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“Of Course Football and Fear Don’t go Together”


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Eisern Magazine – How would you describe your childhood in Horsens?

Frederik Rönnow – A very happy one. At the age of five or six I started playing football, but also basketball, tennis and handball, and all with great with great enthusiasm. The only thing my parents told me was that I had to get through school and learn an instrument. Which is no coincidence because my father is very musical and plays several instruments. I decided on the piano after trying the saxophone.

E.M. – That sounds like a family that was generally more interested in art and culture than football.

F.R. – Yes, that’s true. My family is not a football family. And I was perhaps actually something like the black sheep, if you like (laughs). But at the end of the day, my two sisters and I always had the freedom to do what we enjoyed.

E.M. – Is there a head coach who has had a particular influence on you? Perhaps Alexander Zorniger, under whom you were the regular goalkeeper at Brøndby? Or Urs Fischer?

F.R. – There is no such thing. But you also have to say, if you’ve never been a goalkeeper, then you don’t know what it’s like, you don’t necessarily have an understanding of goalkeeping. And in that respect, a lot has a lot has changed in recent years.

E.M. – To what extent?

F.R. – Just one example. The new law that a pass may be made to your own player in the penalty box from a goal kick means the goalkeeper is suddenly involved in a short passing game. That’s a pressure situation that you have to adjust to. I’ve always been good at keeping the ball, but I never used to train my left foot or my first touch. In the meantime, now 40, maybe even 50 percent of my training consists of ball work with both feet.

E.M. – To counteract the fear of the next back pass?

F.R. – Football and fear don’t go well together. I can only say for myself, but I’m never afraid on the pitch. That has a lot to do with your mindset. You can approach things defensively or offensively, and I used to be too defensive in that respect. Now I say to myself, okay, maybe you’re making a mistake, but if you help your team in 19 out of 20 situations, it’s good for everyone and you end up having a good game.

E.M. – That sounds like a lot of self-confidence in the in the truest sense of the word. How was your self-confidence during your time at Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke 04?

F.R. – Whe I first came to Germany it was very difficult. I had always played in Denmark, was always number one and then of course you want to do it abroad, in a stronger league. I went to Frankfurt, but I was out again after a month and a half because Eintracht signed Kevin Trapp. In two years, I hardly played more than a dozen games there. I had to wait and wait, couldn’t show what I could really do. That made me think. Things didn’t go any better at Schalke, then we were relegated. I had a lot of a lot of stress back then.

E.M. – And how did you deal with it?

F.R. – I talked to my goalkeeping coach at the national team, Lars Høgh, who
unfortunately died of cancer just over two years ago, quite a lot. These conversations with a person who had become a friend of mine really helped me and changed my mindset. I realised that I wanted too much and that I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself. Conversely, that I should just enjoy football. And I actually managed to do that.

E.M. – Although you were only number two at Union behind Andreas Luthe – and had to wait again – what led to you being able to assert yourself in Köpenick after all?

F.R. – I had a conversation with our goalkeeping coach Michael Gspurning – and Michael knows exactly which conversation I mean. That was before the game against Bayern in the spring of 2021, after I hadn’t played at Union for the first six or seven months. I didn’t play against Bayern either, and had to go to the national team afterwards but knew that I had to change something now. And that’s exactly what I talked to Michael about.

E.M. – Was it an argument?

F.R. – No, it wasn’t, it was an honest and open conversation that led to the fact that I am now where I am. That was the point of no return. After that everything was different.

E.M. – You slipped into a major crisis with Union last Autumn. Everything that had worked before suddenly no longer did. How were you the only one whose personal performance wasn’t affected by the crisis?

F.R. – Football always has to do with self-confidence, with feeling good. And this good feeling was no longer there for me either. I think that I too wasn’t flawless in this phase either, my performances weren’t at the highest level.

E.M.  As goalkeepers, you are a team within a team. How did you how did you work in this team during the crisis?

F.R. – You can talk about this and that, about why things aren’t why things aren’t going well with the team at that moment. But we didn’t do that. We wanted to concentrate on ourselves, on our job as goalkeepers. Gaining self-confidence by making big saves and so on. Yes, football is funny sometimes. You know what quality you have, but you don’t know if that quality will come into play in the next 90 minutes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Manuel Neuer or someone else.

E.M. – In the meantime, you even started dribbling past opposing strikers, as we saw in the game against Heidenheim, when you set up a goal with your courage to play with the ball.

F.R. – Dribbling is not necessarily for me, of course, and it certainly makes the heart beat a little faster. But I’m in the flow, I’ve been in good form for weeks. And then of course the games come with a different mentality.

E.M. – Where will you be on 24. July this year? And what will you be doing that day in the best-case scenario?

F.R. – That’s the day the European Championship final takes place, right?

E.M. – Yes, and in Berlin too.

F.R. – Of course we want to get as far as possible. And a lot is possible for us.

This is an extract from Markus Lotter’s interview which appears in the latest issue of Eisern Magazine, available in all good newsagents, and online in the Zeughaus. Our greatest thanks go to Markus, and to the editors. 

“Of Course Football and Fear Don’t go Together”
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