Bastian Reinhardt is one of the less prominent members of the Hamburg team even though he's one metre 94 centimetres tall. He's a down to earth character with his own special story.
Kick Off: Bastian Reinhardt, you grew up in the former East Germany, but your professional career began in the former west. How did that come about?
Bastian Reinhardt: I got a call from Werder Bremen inviting me for a try-out. Then I was approached by a couple of people from Wolfsburg. Former colleagues of mine from Magdeburg had gone to Wolfsburg six months previously. They'd told club officials there that there was someone else they left behind who was a good footballer and who they should have a closer look at.
How did you feel about that? Do you remember?
Yes I do. It was a very exciting time. Especially when I got the call from Werder Bremen. I couldn't believe it at first. Then I went along for a trial with my parents. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. We had one of those old East German Trabant cars and we parked it at Bremen's clubhouse next to all the big expensive cars. That was an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately Bremen didn't offer me a contract. They told me I was talented but that I wasn't good enough for them yet. So I went for a trial at Wolfsburg and they welcomed me with open arms.
You honed your soccer skills at a special sports school in Magdeburg, but you nearly stopped playing football altogether after German reunification. Why?
Money became tight at the school and they basically had to merge two classes into one team and kick out some players. I was one of them. They'd done a medical examination and they said I wouldn't grow beyond one metre 81 and that would be too short to play in defence. So after a while I said to myself: there's no point anymore, I'm going home, I'm going to focus on my schoolwork and get my diploma.
So did you think your football career was over?
To be honest I did. I really did go home and back to my old school. So much had changed. But I did genuinely feel that my footballing days were essentially over. I didn't play any football at all for three months. I didn't even go to training. I think that on an emotional level I had basically said farewell to football.
In the end you did return to football, and played for various clubs in the German fourth, third and second divisions, before gaining promotion to the first division with Bielefeld in 2002. You were 26 before you made your Bundesliga debut – that must have been a very special day.
I can still remember it precisely. No player can ever forget their Bundesliga debut. I was very nervous before mine. But there were a lot of players in the team who were playing their first Bundesliga game. We were at home to Bremen, one of the top teams. We won 3:0 and I scored my first Bundesliga goal. It was a perfect start and an unforgettable match. As a player, you really need experiences like that, they give you the reassurance that you are good enough to compete at that level.
You played every single minute of every single Bundesliga match that season – and you attracted the attention of Hamburg, moving there in mid 2003. You’re still at the club and have become a cornerstone of the defence.
I'm not a very spectacular player or a very technical player, I just do my job. And that's to make sure we are solid at the back. Throughout my career that has always worked out very well, thanks to my teammates, of course. I'm a teamplayer, and as our coach Huub Stevens once said: I do what I'm good at and don't try things I'm not good at. That is where my strength lies. I think that I could do the same for any other team as well.
In recent years, many big-name signings have come and gone at Hamburg, but you’re still there. What’s the secret to your staying power?
I am what I am. I find it strange that people look up to footballers almost like gods. I'm just a footballer. My job is definitely very special but I am a pretty ordinary guy.
How do you deal with things like pressure or mistakes?
The pressure is always there in every match. I still get very nervous before games, even friendlies. The nerves and the fear of failure are always there. But over time, you learn to deal with them, and to turn them into positive energy. You learn that over the course of your career. The same goes for mistakes you make during games: you have to put them behind you quickly. Not everything works out and it's worse if you end up making two mistakes. But football without mistakes would be very boring.