Borussia Mönchengladbach captain Lars Stindl didn't make his debut with the national team until he was 28. He spoke to DW about winning the Confederations Cup and keeping work and family life separate.
DW: Until five years ago you were an above-average player on an average team (Hannover). Now you are captain of Borussia Mönchengladbach and this past July you won the Confederations Cup with the national team. What changed in the past five years?
Lars Stindl: I believe that I have gradually improved throughout my career. There was never a real breakthrough, but I have always continued to develop my game. My decision to come to Gladbach a couple of years ago was absolutely the right decision. I've been able to further develop my game, I was able to gain international experience and of course, this past summer, was one of the highlights – getting the call-up to the national team and to play in such a successful (Confed) Cup.
Can you remember the way it was to go to the stadium as a little boy?
I can't actually remember the first time. However, of course I remember being in the stadium as a young boy, with the atmosphere, people supporting the same team. The outpouring of emotion when a goal is scored is really something special – when everybody is cheering for the same team and the euphoria spreads from the pitch into the stands – these are great, great moments.
You began playing organized football as a young boy in southwestern Germany, before joining Karlsruhe's youth program at the age of 12. You made your debut in the Bundesliga for Karlsruhe at the age of 19 in 2008. What were your aspirations when you were 19?
You go through a lot of growth during a time like that. It's no longer the way it was in earlier years, everything becomes more professional, things become more focused on what will be important in the future. Ant then you get to the under-19s or the under-23s and the path starts to become clearer. A lot of factors are involved: The timing, talent and a certain amount of luck as well. And this was the time when things fell into place for me. I got noticed and then got picked for further matches, until at some point I made the breakthrough.
Turning back to Germany's title-winning campaign at the Confed Cup; did you realize at the time what you had accomplished? Or does it still seem like a dream?
It was certainly something special, beginning with my call-up to the national team and being part of the squad. Of course we knew that this wasn't the European Championship or the World Cup, but we knew the importance of the tournament. It was an international tournament in which all of the teams were focused, all of the teams wanted to win that Cup. Very ambitious teams were involved but we were up to the task. We played to our potential and were very successful – and that is something special.
You were the captain at Hannover, you are now the captain at Gladbach. What is your secret? Why have you been given this role at both clubs despite the fact that you are quite a calm and quiet person?
I think one should go about his business in a calm and level-headed manner, but when things need to be discussed I am also happy to voice my opinion, or to give the answer on the pitch.
You once said that: "I can be happy even when things aren't going well in football." This sounds like you keep your job and your private life separate.
Yes, absolutely. Separating the two is part of a learning process. There are of course times in your career when things aren't going all that well - when you are fighting to avoid relegation, something that requires a lot of mental strength. But you have to keep it in perspective and not let it drive you crazy in your private life. And now that I have a family, it's particularly important that everything is okay at home.
Do you think that there will ever come a time in your playing career that you will stop feeling like you are living the dream?
No. It feels special every time I walk out onto the pitch – playing in the Bundesliga every weekend, the atmosphere in the stadiums. And I will continue playing for as long as I can.
Lars Stindl, 29, made his debut in the Bundesliga for Karlsruhe on March 15, 2008. In 2010 he left Karlsruhe for Hannover, where he played until 2015. In that year's summer transfer window he moved on to Borussia Mönchengladbach and was named the team captain one year later. At the ripe old age of 27 he made his debut in the national team in a friendly against Denmark on June 6, 2017. He was part of the team that would go on to win last July's Confederations Cup in Russia.
The interview was conducted by Matthias Frickel