News | Jason Pettigrove

Austrian Perspective on FCPS New Era

Though the day-to-day lives of many reading this article have changed immeasurably over the last few weeks, a lot had and has been happening at the club in the period prior to Covid-19 quarantine.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the management team as well as the playing staff are all able to keep in touch remotely, ensuring training programs as well as board-level discussions on the upgrade of the ground, and short, medium and longer-term aspirations for the club, can still take place.

Onboarding of staff has also been key to the progression of the club, and to that end, Salzburg-based football wizard Andreas Foltschl was brought in as the new assistant coach to work alongside Christian Ziege at the back end of 2019.

His appointment was somewhat of a coup for FCPS, given that he joined the club from primary rivals in the Regionalliga Salzburg, SAK 1914. It’s clear that the timing of the Pinzgau approach and the scale of the project ahead appealed to Andreas.

“Until last November I was head coach of SAK 1914, the unbeaten leader in the Regionalliga Salzburg and FCPS’ biggest competitor. I came here as a member of Christian’s coaching-team, we train the team together and we also agree on nearly every decision. I want to utilise my strengths of experience, humanity and positive energy, and both of us want to improve the team together, but every one of us has his strength and if we combine those, we will be successful.

“The clearly defined plan of the club, the people responsible here and my friendship with Markus Fürstaller was what persuaded me to join, as well as the region, which I like, and the character of the people in Saalfelden. There is a great spirit in the team and around the whole club, but I know that there are also many things to improve for each of us. I‘m definitely ready for the time after lockdown now. I can‘t wait much longer!”

On the playing side, 20-year-old Saalfelden native Denis Kahrimanovic initially signed on loan from Austrian top-flight outfit, Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub (LASK). The promising centerback has permanently joined the club via transfer in the most recent window after an exceptional Fall campaign, crediting one person for him coming to that decision.

“Christian Ziege is the main reason why I agreed to come back to FCPS, because I learned a lot from him during the four months we worked together, and I think he can prepare me for my next career step. It is a great feeling to play for him because everybody is dreaming of the same career that he had as a player. I like the philosophy on how he wants to play football, which is very rare in Austria. I just enjoy that he is my coach and I have big respect for him.”

Like many of his teammates, Kahrimanovic is doing his best to adjust to the current situation, and a newfound love of hiking has definitely kept his spirits up over the last few weeks.

“It is a hard time for the whole world, but we have to stay at home, be patient and take care of each other, and hopefully it will soon be over. I think every day in the last few weeks has been almost the same for me. In the morning I often go for a run or do other activities to keep my body in shape. I also started hiking because of the situation, and I like it a lot. During the afternoon I try to study as much as possible for university, which I started two months ago, and I’ll spend a lot of time with my family playing games or cycling through our region.”

It’s been quite the few months for 21-year-old defender Alessandro Ziege as well, and he’s had more to deal with than most of his teammates. Being the manager’s son can’t be easy at the best of times, and so training for Ziege Jr. will likely have been just that little bit more intense during quarantine.

Not to mention that Alessandro has been juggling visiting his girlfriend who lives 180km away in Tirol, and his mother who is currently in hospital in Salzburg. It’s a wonder that the current situation hasn’t taken a heavier toll, but the 22-year-old has remained remarkably upbeat.

“I'm staying at home in my apartment most of the time at the moment, and like most people I’m following the guidelines that the Government is giving out. I’ve also been spending some time with my dad and my younger sister, and seeing my girlfriend who lives in Tirol. That wasn’t possible at the beginning of the lockdown as nobody was allowed out, but it’s possible now. I haven’t had to adapt much training wise under the current circumstances, except for the fact that there are not really any possibilities to train with the ball.”

Once training and playing matches resumes in earnest, Alessandro is looking forward to getting back to what he does best. Feeling the ball again and being on the pitch is something that seems a million miles away at the moment, but it will soon be second nature once more, and that’s when he’ll come into his own.

“Playing for my dad is a huge honor for me because I grew up watching his games and saw what he achieved as a player. I wanted to become a soccer player ever since. Having him as a coach is actually very beneficial as he knows a lot about the game and the style that he wants to play, and that fits my style exactly.

“I play centre-back and left-back, and my attributes are a good passing game with good vision and speed out of defense. I’ve a good reading of the game too, and will always put the team first. I like moving the ball quickly trying to find space, getting out of tight spaces with a minimal amount of touches and without kicking the ball long. Dad obviously doesn’t want us to play high risk at the back so if there is no other option and the situation requires it, then we’ll go long.”

