Timo Hildebrand became German champion with VfB Stuttgart, won the Copa del Rey with FC Valencia and took bronze at the World Cup in his own country. Nevertheless, there were moments during his professional career when he was on the verge of collapse. In the interview, the 42-year-old talks about his successful career, the time under Felix Magath and he reveals why he is critical of professional football.
He also talks about the low points of his career, explains why yoga gave him so much support after an operation and why he continues to eat vegan to this day.
Mr. Hildebrand, you can look back on an eventful career. How did your love for football come about?
Timo Hildebrand: My father played soccer, and so did my brother – he’s now an asset manager. Which I am also very grateful for, because he takes care of me and holds everything together. My godfather gave me a pair of goalkeeper gloves for Christmas and I felt like being in the goal and throwing myself in the dirt.
Timo Hildebrand: “Felix Magath saved us”
Hildebrand: If you come from the village, at some point you will be in the district selection, district selection, then maybe also in the state selection. I then did a trial training session in Cologne, looked at Frankfurt and a year before I switched to VfB, I actually signed with Waldhof Mannheim. But shortly before I decided against it because I had a bad feeling.
Mannheim wasn’t that far away from your home. Why did you choose Stuttgart, which is much further away?
Hildebrand: Back then, Stuttgart was the place to be – they had the best youth work in Germany and it wasn’t too far from home. I lived in the youth center in Bad Cannstatt with four or five other boys. We had a family downstairs who cooked for us, but we were on our own.
You left home when you were 15. What was your relationship with your family?
Hildebrand: In my first season we almost got relegated, then Felix Magath came and saved us. After that I was really in the professional business and had a huge challenge with the relegation battle.
Hildebrand: We always met for a beer in the evening before the game and Viorel Ganea once ordered an ice cream sundae. Felix Magath came into the room and made it really round. Then Vio looked at the sundae and threw it past Felix Magath’s head. That was tough, everyone was shocked.
Tell us something about the championship with VfB Stuttgart 2007.
Hildebrand: For me, my time at VfB was the best and best time of my career. I couldn’t even imagine living anywhere else. I announced in the winter of 2007 that I was going away and I believe that if I hadn’t announced my departure we would never have become Masters. It had to happen that way – and nobody expected us back then. For the first time I felt really free to be able to enjoy it, also with the troupe.