Two points in Olaf Theon’s Vita are enough to justify his commitment in the coming week: world champion 1990, UEFA Cup winner 1997. Later as captain of the great Eurofighters of FC Schalke 04. In the coming week, the now 55-year-olds will be part of ARD Morning magazine as an expert, broadcast live from Veitshöchheim. Since the United Kingdom left the European Union, its geographical center has been in the suburb of Würzburg, more precisely in the district of Gadheim. In an interview, the Gelsenkirchen native talks about the national team, his club’s relegation and the future of football.
Mr. Theon, as a former liberator would you have successfully blocked the cross from the French Lucas Hernandez or would you look disgruntled like Mats Hummels?
Olaf Thon: In such a situation, taller players have a bit harder time than me. This mostly happened to me in my head, so you’ll just have to ask Andreas Kopke or Jens Lehmann. Hummels’ action was certainly bitter. If you want to hit the ball like this, you can’t. But such things keep happening. Franz Beckenbauer had five or more goals in his career and was the Kaiser.
Especially since attributing the defeat to France for this goal would only be half the story.
Theon: correct. There were no strikers, Ilke Gundogan and Toni Kroos went too far in midfield and never played a decisive pass. That was not enough.
Was France too strong?
Theon: Hernandez, Pogba or Griezmann or Mbappe?? These are individual players who have achieved much more than our world class players. The French, along with the Italians, are the big favorites for the title in my opinion.
The next rival is Portugal. How will former coach Olaf Theon react to Ronaldo & Co?
Theon: I was just a little trainer. Basically I see Timo Werner more than Leroy Sane. I would also bring Emre Can, he brings a certain spirit. Even if it’s not his preferred position, right behind the five. But really everyone can play there. It used to be called: You put someone in there who can walk up and down.
So Joshua Kimmich is in midfield for you.
Theon: Yes. Already as a sign after the game against France. The players talked better and better than it really was. The French played with the handbrake on. Kimmich is more valuable in HQ, whether with Kross or Gundogan.
As a coach, his career was with VfB Hüls, a station in the NRW League. Instead, as a TV expert and columnist…
Theon: (calls in the middle) Already more than 20 years!
… on the road. Is working in front of the camera more fun?
Theon: You have to make a decision at some point. I got my coaching license in 2004 with Jurgen Klopp, but then I dealt with other things first and didn’t immediately take the coach’s path. I failed to do that and instead focused on the economy.
He was on the supervisory board of FC Schalke 04 from 2005 to 2008, then in the marketing department of the club and is now the club’s official representative for the traditional team. Have you already digested your relegation to the second Bundesliga?
Theon: It’s almost July, so it’s about to start all over again. We have processed relegation, are working on a new squad and have hired a new sporting director at Reuven Schröder. We all have to work together to make Schalke 04 a success again. This is going to be a tough season.
Schalke have notable competition in the second division with HSV and Werder Bremen. Does it make descent a little more bearable?
Theon: The sorrow shared is half the sorrow, you may say? But this is not true. It sounds good on paper, but Schalke falls in the top class. I hope we can come back in a heartbeat. I know it will be difficult and it may end in a completely different way. HSV doesn’t make it, 1. Clubs like FC Kaiserslautern almost fall into the fourth tier.
If you started with the second division, you have surely seen one or the other game of the Würzburger Kickers.
Theon: Naturally. You don’t know the players in the Bundesliga as much as they do, but you have to prepare and know what to expect.
They will be no match once the Kickers move to the third division.
Theon: I saw that too. There were already many tough decisions that could have been made differently. A lot of referees were involved in this lineage. But they say that it is always balanced. Maybe next year.
As a Schalke player, there is initially no sporting reason to come to Würzburg. You will still be in this area next week: as an expert on ARD Morning magazine, broadcast from the center of the EU in Veitshöchheim. There is no host country in this EM? Is something missing somewhere?
Theon: I find the idea of then UEFA President Michel Platini playing eleven countries very interesting. whether it is baku (Azerbaijan’s capital and one of the places, editor’s note) Should be, is an open question. But I find this effort exciting. But it should be like this once.
The upcoming World Cup to be held in Qatar in winter can also be described as “interesting”.
Theon: It will be something special again. A hot story. But football is changing, the audience is changing. The question arises whether you can go with it. Super League is also one such topic. I mean: we won’t be able to escape it.
Still, can you understand the criticism from fans who say football is far from them?
Theon: Absolutely. It is becoming increasingly difficult to enter the stadium. In the end, you only want to watch one soccer game. You have to be close to the pulse of the fans. Situations like the US, where a club is moving from state to state, should never exist here.
Back to the national team: Hansi Flick will take over as coach after this tournament. is he right?
Theon: There were certainly other candidates. I’m thinking of Stefan Kuntz, who has now won the title with U21. But I trust Hansi Flick to make a difference. We were disappointed after becoming world champions. The national coach resigned two or three years too late. Looking at his merits, it is understandable that the decision was left to him. Now he has just pulled the rag rope.
So is Flick the right man for the job?
Theon: He knows the DFB, but still will not dance to Oliver Bierhoff’s whistle, but will try his ideas. I think his lifelong dream has come true. I wish him all the best. But it won’t be easy. But it couldn’t be worse, less possible than finishing in the preliminary round.
What is your forecast for the national team in this European Championship?
Theon: No. Shall we go further?? It is doubtful whether as second or third. We draw against Portugal and win against Hungary. And then you have to make your way into tournaments, like in 1996 under Bertie Vogts. Form class beats! And from round 16, anything is possible anyway.