Goal.com: Hi Didi, welcome back to Singapore! How are you finding it here?
Didi: It’s good to be back. I came here once in 2001 when Liverpool played your national team. I don’t remember a lot to be honest. All I can say is that your city has changed a lot. But it is always great to come to Singapore, people here are quite friendly and of course, there’s such a huge Liverpool following!
Goal.com: We’d like to ask your opinion on our local and regional scene. What do you think of Asian football, do you have any impression of it?
Didi: Hm, well I played against South Korea in the 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-final. That was the furthest any Asian team had gone before. What I’d like to see is the likes of Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan to qualify for a major tournament. It would really give local football a big boost.
Goal.com: Many people in Singapore think our mandatory 2 year army service is an issue when it comes to achieving on an international level.
Didi: In Germany, we had to serve in the army as well; in fact I served for 12 months. [Pause] Oh but if you have to do 2 full years, I think it can be an issue.
I am not sure about you guys, but I was allowed to train [football] in the evenings. I trained with the second team then. [Deliberates] two years in the army you say?
Didi: Well, hopefully you guys can find some way to work around it. I always felt you should get as many young players as you can to train and play in Europe. That’s the only way you can improve as a nation. Because only when kids play against the best or even just watch other good players train, will they be able to reach their full potential.
Goal.com: Didi, it was a unfortunate the way Germany got eliminated from the Euro yesterday. This team has been described as young, talented, consistent and play attractive football.
Yet some of the older fans feel this group does not have the same mental strength and determination as your generation of footballers, what do you think?
Didi: I totally agree with you there. They are a capable team and have loads of quality but they always trip up in the important games. They’ve done it 4 times in 6 years and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that every time the pressure mounts, they fail. I think the mentality of the team is an problem.
Goal.com: And it’s not just at the national level, even at a club level, we have Bayern Munich losing to Chelsea in the Champions League.
Didi: Exactly. And they choked against two teams who were very beatable, Inter Milan and Chelsea. It’s definitely a weakness in German football. How do we change this? I don’t know. Maybe the psychologists can come in and do something! [Laughs]
You only have so many chances. People keep telling me that we [Germany] will be better in two years after they gain experience. No, the time and chance is now. 2 years is a long time, nobody knows what will happen. You have to take your chances now.
Goal.com: Final thoughts, Didi, Italy or Spain?
Didi: If Italy play anywhere near the level they played yesterday, they’ll be champions. I was impressed with their performance, the best of any national team I have seen. Spain was a little lucky against Portugal. I felt Portugal was the better side in 90 minutes.
But Italy is in a good position right now. The domestic scandals seems to have brought the team together and the coach is good. They will be a tough test for Spain. I’ll go with Italy.