One of the more experienced veterans on the team, Captain Tamas Tandari, has seen his role change considerably since he joined. Despite a busy life away from football, he still makes time to mentor some of the younger members of the team, which is particularly valuable during the lockdown.

“I have been playing on the team for 10 years. Everything has changed a lot in the last year and this is the best period at the club by far. I’m normally a striker, scoring as many goals and making as many assists as possible, but sometimes I also play as center-back because I can head well. Of course, it is a great honor to work under such a successful coach, who has a lot of experience to pass on to us.

“As captain, I try to create a good atmosphere off the field, but the current situation is difficult. I can’t take my son to kindergarten, I can’t meet my team-mates. Normally I get up at half past four in the morning, work 50 hours per week, see my wife and two sons (age 2 and 5) in the afternoon before training in the evenings. This has been my routine for 10 years until Covid-19, so I’m used to it. I live and breathe soccer.”

There’s plenty of local talent in the team as well. Midfielder David Rathgeb has been with the club since 2012 and has enjoyed watching FCPS transition into the more professional outfit that we are today. Importantly, in those eight years, he’s continued to progress as a footballer and impress his various managers, despite having to juggle a full-time job in a bank.

“We were always known as a team with a lot of passion and a great fighting spirit, but we have grown a lot over the years. I’ve enjoyed every season. For me it was always fun and I’ve learned a lot over the years. I play as a defensive midfielder, but whatever is needed, I just give my best to help the team in every situation and try to fulfill what the coach is expecting from me. To play for Christian is a big honor for me.

“I think the lockdown and the whole situation in general is not easy for us all, the big difference being that normally we have training sessions with the whole squad and now I’m training on my own. Normally, I have a full time job in the bank, so I’m not able to train in the morning, but I’m there at every evening session and of course also at the weekend. I work until 5pm and the session generally starts at 6.30, so it's perfect for me. I’m very lucky to have my place of work, my football team and my home all within just a few kilometres of each other.”

Defensive midfielder, Alex Gadenstätter, has been with FCPS since 2016. As the shield for our back four, Alex’s role is key for a number of reasons including often being the conduit between defense and offense. Even as competition for places has become tougher, it’s a responsibility that he thrives upon and a role which comes naturally to him.

“There was a big change this season compared to the previous few, because we had become used to battling against relegation. Now we have a different kind of pressure. To be able to finish in the top two and qualify for the promotion play-offs. With a bigger squad now and better quality, the competition for places is tougher, but I just give my best in every training session and match and hopefully it's enough for me to be in the next starting XI. Most of the time I play defensive midfield, and in my opinion my best attribute is my strength.

“I play part-time and work for 40 hours per week, and it can be quite hard to concentrate on football after a hard day at work. The fun of playing generally, and the honor of playing for such a storied footballer as Christian Ziege makes it a little bit easier though. I’m still doing the same things during this lockdown, going to the gym etc., just at the moment I’m doing so alone. I can’t wait to see everyone again.”

Alex’s midfield partner, Niklas Seiler, joined the club in July 2019, and just like many of his other colleagues, he’s really enjoyed seeing and helping to deliver the progression for the club, as well as learning his craft under Christian Ziege.

Not unlike his colleagues, he also has to judge his footballing commitments with work elsewhere which, whilst challenging, is ultimately rewarding.

“I came here in summer 2019, so at the beginning of the new project, and we had a clear goal which everybody wanted to work on. One of the challenges for many of us has been to speak only English at training or in matches, but I'm just happy to play for the club and the professionalism everybody has at FC Pinzgau.

“Of course it's great to train with a coach like Ziege. I think that everybody in the squad knows that when he is telling you something about football or what you should improve upon, you don't have to think a lot about if he's right or not because he played football at the highest level and he knows exactly what he’s talking about.

“The other thing I really admire about him as a person is you can always talk to him about everything in life and he will be there for you. It doesn't just feel like a coach-player relationship with him. He improves humans not just football players and that's great in my opinion. I always want to win and motivate my teammates, and as I'm a young player I still have a lot of potential to improve myself which is what I intend to do at this club.

“I usually work part-time in any event, so I have to fit football in around that. I don't have much time for myself, but I'm grateful to be able to play football and be healthy, and hopefully I can earn a living from playing football in the near future. Of course nobody wants to deal with the lockdown but we can only make the best out of it. I wouldn't say I'm struggling but I miss my friends, my teammates and of course playing football for sure. I'm working as a caregiver with older people whilst we can’t play football and it feels good to help people who really need it.”