Aue trainer Dirk Schuster is a friend of clear words. But this he is increasingly missing in the polished professional industry. He misses personalities like Effenberg or Basler – and worries about the future.
Dirk Schuster is the oldest coach in the 2nd division. The FC Erzgebirge Aue coach is only 52 years old. In a league where the average age of his peers is around 40, the 200-fold Bundesliga player stands out – also because he has a slightly different view on professional affairs.
Chillreport: Mr. Schuster, after the unexpected from the cup against the fourth division Ulm you are at Aue because of one 3-0 in Würzburg leader of the 2nd division. You were seventh last season. What are the goals for the new season?
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Dirk Schuster: The goals are no different than in previous years: we want to leave three clubs behind. And we do well to remain humble and realistic, not to mention the conditions under which we act economically. Because we’re just not in the top half. The aim is to establish FC Erzgebirge in the second division in the medium and long term.
That sounds almost exactly the same as for the 2014/15 season, when they sensationally promoted to the Bundesliga with the then promoted Darmstadt. Is there such a fairytale with Aue?
No no no. It was a one-off thing, a story bordering on a miracle. Then we were carried as a climber by an enormous euphoria and we entered an incredible flow. But you cannot plan such a thing, and certainly not start a season with the desire to repeat it. We assess the situation we currently have – with all the difficulties of the corona pandemic – very realistic. And here you have to be very clear, despite an extraordinary seventh place finish in the end: anything other than the goal of relegation would just be exaggerated and out of the ordinary.
For much of your preparation, it looked like spectators would be admitted to the lower leagues and friendlies, but not the top three leagues.
Exactly. And it was utter nonsense to me that spectators were allowed in the preparation or fourth division and that they should be banned from competitive matches in the same state. That was a dilemma, especially from the fans point of view.
Dirk Schuster was born in 1967 in what is now Chemnitz. As a professional, the defender played 200 Bundesliga matches and played international matches for both GDR and later BRD. As a coach, he led Darmstadt from 3rd to the Bundesliga and was voted coach of the year in 2016. Schuster has been coaching Aue since August 2019.
Now decisions are made in each region individually. In the first home game against Fürth on Friday, several thousand fans can be present in Aue. During the weekend in Würzburg you played for empty seats, before that in the cup in Ulm for a few hundred fans. How does that feel?
Even a few hundred spectators create a completely different atmosphere than with ghost games. General: Any number of spectators is good for players and clubs. And the more there are, the better it is for the mood. Health is paramount, but as in other areas you have to slowly find your way around and find ways and means to bring more spectators into the stadiums so that football becomes football again.
In 2015, Dirk Schuster (center) led Darmstadt 98 completely surprisingly into the Bundesliga and a year later he managed to stay in the league in a sensational way despite the smallest budget. (Source: Roskaritz Eibner Press Photo / Image Images)
Let’s move on to something completely different: you’ve been in the professional industry for three decades. How has football changed?
Oh, a lot has happened there – and in a positive way. The game has gotten a lot faster, and a lot has fundamentally changed in terms of sports medicine and performance diagnostics. Corresponding findings are now much more used – for example, when it comes to topics like training and game analysis or nutrition. But of course there are also disadvantages.
And who would that be?
In football the types are dying out. By that I mean people who say what they think – something that may be more interesting to viewers than the empty sentences you usually hear after a game. This is certainly also a “merit” of the social networks. Because once you’ve flipped your tongue, it’s often used there to violently attack players. This also happens below synonyms and well below the belt. Falsehoods are distributed anonymously, which is not possible. That’s kind of a scourge of the whole story. In addition, the media eye has increased. The football business has taken on a new role and with increased attention, salaries have risen significantly. As a side effect, reporting has become more important. You can quickly be hyped, but also petted – especially in social networks. And those are side effects that I personally don’t like.
Do you already have experiences with it on social networks?
I’m not represented there at all, that’s why I don’t notice.
But your club has the right accounts?
Yes, but I generally don’t care what is written on social networks. I am not interested in that. The direct communication, in which you give the other the opportunity to respond, has unfortunately been somewhat lost. I think: if there is something to discuss, you can do it face-to-face or – especially now in Corona times – at least pick up a phone. Then you can talk about everything, you can also discuss certain things. Personally, I’m open to everything – whether it’s after training, on fan evenings or at the bakery in the morning. I think that’s where most things come up for everyone involved.
Dirk Schuster (center, here next to Ulf Kirsten) played four international matches for the GDR and then three for the FRG before the fall of the Wall. (Source: Magic / Image Images)
Are you willing to forgo money to reverse the development described?
This is a relatively speculative story – you don’t know if anything would really improve after that. The whole is only a reflection of society. Everything is now being discussed via suitable platforms on the internet and is quickly judged as too positive or extremely negative, often without the topic being discussed in more detail. It’s not all about football. It’s much worse in other areas.
Again to the mentioned “types”. Is it currently more necessary than ever in football?
There are simply color accents in the gray matter that enliven the whole, make it interesting and sometimes encourage laughter or discussion. If you keep hearing the same thing, it is no longer fun to talk about certain things. Such personalities – be they called Effenberg, Basler or Matthäus – who divide the crowd to some extent and with whom one can be divided on certain arguments simply enliven the football and make it interesting. Such guys would certainly be good for football again, but like I said it’s tough for them today.
They are also known for making clear statements. Do you see yourself in this tradition a bit?
Yes, but maybe not in this extreme form – and not in the league of hundreds of national players (laughs). But I am always in favor of open, clear and above all honest communication – with players, clubs, fans and the media. I always prefer it when everyone knows what I’m up to and vice versa.