on a number of key themes: Clear build-up play, playing from deep and with tempo, as well as defending crosses and set pieces. How do you rate your progress?
Kempf: That’s right. In the first week, we worked a lot on our attacking processes. In the league, we have to create more chances – and be clinical with these. In the first part of the season, there were tight games where we had to score more often if we wanted to win. But it is also important that the defence doesn’t suffer because of our attacking play. We have to keep our principles when going towards our own goal, the balance has to work.

herthabsc.com: So score more goals up front, stay compact at the back. After all, only six Bundesliga teams have a better record and have conceded fewer than 22 goals. Especially in comparison to last season, you are far more secure at the back. What are the reasons behind that?
Kempf: The coach has managed to make everyone feel responsible for the defence – and conversely, of course, for our attack. Our first focus is on being fundamentally stable, then we look beyond that. The coach exemplifies feeding off emotion and embodies that desire to throw yourself into every challenge. This is how he has lit a flame in us. As a team, we want to continue defending with bite until the end of the season. If we succeed in doing that, then we will pick up points more often and will not be forced to score three or four goals per match, even if we would take that (grins).

herthabsc.com: You have been a Hertha player for almost a year now. After some initial difficulties, you are currently in the top 10 in the league for challenges won and also have the highest number in our team. How do you personally look back on the last few months?
Kempf: The start was not easy, in fact, it was probably the hardest 6 months of my career so far. The change to Berlin as well as moving my family from Stuttgart – first into a hotel and then into a temporary flat, before finally moving into our new house. All in all, they were challenging months. Of course, every defender is happy with strong statistics, but what is the point in winning nine out of ten challenges if the one that I lose results in a goal, and we end up losing? I’m happy with my current form, but at the end of the day it is nothing more than a nice side note. 

herthabsc.com: You have started 15 out of a possible 15 league games and missed only 55 minutes in total. How much does that confidence from the head coach help you?  
Kempf: When I was a young player, that stuff was a little bit more important to me. But, of course, in those stages when things aren’t going well, it is all the more important that a coach builds you up. I have a good relationship with Sandro Schwarz. I don’t require a conversation or a confirmation about things every day. I know that he trusts me as long as I’m putting in the performances and showing the correct willingness to play.

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I’m really looking forward to the Bundesliga restart and I want to win games! Personally, I don’t just want to maintain the level from the first half of the season, but to raise my game further and take on even more responsibility.

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Marc Kempf

herthabsc.com: You’re also one of the pillars of the team because of the almost 150 league games under your belt. How do you try and lead the team and to help your teammates?
Kempf: As a centre-back, I have a central position, so leadership is sort of already in the job description (smiles). To begin with that was more difficult for me because I wasn’t even satisfied with my own performances. It is always difficult to tell others to do something when your own performances aren’t up to scratch. Taking the lead is usually easier when you’re playing well yourself. In the meantime, I have got a certain experience and a certain age – there are fewer and fewer players who are older than I am now. That makes it all the more important to take the young players by the hand and to support them, also with instructions and good communication on the pitch. That is how we want to squeeze out a few extra percent from the players in order to have a good second half to the season. 

herthabsc.com: What goals have you set for yourself personally, but also for the team?
Kempf: You have seen this season that we are on the right track, even though not everything is working at 100% yet. The coach has ignited a spirit of optimism, things are moving forward again. I’m really looking forward to the Bundesliga restart and I want to win games! Personally, I don’t just want to maintain the level from the first half of the season, but to raise my game further and take on even more responsibility. I can improve my passing and my aim is to win more challenges. It would also be great to score my first goal for Hertha; it’s about time. As a team, we can only have one ambition: We want to collect more points than before in order to reach safe waters as quickly as possible.

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