Here’s the second part of the Big Interview with Sami Hyypiä I translated into English for EOTK.
Is there in Germany something completely different than in England?
After our first pre-season match the players didn’t talk about the match afterwards. In Liverpool we always did that. No matter what kind of match it was, we talked to each other, Especially to those team mates who played on the position next to you. We went through all situations that happened on the pitch during the match, just in case they might happen again. But here there was no talk at all! I’ve only been in Germany for a couple of weeks and I was really surprised about that! The game was over, no one said not even a word … Everyone went to his car and listened to music instead. No one said anything!
How did you react?
I asked myself how I could change it. And after our match in Leipzig I simply started with it. I played the first half. Almost the entire squad has been substituted during the injury time and I stayed with those substituted players in the changing room. I asked Manuel Friedrich: “Manuel, is it normal in here that you never talk about the match?” And he said: “Err … yeah, that’s standard.” And I thought: “My goodness! We have to talk to each other!” Sure, the coach does give us a feedback after the match. But I think we could change a lot more if we started to communicate. You can’t only rely on the coach who shows you a video and tells you where you’re supposed to run.
Since your intervention, is there more communication in Leverkusen?
I don’t know exactly how it was before. Maybe there were few players talking to each other already. However, now we all talk about the match.
Do you miss the professional jokers like Carragher and Crouch in the dressing room?
I do not miss anyone. It’s similar in here. All you need in the dressing room is Patrick Helmes and it gets very …vital.
Your best Patrick Helmes story?
Everything what happens in our dressing room stays in the dressing room!
In the old days you had to work really hard to reach something in football. Nowadays it seems much more easier to get into the first squad.
Yeah, the younger players don’t have to clean the shoes of the older ones anymore.
How do you find it?
I rather like the old school. I don’t think it’s so bad when you’re starting from the bottom and you have to work hard for your position and struggle to reach something. The younger people would rediscover the meaning of respect.
Where do you notice the lack of respect today?
I realise that younger people don’t behave with respect towards the older people. When I was a child it went like this: if you weren’t allowed to do something and you disagreed, you simply got spanked. Not that I find it is the right manner to deal with the situation, but nowadays you’d become bigger trouble when you disagreed with a teenager! In the past it was different. Ten years ago there was much more respect.
You donated 23000 pounds to a hospital in Liverpool. Do you usually talk about stuff like that in the dressing room? Did your team mates want to know why did you do this?
No, not really. Everyone is doing things like this for themselves. My son was born in this hospital. One morning, on my way to the training I was listening to the radio. The station was collecting money for a location in the hospital where the parents could stay with their kids for the night. Many of those kids aren’t from Liverpool and their parents have to travel hundreds of miles only to see their kid. This radio station was trying to collect 25000 pounds. I called them and asked how much they still needed and gave them the money afterwards.
Following days the papers said: Sami Hyppiä donated loads of money, Steven Gerrard only a football kit.
I read that too and wondered how is making up things like that … Stevie has got different organisations he’s supporting. For me it was something special as this hospital is just in my neighbourhood. I found it important to help them. If you’re playing at Liverpool you get loads of requests to support different organisations. It never stops. I didn’t want to make it public but our PR guy said it’d be good publicity for the club as well. I accepted it like this but I never gave interviews. What I do as a private person has to stay private.
Are the young professionals in Germany more down to earth than the English ones?
It’s difficult to compare. I don’t think there’s a big difference. In Germany you have more interests in other sports. In England football is the king, without any doubts. And then there’s maybe rugby and cricket. In Liverpool there are two football clubs and the people live, eat, sleep and breath football. Every time I went somewhere, the people always wanted to talk with me about football.
You’re now describing the daily life in the Premier League .
Yes. I couldn’t go anywhere. You always have had to talk until you were blue in the face. When I went to a restaurant the waiter immediately started to talk about football – for a half of an hour … It got kind of exhausting in the long run. That’s why I really enjoy my current life in Germany that much. I can go shopping to Cologne or Düsseldorf and no one does recognize me. I can lead a normal life like a normal person – how I always felt like anyway. In England it was not possible at all.
Jogging in the park wasn’t an issue as well?
No, I absolutely did that. However, I was so fast that no one could follow me.
A good topic. Is the English Premier League really that much faster than the Bundesliga?
The Premier League is that fast because even the smaller teams do play long balls too. So, you’re actually under the pressure all the time. The match is like a seesaw from the one baseline to another. It’s faster and it demands you more physically and mentally. Physically because with Liverpool we usually had to play two matches a week. That’s not only a physical charge but a great mental challenge as well. If the game is that fast you have to stay highly concentrated all the time.
Where do you order the Bundesliga?
It does not mean the Bundesliga is a bad league. But the Premier League is the toughest league in the world. The best players want to play in the Premier League. In Spain there are many very good players as well, but there’s a different style of play. Perhaps most of those footballers couldn’t adapt to the English style of playing football. We did have some examples at Liverpool. We’ve had some Spanish players who failed at Liverpool. Fernando Torres is an example of succes. From the beginning I was quite sure he would make it in England. He’s a very physical player. And that’s what you need in England – you have to play with your entire body.
But in my current Bundesliga season I’ve seen many good players and good teams. I didn’t come here to relax and enjoy my life. I came here do to my job. I also have to concentrate myself here like I did it before in England and to be as good as used to be there.
Which Bundesliga player could make it in the Premier League?
Edin Dzeko for sure. He would be absolutely able to make it. It also depends of how much you want to change your style. Before I came to Germany I was asking myself if my style fits to the Bundesliga. And I was quite sure I’m going to adapt very quickly. According to the style, Bundesliga is the only European league that is the most similar to the English league. In Spain and Italy the football is completely different.
What is characteristic for the German football?
German football is very body emphatic. And every Bundesliga team has enough players who can run very good. I think, the typical German footballer is a running machine. Furthermore, the national team shows a great mental strength. Every time there’s a big tournament the German team always participates to the end. Even if they play bad in the qualifying round and you think they’re not going to make it this time. When the tournament finally begins they are showing their mental strength.
Was this the reason why Didi Hamann took the first penalty in Istanbul in 2005? Because he was the only German in the squad?
I would say, because he was rather an easygoing person. He could cope with the pressure very good. However, it wasn’t me to decide who would take the penalty. Maybe he just simply came forward as the first one?
At the end of this season will you be having something to celebrate again?
I hope so. We have a Finish saying: If it going good, you want more. At the start of the season we set ourselves a goal to play in Europe. If someone said to us those days we’d be unbeaten after 25 match days and on the third place in the league table … Only a crazy one wouldn’t accept that! After all, Leverkusen finished 9th last season. Our won matches gave us a lot of self confidence.
If you reached the Champions League, would you like to play against Liverpool?
If they are going to qualify … Please ask me this question again when I’m we’re going to play in the Champions League!