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Midfielder Timo Rost has played for Energie Cottbus for the past eight years. In 2006 he was elevated to captain and since then he's led the club's seemingly perpetual fight to stay in the first division.
Your first coach was your father.
Was it good to have your dad as coach?
That was with my home club Happurg. I was five years old and everyone pretty much just did what they wanted. Everyone chased the ball around. I remember we had a lot of fun as little kids. The good thing about my father was that he never forced me to play soccer.
Those were the good old days in Bavaria, where the game was played without pressure. Fast-forward 25 years and Timo Rost faces a season-to-season relegation battle with Cottbus. Shouldering much of the burden is coach Bojan Prasnika.
Especially in times of crisis, when you're not having any success and are doubting your ability, it's important to have a coach that builds you up. Then despite all the defeats on the pitch, at some point you get luck back on your side and then some success.
At the age of 18, Timo Rost made his professional debut with Nuremberg. After numerous outings for the national youth squad, he made the move to Stuttgart. But there his skyrocketing career was halted by an ankle injury.
You went to Austria and played there for a year. And after that transfered back to the Bundesliga to a club in eastern Germany... Why are you laughing?
Because I know what question is coming. I've heard it often enough.
Why does a young west German go to the east to play soccer?
There were two important reasons. Firstly, I wanted at all costs to get back to the Bundesliga, to play soccer in Germany at the top level. That was always my dream as a kid. And the second reason was Eduard Geyer, who really took an interest in me. Of course, I wanted to use Cottbus as a springboard. I thought I'd have two good years here and transfer to a different club.
Didn't you worry that you wouldn't be accepted?
Sure, I had my concerns because it's an eastern club. As a West German you always had your prejudices, that everything is grey and they don't have proper streets and the like. But when I think back now I know it was the right move. And I have to be fair and say I was accepted here from the very first minute. Now cities in eastern Germany are probably better than those in the west. So it was the right step to take.
You said you wanted to use Cottbus as a springboard. But you ended up staying there.
I think a lot of things have changed in the time I've been here. I also like the way the club is run and the way they work. People are a bit more collegial here and everyone helps each other out. It's a completely different feeling to play Bundesliga soccer here compared to the other clubs I've been.
Energie Cottbus, with no big-name players and the league's smallest budget, has now managed three years in the top flight. That makes it the most successful Bundesliga club based in Germany's former communist East.
What makes Cottbus different from other eastern clubs, like Dynamo Dresden, Leipzig or Jena?
The clubs you just mentioned all had far more potential than Energie Cottbus. The deciding factor is that we know how to work with our modest resources to be successful. What's really important to me is that no-one in the team gets ahead of themselves. No-one says, "We've won two matches so the work's all done now." That's not the case with us. At the other eastern clubs, you often hear people talking about how they're spending above their means or getting arrogant. And that can be deadly.
You're alway praising the fact that Cottbus has achieved a lot with a very small budget. But can't that be frustrating at times?
Let me put it this way. It would be great for us to start the season with five or 10 million to spend on new players that could score another 10 or 15 goals for us. Without a doubt that would be liberating. But it's just not possible. We don't have the resources and have to get by with our smarts. Once you realize that, then it's much, much easier to play soccer here.
Does it help with motivation?
To be honest, yes. I travel to Schalke or Munich or Stuttgart and see the opportunities that those teams have, like crowds of 60,000 for home matches, the changing-room facilities, the training conditions and the rest. To go to clubs like that and still take the points, although they're way ahead in every respect, is an enormous motivation for me personally."
With more than 200 appearances, no other player has represented Cottbus as often as Timo Rost. Will it be a life-long committment?
I always said it was my goal to play international soccer. That's the one thing that's missing in my career. But as long as things work out at Energie and we can keep frustrating the big clubs and stay in the first division, then it's an exciting place to play.