Before the German NHL star Leon Draisaitl will once again focus on ice hockey as part of the forthcoming World Cup in Denmark, he was exclusively available to the association German Football Ambassador e.V. for a discussion on topics such as football, 1st FC Cologne or his role as “sporting ambassador in Canada”. Only ice hockey should hardly be talked about this time.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: Today we would like to talk with you not about the puck, but about football and your role as “sports ambassador in Canada”. You were born in Cologne and are also interested in football. Do you follow the Bundesliga and the matches of your club, the 1st FC Cologne from Canada?
Leon Draisaitl: Of course. I follow the games, but also the Bundesliga in general. However, it is usually only possible on the Internet, because I travel a lot with my club (Edmonton Oilers, the editor) and I also have a few hour’s time difference.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: And international? Are there teams you’re interested in?
Leon Draisaitl: I actually like to watch the Champions League. Simply because the best players meet there.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: Have you ever kicked yourself?
Leon Draisaitl: Yes, I even played for a year as a child in a club here in Cologne. But in the end, hockey was the right choice for me, I think (laughs).
German Football Ambassador e.V.: Do you have other sports or leisure activities that inspire you and let you switch off?
Leon Draisaitl: I am generally very enthusiastic about sports, I like to watch many different sports and also the Olympic Games. Winter as well as summer.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: Back to FC in Cologne. He’s having a hard time right now. What helps a team when things don’t work out that way? You had a difficult season with the Oilers, even though you personally played a very strong season again.
Leon Draisaitl: It sounds like a cliché, but you have to pull the good things out of defeat, stay positive, focus on your strengths as a team. Positive thinking is your only chance – otherwise you’re in a downward spiral anyway.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: And how do you personally deal with defeat? What do you do after a lost game?
Leon Draisaitl: Mostly I watch some TV, try to come down and switch off. Forgetting the defeat and getting myself in the right mood for the next game. We often play every three days, like an English week in football, so you hardly have time to look back anyway. And that’s sometimes quite good.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: There are some football personalities who stand for Cologne and FC in a special way. Wolfgang Overath, Harald Schumacher or Lukas Podolski are just a few examples. Have you ever met anyone personally?
Leon Draisaitl: So far only Lukas Podolski. He even invited me to the game once, I really enjoyed it. He’s a good guy. In general, I would find it interesting to get to know other football personalities and to exchange ideas. Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance so often because I’m mostly in Canada. And Lucas is in Japan now.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: You went to Canada very young then. How were you received there as a foreigner? What were your first impressions?
Leon Draisaitl: I got a great welcome. At first, I lived there in a host family and they were really nice and made it very easy for me. In general, the species is very open in North America, so it is easy to find your way around. This kind of hospitality was also my first impression of Canada – and it has been confirmed very often so far.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: You are often called “The German Gretzky” in Canada. How do the Canadian fans actually perceive you? Are you the successful German or one of them?
Leon Draisaitl: Even if they make it very easy and pleasant for me to live there, to integrate myself into everything and to behave and integrate myself accordingly, I still remain “a German”. That’s okay, because those are my roots and I feel the same way. But for a Canadian, it doesn’t matter where you come from in daily life if you are open and willing to integrate.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: Ice hockey in Canada is as important as football in Germany. Are Canadian ice hockey players still interested in football?
Leon Draisaitl: Yes absolutely. There are already a lot of players who are also interested in football and who also inform themselves. It’s fun, too.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: In Germany there are also some football players who are also interested in ice hockey and have already visited games. Is that familiar to you?
Leon Draisaitl: Yes, I’m aware of that and I’m glad, too. In general, I think it’s cool if players of one sport are also interested in the sports of other athletes. This is a nice feeling and brings us athletes together somehow.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: You have very hard training in ice hockey and many games. Has a football coach ever informed himself how you deal with the stress?
Leon Draisaitl: I’ll have to pass. Of course, the coaches exchange ideas here, as probably everywhere, but a football coach hasn’t approached me personally yet. But I do think that every trainer wants to be constantly informed and also be aware of new developments. And even if the individual sports have very individual focuses, football can certainly learn something from ice hockey – and vice versa. But you’ll have to ask the coaches.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: You trained with VEXATEC before the start of the season – the world’s first agility shirt. It is still only available as a prototype for very selected top professionals. How interested are you personally in technical innovations in sport?
Leon Draisaitl: I think every professional should look at everything that can make him better and then decide. There are a lot of developments and many things don’t necessarily make sense to me either. But with the shirt that has already convinced me for my personal training.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: For the fans, whether in Germany or Canada, you are a role model and ambassador of sport and country. To be an example – burden or joy?
Le Draisaitl: No, it’s no burden. That makes me rather proud and I am happy when a few more kids start ice hockey again. Of course, you have a responsibility as a role model, but I have no problem with that. More like joy.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: Our association (German Football Ambassador e.V.) honors German football players and coaches who are particularly committed and distinguished on and off the pitch abroad. How do you like this initiative or do you know it?
Leon Draisaitl: I think the football ambassador thing is very cool. This always gives the sport a special push in the countries, concentrates on the actual values and it is nice to see that athletes of other sports are also interested in it.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: The public voting (http://publikumspreis-2018.fussballbotschafter.de/en/) is currently in progress. Who would you vote for?
Leon Draisaitl: I think some players who are nominated are pretty good, because I am generally a fan of our national football team. But as a man from Cologne I would probably give my vote to Lukas Podolski. Also, because he does so many positive things next to the place for Cologne kids.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: We can now support and strengthen children around the world in over 20 sustainable social projects through football. You are also socially committed but would like to focus on Cologne. Why?
Leon Draisaitl: I like what you do abroad! But first I would like to continue my engagements in selected projects here in Cologne. My relationship to the city is very strong and here in Cologne there are also some people who need help. There I have chosen my things and do it on a personal level.
German Football Ambassador e.V.: Final question: The Ice Hockey World Cup will be followed by the Football World Cup in Russia. What are the chances for “our football boys”?
Leon Draisaitl: I think there are some good teams at the tournament. But Germany is one of the favorites and should concentrate on its own strengths. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the team!
German Football Ambassador e.V.: Thank you very much for the pleasant conversation with you and good luck at the Ice Hockey World Championship!
Leon Draisaitl: Thanks, it was a lot of fun! Even if a football match can’t do without ice hockey.