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Bundesliga Kick off!

Maik Franz

Maik Franz is a hard man. The Karlsruhe captain and centre back's tough style of play has made him a controversial figure in the Bundesliga. The 27 year old is back after months out through injury.

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DW: How was it, coming back?

Maik Franz: It was fantastic. It still gives me shivers. It was something special. I was on the bench and the assistant coach told me to get up. I ran over and then it started. The entire stadium stood up and cheered me. The fans really made some noise. It was a great feeling. You see what you're missing when you're injured.

I'd like to quote you: "My job is to make sure no goals are scored and I carry out my job by all available means" What means are available to you?

Aggression, emotion, passion and a certain toughness in challenges which earns respect. That's important. If a striker or any opponent says -oh, he's a really nice person and I like playing against him-then as a defender you're doing something wrong.

You said aggression first. Does that mean you use commitment where others use skill?

I'm not Maradona, I'm not Pele. I'm not the most skillful player but I can play football, otherwise I wouldn't have played 130 matches in nine years of first division football. There's nothing wrong with being aggressive and strong in challenges. Quite the opposite. It's a quality and one I'm proud of.

Would you be upset if you had to play yourself?

That's a cool question. No one's asked me that before. I don't know. I reckon that'd be an interesting duel. Franz against Franz. But I know where my limits are so things would calm down and it would be okay.

I'm asking you because I want to know if you think that people have put you in a box you don't really belong in?

When you've been put in a box and it seems to fit then it's hard to get out again. It's nearly impossible. The fact is that I have been put in a box at Karlsruhe. People are always saying- Franz, he's a little crazy, he's always getting stuck in, a bit loco. But I know it's not that bad. And when the coach says it's okay, don't worry, we want you to play like that and perform like that, then it can't be that bad. I'd put it this way...the people who lose here, or drop points, they're upset and disappointed. But I don't really care...as long as we are winning and earning points they can say what they want.

Fine, you are feared in the league and you're loved by your fans.

Karlsruhe is a pretty open club. The fans and the team have a very close relationship. We are eighteenth in the league, we're down at the bottom and the fans are still firmly behind us. That kind of situation is almost unique.

Coach Edmund Becker says Karlsruhe is far too calm as a club.

You could think it was difficult this year. The relegation battle, as the word says, is a battle. All the other teams like Bielefeld or Cottbus have a reputation as a nasty team to play. That's not meant in a negative way, it's just no one likes to play us. Maybe we have been a bit too quiet and maybe we should be more nasty, even if that does sound bad.

How would you get on with Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath?

I don't know, maybe it would be good. He wanted to bring me to Stuttgart once. It's well known he makes players train hard. But he is also fair and he gives players a chance. Maybe it would have worked. I have a lot of respect for what he's done in Wolfsburg. I played there five years myself, and what he has achieved there is something to be proud off.

But you're happy at Karlsruhe and if they get relegated then you'll stay with them?

No, I didn't say that. I said I feel good here and everyone knows that. But I also said that every player wants to play in the first division. The crowds aren't that big in the second division, and that's what every player wants. What we are doing here is fun, and playing in packed stadiums is fun. But you never know...you should never say never...I have been given a lot and want to give things in return. But the first division is the first division.

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