“…it’s like coming home!”

For a decade, Henrik Herrmann wore the Hertha shirt and donned his gloves to keep out goals for the club from Germany’s capital. As a young goalkeeper, the Berlin-born player was a member of the Hertha BSC academy from 2006 to 2016, but following this period in the youth setup he was ultimately unsuccessful in making the leap to professional football. Four years later, however, he returned to the Old Lady in a new role – a trained physiotherapist at HerthaMED. After he discussed his time as a junior goalkeeper in the first part of the interview, Herrmann speaks about who established contact for him to return, what his daily work at the modern therapy centre looks like, and his long-term goals.

What led you to leave Hertha after ten years?

In the summer of 2016, two age groups were merged and we ended up with four goalkeepers in the U19s at that time. It was obviously competitive, and I had a disadvantage in the injuries to my shoulder and hip that I’d picked up in the past. That didn’t help me at all in trying to become first choice. I had talks with the coaching staff and it became clear that I wasn’t going to get much playing time in the following season, so I decided to leave the club at that point.

Following your time at Hertha, you moved to Oranienburger FC Eintracht 1901 before having a break from football. What came after your time at the capital city club?

I moved to Oranienburg in 2016 and I also passed my A-levels at the same time. I had contact with RasenBallsport Leipzig but in the end I decided on Oranienburg. We played in the Brandenburg League and trained three times a week with high standards, so it was perfect for me. Another advantage for me was that it wasn’t far to travel. I learned a lot during that time, which was my first year in the men’s division at the age of 18. I didn’t have long to settle in and I was kind of thrown in at the deep end because I started right from the beginning. These circumstances, but also my coach Hans Oertwig, had a big influence on me. In my second season there, there was another goalkeeper who provided a lot of competition and started a fair amount of games. I started training as a physiotherapist at the same time and took a break from football at that time, although it didn’t last for very long. (smiles) In the meantime, I played for Grün-Weiß Bergfelde as an outfield player. I was playing with a childhood friend who I’d always wanted to play with. It’s completely different to playing in net but it’s a lot of fun. But I wouldn’t want to play outfield really, I’m a goalkeeper at heart. (grins)

Alongside football, there was also physiotherapy. How did your career as a physiotherapist develop?

First of all, I did a long-term internship at my former school to see if I could become a teacher but I realised that it just wasn’t for me. However, what I realised was that whatever I ended up doing, I wanted it to involve people and sports. Since the number of jobs that combine these two aspects isn’t massive, I decided to train as a professional physiotherapist, which I started in September 2017 and successfully completed in August 2020. That was a big change from playing football all my life previously, both in terms of my daily routine and from a financial point of view. It took a bit of time to get used to. But that decision was definitely the right one for me and it has been well worth it.

…and then you ended up back at Hertha BSC!

Exactly! I came full circle. The head physio, Jürgen Lange, got in contact with me. Jürgen was my physio when I was a player at Hertha. Alongside my training I worked as a waiter at home games at the Olympiastadion and after a game we ran into each other and started talking. I asked Jürgen, half joking, whether they needed any physios at the club. But we started talking more regularly and exchanged ideas, and after a while, I was invited for an interview at Hertha. I've been employed full-time since the start of September now! (beams) I can’t imagine a better start to a job since I already know the club well and I’m familiar with the people and other coaches here; it’s like coming home! I didn’t have to think it over for long before I accepted the offer. It’s definitely worked out well. I treat my former teammates and competitors now, which is a bit surreal but a lot of fun. I’m involved in the buzz of working in football and my passion for the beautiful game has never been greater!

Give us an insight into your daily life: What tasks are there? What are you responsible for?

I look after our U14s and I’m also a normal physiotherapist for all the other players. But I also take care of patients from outside the club, as HerthaMED is, as you know, a normal rehabilitation and therapy centre – it’s not just for the Hertha players, but for all sportsmen and sportswomen. I’m there at the U14s’ games at the weekend and you’ll find me on HerthaMED premises on a day-to-day basis. We work together in a big team and we’re responsible for looking after each side after training.

What does it feel like working at the club where you used to be a goalkeeper in your youth?

It’s really cool and obviously a great feeling being here again. On the other hand, the therapy centre is still relatively new and we’ve got a young team here, so there’s loads of work to do and things we can be working on. I knew from day one that I can really bring a lot personally and add input. That was obviously another reason to start here. I’m ready to give it my all. You want to be proud of your job and the work you put in.

We’ve been in a unique situation since March 2020: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your work? What changes have there been?

Well I started my first job during the pandemic, so I don’t know any different (smiles). Obviously I know that not as many patients usually come each day, that’s the first difference. But otherwise, apart from wearing masks, abiding by the hygiene regulations and checking patients for a temperature, we haven’t had to do things that much differently.

It is difficult at the moment, but let’s take a look at the future. What are your career goals for the next few years?

My long-term goal is to make it to working with the first team. Working with young players and the academy is really fun and challenging, but the long-term aim is Hertha BSC’s first-team set-up. In the next few weeks, months and years, I’m going to keep studying and going on courses so that I have more and more to give.

Do you already have much to do with the first-team set-up in your day-to-day work?

I see them every day and our paths cross. There are definitely times when Bundesliga teams need physiotherapists; it’s not the case that we work in separate worlds. We all work together and at the end of the day, we’re here for the same reason. To make Hertha BSC’s players better!