Last year Ralf Becker missed the promotion with the HSV. In an interview with t-online.de, the 49-year-old talks about the difficult last season and what he wants for the time after Corona.
This Monday evening, Hamburger SV welcomes Holstein Kiel at the end of the 30th matchday. Ralf Becker knows both clubs very well. From 2016 to 2018, the 49-year-old was the managing director of sports at Holstein Kiel, before moving to HSV after missing the relegation with the “storks”.
Ralf Becker: The former HSV sports director missed the climb with the Hamburg team last year. (Source: Sven Simon / imago images)
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There he experienced the first year of HSV in the second division at close range as sports director. It ended up missing the climb and his own dismissal almost a year ago.
In the interview, Becker talks about the difficult past season and reveals who he is keeping his fingers crossed for in the duel of his ex-clubs. But Becker also talks about the possible consequences of the Corona crisis, comments on the anti-racism statements in the Bundesliga and makes thoughtful expressions.
t-online.de: Mr. Becker, the gap between the Bundesliga and the second division continues to widen. Will this change after the Corona crisis?
Ralf Becker (49): I would definitely wish for it, but not only look at football alone in the crisis. We see what’s going on in society as a whole. Before the Corona crisis, each of us practically lived our everyday lives in our bladders. Suddenly it is bang and everything stops. There is time to question certain things. I sometimes wonder if we are maybe on the wrong path.
What do you mean specifically?
I am concerned with togetherness, in sport, in society. The personal way of dealing with winning and losing. Victory is often the only thing that matters. I would hope that in the future everything may not always be seen in black and white. But I know that you can quickly fall back into old patterns. This danger also exists with me.
Recently, players like Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho or Gladbach’s Marcus Thuram have clearly positioned themselves publicly against racism in the Bundesliga. The DFB control committee nevertheless determined what caused some misunderstanding.
We are all in demand as mature citizens. My impression is that people are becoming more political again. Previously, the idea dominated: “There is already someone who takes care of us.” Now you have to take the initiative yourself. We are all challenged in sport and we can make a difference. I hope that everyone feels addressed, not only to say their opinion more and more, but also to show their attitude and to position themselves. Especially at a time when there is a lot of turmoil.
Marcus Thuram: The Gladbach striker showed solidarity with the murdered American George Floyd with his cheering after the goal to 2-0 against Union Berlin on May 31. (Source: Martin Meissner / AP / dpa)
Do you see yourself in a privileged situation?
It cannot be taken for granted that we can live here in Germany as we live. Prosperity, democracy, all of that. Our history has shown what kind of developments there can be. It is our job to do everything to confront hate and discrimination with determination.
Would you like the clubs to position themselves more closed and clear?
I currently have the advantage of being able to look at developments from the outside and seeing things from an overall social perspective – and not being in the position of a club official. As a board member of a club, you are primarily focused on your club. From the outside, the perspective on various topics is much broader.
Your last club was HSV, who will meet your other former club Holstein Kiel this evening. Almost two years ago, this was the first game for HSV in second division history – and the premiere went terribly wrong. What memories do you have of the 0: 3 in the Volkspark?
Before the start of the 18/19 season, HSV was incredibly euphoric, despite the first relegation in history. Our preparation went well. Everyone was looking forward to this game. After 90 minutes at the latest, however, we have arrived at the bottom of the facts of the second division.
After ten games, coach Christian Titz surprisingly separated – although HSV was only one point behind third place and two points behind leaders Cologne.
It was our job to critically assess the situation. In the situation at the time, we saw our season goals at risk. This was followed by the separation from Christian Titz and the engagement of Hannes Wolf. That worked well temporarily for him.
Ex-HSV coach Hannes Wolf (left) with ex-HSV sports director Ralf Becker: For both of them, the end of the 2018/2019 season ended in Hamburg. (Source: Jan Huebner / imago images)
In the end, it wasn’t enough for the climb. The furious 4-0 derby victory at FC St. Pauli in March of last year was followed by eight games without a win – and only fourth place at the end of the season.
We were on the right track for a long time, but we broke in brutally at the end of the season. We as actors were always aware of how tight it would be until the end. But to be honest: the victories that we had before were not always convincing. The fact that we missed the climb was incredibly disappointing for everyone in the end.
Also in the current second half of the season, HSV did not come back optimally after the Corona break, only won one of their four games and threatened to miss the promotion again. Could HSV cope with a third year in the second division?
You know, when a club goes through negative phases for a long time, you have to get rid of that negativity at some point. If the environment is constantly associated with failure, then this mentality must not be transferred to the people involved.
What do you mean exactly?
It is generally the case with large traditional clubs that it quickly becomes restless. At other clubs, the motto is “we can do it” in tight situations. For clubs like HSV, it is more like: “It won’t work again.” The people who are now active, however, can do relatively little for the developments of the past years. I am convinced that the people involved will remain calm internally in the current phase and will continue to spread optimism. That’s how it should be.
How can HSV stop this negative spiral of the past ten years?
A lot has been demanded of HSV fans in recent years, no question. It is all the more impressive how they continue to stand behind the club, even if the club currently has to do without support in the stadium. The support is and remains exceptional. Nevertheless, the disappointment of the past few years is of course profound. There is always a fear of the next low blow. Changing that is not easy, but it would be important.
Managing Director Ralf Becker: In May 2018, he failed with Holstein Kiel in the relegation to Hamburger SV. (Source: Eibner / imago images)
An ascent would certainly be helpful for this. What does your gut feeling say?
Even if I am no longer there, I keep my fingers crossed for the club and I am convinced that it will be enough in the end. Second or then through the relegation.
Speaking of relegation: the Bundesliga club has prevailed nine times in the past eleven years; you yourself failed with Kiel 2018 at VfL Wolfsburg. Are you a proponent of relegation?
I see the relegation as a fair sporting competition. Also in the second division there are financially strong teams with VfB and HSV who can keep up with the Bundesliga clubs. Let us wait for the relegation games first. I find the ascent regulation absolutely okay. But of course, you could consider going over to the English model and having positions three to six determine the ascent.
This is how promotion to the Premier League works
First and second place in the championship (second English league) rise directly, the third to sixth place determine the third climber. In play-offs with a second and third leg, the third play against the sixth and the fourth against the fifth. The weaker team has home rights in the first game. There are no away goals. The respective winners of the games determine the winner and promoted player in a final at Wembley Stadium.
Who are you keeping your fingers crossed for in the duel of your ex-clubs tonight?
Of course, I always wish the best for both teams. In the current situation, the three points are more important for HSV.