Hamburger SV is in a crisis, promotion to the Bundesliga threatens to fail. It would be the continuation of a misery that began many years ago. Ex-players also suffered from this.
Walace is sitting in front of the computer screen with a big grin when the video call starts. “Hello, how are you?” He says in broken German and laughs. The Brazilian played in Germany for two and a half years. One and a half for HSV, another for Hannover 96. Walace Souza Silva, so Walace’s full name, had a broad grin like on the computer screen, but rarely in the Bundesliga. He was relegated with both Hamburg and Hanover.
The time was not easy for him, especially at HSV. He had three coaches in the 18 months at the club. Again and again he had to change his game. There was also unrest away from the lawn. Walace hits the headlines, is sanctioned by the club and has to fight his way back.
Photo series with 21 pictures
Two years ago he left the Bundesliga and Germany behind. Hanover sold it to Udinese Calcio. And in Italy he knew how to convince, playing his way into the starting eleven of Oliver Bierhoff’s ex-club. Today, Sunday, he meets Juventus Turin with his team and was available for an interview beforehand.
t-online: Walace, you’ve been playing in Italy for two years now. How are you doing in Serie A?
Walace (26): Very good. Serie A is different from the Bundesliga. This is more about tactics and technique, which suits my game. In addition, the championship is very competitive. All in all, I feel very comfortable here.
In the Bundesliga, many teams focus on pressing their opponents.
That’s the way it is. That’s what I mean by the differences between the leagues. As a player, you have to adapt with your skills. If you can’t do that, it will be difficult.
Your time at Hamburger SV was also considered difficult. How do you look back on your time in Germany?
I was 21 years old when I moved to Hamburg. New country, new language, that was tough for me at the beginning. But I like these challenges because I can grow from them. And that’s how I continued to develop in Germany and I’m grateful for the time.
Markus Gisdol (left) brought Walace to Hamburg, but was no longer his coach after a year. (Source: Oliver Ruhnke / imago images)
At the beginning you played a lot in Hamburg, but over time it got less and you were criticized for being undisciplined. Did you feel you were treated wrong?
At that time, HSV did not have the right mentality and vision, it was led incorrectly. Such a big club should have treated us players differently. In the area of communication in particular, things did not go well. Too little was spoken to us.
There were also many coach changes during your time. You came to the club under Markus Gisdol, a year later Bernd Hollerbach was your coach, who was fired for Christian Titz after two months. However, they did not get any stakes under Titz.
That was a big problem for all players. There were always new coaches who had different ideas. Titz wanted me to be the central defender and I told him I had never played that before. I was uncomfortable with the thought. I suggested helping off the bench as a substitute for midfield. Then I didn’t play a minute for HSV and was sold to Hanover in the summer.
You and the club had imagined your time in Hamburg to be different. You finally came to HSV as an Olympic champion.
The gold medal was the best moment in my career. In general, 2016 was a great year for me because I won the Brazilian Cup with Gremio Porto Alegre. To win the Olympics on top of that was fantastic.
Walace (left) in the Olympic final against Germany’s Nils Petersen. (Source: Eibner / imago images)
You made your last international match for Brazil at the end of 2018. Do you think that you can play for the Selecao again?
I hope so (knocks three times on the table). I miss playing for my country. But to do that, I have to call up my performance here at Udinese.
How much does playing without a spectator influence you? In Italy, too, it’s been over a year since the stadiums were full.
I’m really looking forward to when fans can finally be there again. When you play in front of fans, you feel like you’re not just playing for the team and the club, but for the people. It also gives me so much more strength and motivation to have spectators in the stadium.
And you could use them on Sunday when you meet Juventus Turin with Udinese. After nine championship titles in a row, Juve will not win the championship this year. How does that change the game?
It’s always difficult against Juventus. The team is very strong and is still fighting for the Champions League qualification. But I believe we can beat them.
Walace (left) in the first leg against Juventus Turin and Cristiano Ronaldo. (Source: Sportimage / imago images)
How are you going to do it?
With personality and mentality. We have to play aggressively on the pitch right from the start. With the right feel for the game, we will notice when our chance is good to catch them. Then we can win.