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On the spot

On the Spot: Arne Friedrich

Arne Friedrich plays at centre back for Hertha Berlin and for Germany. He is both club captain and the mainstay of the Berlin defence. Seven years in the capital and under contract till 2012, he's never had it this good.

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DW-TV:

You're doing better this season than anyone thought you would. What's different to last season?

Arne Friedrich:

We've had more time to work with the coach now and we've adjusted to one other. We've absorbed the system the coach wants us to play. We're very diciplined on the pitch. Added to that, the spirit of the team is excellent, moral is great, and that is always important for us as a team. And of course we're very fit. We've turned matches around at the end and I hope things stay that way.

Are you happy that no one believes you'll win the league?

I think Bayern underestimated us before the match. They talked us down. So it was good to beat them, and better because it was at home in front of a full house. And because we deserved to win.

Bayern beaten, top of the table, but no one at Hertha is talking of winning the league yet.

Aren't you being a little coy?

No. Hoffenheim and Bayern are in a different category. Sure, we've got a lot of points at the moment and it's going to be really tight at the top. But I don't think we're going to finish the season as champions. Not to say I wouldn't like that, but I'm being realistic. If we finish in the top five then we'll be happy. If we finish higher we'd like that too.

Hertha's strength is mainly down to superb home form. They've only lost once in the Olympic Stadium this season. And they've beaten the big sides in the Bundesliga: Leverkusen, Hamburg, Hoffenheim and now Bayern Munich. The defence is one of the league's best. And keeper Jaroslav Drobny is having the season of his career. Then there's coach Lucien Favre.

You recently said in an interview that Lucien Favre has put the team together like a jigsaw puzzle, with every piece slotting in perfectly.

We'll, he's been trying to find the right blend on the pitch, the right mix of characters. I think it's important to have different types of players on the pitch, with different qualities: for example, players who make deep runs from midfield, others who lock things down at the back. It's always important that the overall picture gels, and he tries to make sure it does in the way he picks the team.

Lucien Favre:

It's like when you bake a cake, you need salt, sugar and other things. If you make a mistake the cake is bad. It's the same with a team. If one or two players are not performing then it can ruin the whole team.

Captain Arne Friedrich has been one of the key ingredients in the recipe. So far the results are to everyone's taste.

DW-TV:

Maybe you as captain can say something about Berlin's favourite subject, Marko Pantelic. Do you have a special relationship with him?

Arne Friedrich:

Well that sounds a bit strange. I think my relationship to Marko is quite normal. He fits well into the team. There are no problems with him, and I think that what's written about the things off the pitch are a little exaggerated. Sure, it gets in his way a little. But I'm optimistic that it will end well.

All these endless arguments about him being too egotistical and not getting on with the coach. Doesn't that bug you?

Maybe he is a bit egotistical, a bit of a diva, but it's not that bad. It's all a little blown out of proportion, and I think different charateristics are very important for a team. The blend is really good at the moment, the table reflects that. So I hope we'll be playing together for a bit longer.

People say Hertha has an image problem. The stadium isn't a proper football stadium, the club attracts too few fans for the size of the city and the team has no personality. Is that right or wrong?

It's very hard to change an image. Sure, it's true that Hertha doesn't have the sort of image of a club like Dortmund. We have a problem filling the stadium, and it would be better if more people came. But we need to play well over a longer period. I think we are on the right track and if we do our homework as a team then the rest is a question of marketing. We've got nothing to do with that.

But sometimes they do. After Hertha beat Hoffenheim 1-0, Friedrich swapped his shirt with team mate Gojko Kacar, and not, as tradition dictates, with an opponent! That act inspired a Hertha advertising campaign.

That was a small step, definitly not a decisive one. As a team we have to work together to create an image. But first and foremost we can change our image by the way we perform on the pitch.

And Friedrich certainly knows his way around. As a youngster, he played lower league football with a club called Verl. His first professional contract was with second-division Bielefeld. In 2002, he moved to the first division and Hertha Berlin, and he's been there ever since. He was made captain two years after joining, and was called up to the German national side.

You're trained in industrial sales. Didn't you want to play football?

Sure, I did. But I'm not stupid. I'm not going to set myself up for trouble. I know what can happen in professional football, and I think that if you think things over, switch on your brain, then you make decisions like that. It was very important for me that I learn a trade.

Can you imagine playing for another team sometime?

You can't rule anything out. But I feel good here in the city. I've become fond of the club as well. I wanted to be part of the team, I wanted to help to build things here. Sure there have been situations where I've thought about accepting an offer from some club or other. But I expect that I'll continue playing here and that I'll finish my career here.

I've noticed that people always describe you as being very diplomatic. Doesn't that image get on your nerves?

No. I'd rather have an image like that than make headlines like some of the other players. I don't want that, I don't need that and I don't care if people have a problem with that. I'm very happy with my life as it is, and I think that's the main thing.

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