News : “The national team tells a little about the history of the monarchy” – sport
Understanding Austria and its relationship with the national team requires much more than tactical analysis. You have to listen carefully to the country that has qualified for a European championship for the second time since 2016 and is currently struggling with football euphoria. Hardly anyone can explain why this is so better than the cabaret artist and football fan Alfred Dorfer, who appears in strikingly colorful clothes for the interview at Café Sperl in Vienna.
SZ: Mr. Dorfer, a purple sweater – is that a coincidence or did you want to make it clear straight away that you are a fan of Wiener Austria?
Alfred Dorfer: That is honestly coincidental, it was just upstairs in the compartment. And if, as a fan, I may be very specific: The Austria violet is also a little darker.
Speaking of Austria: How big is the disappointment that David Alaba has decided for Real Madrid and not a return to Vienna?
Alaba did it perfectly right. He went to Real Madrid to earn a lot of money there – and has now invested in Austria (half a million euros, ed.). The other way – he earns little and invests that in Real Madrid – would have been a lot less clever.
As critical as Alaba is seen by many in Austria because he doesn’t want to play as a left-back but in midfield, a return is difficult to imagine anyway.
With Alaba and the Austrians, it’s a bit like art. If you have the opportunity to hear Anna Netrebko and pay a lot of money for it, then you always hear the question from the opera audience: Was she really worth it now? I wonder: what else should he do to show that he’s one of the best footballers we’ve ever had? And now he has also paid back his training allowance at his youth club. He has my respect.
If you are currently strolling through Vienna, life has returned after the lockdown. But there is nothing noticeable about the EM mood in Austria. Wasn’t it completely different in 2016?
At the time, because of a good qualification, we believed that we would reach the final and lose there – if at all – with a lot of bad luck. We were pretty sure that we could win the European Championship. This time the expectations are completely different, no one expects a good performance, but who knows: Maybe this is the healthier approach. That being said, I think other countries are doing the same this year for a number of reasons.
In 2016, Marcel Koller’s team was proclaimed the generation of the century, today nothing is expected of more or less the same players. Typically Austria?
There are only two approaches to the national team: either clear overestimation or deep depression. A realistic assessment of a football team is not possible in this country.
Do you envy the Germans and their more objective approach?
Actually, I tend to envy the nations that have realistic demands on their abilities and are not so sentimentally dreamy. Switzerland or Denmark, these are similarly sized countries with a similarly weak league, which understood much earlier than we did that we can only train in club football – and then maybe, like the Swiss, can constantly play with the national team in major tournaments.
But something has happened, the Austrian EM team plays almost exclusively in the German Bundesliga. So is it maybe the German coach?
Marcel Koller formed a team in 2016 that can play a system. That was good, but not good enough in terms of football. The troops today would easily have the potential for two systems, but – I would like to emphasize at this point that I am a layman – under Franco Foda the potential will not be implemented, even if the results are correct. This time it is not illusory nationalism to say: There is more to the team. In any case, the fireworks and therefore the enthusiasm in the country is missing.
Would you prefer to remain a ski nation?
A mistake! We are a divided country: in the west everyone goes skiing, of course, but if you grew up in Vienna’s municipal housing estate, like me, then there was only football.
The Olympic ski champion Franz Klammer was not as important in your childhood as the footballer Hans Krankl?
Definitely for us Viennese children. In 1968 my grandfather took me to Vienna, Austria’s oldest football club. They then played against Austria, and I thought they were even better, even if football was slow. Today you have to go far down in the leagues to find something like that.
Sounds like a football romantic.
I can’t do much with these super leagues and everything around them. It’s not just like that in Austria, I was in the Chelsea stadium in the 80s, it was still an experience. Before Corona I saw Arsenal in London, that was a theater audience! The best football game of my life was a Glasgow derby: How people cheer for a really not high-class match, what is going on – unique.
The Austrian fan would never do that, right?
No way. In autumn weather and sleet, like it was back then in Glasgow, you avoid the stadium here, especially when the national team is playing.
And that won’t change anytime soon?
Perhaps gradually, our population is changing and with it the football audience. We actually have a national team that is also suitable as a model integration project.
Shouldn’t it market itself louder as such, especially in such a conservative country?
It does it: Alaba has always been well received, apart from a few reports from idiots, as well as the block of -ic players such as Arnautovic or Dragovic. But of course: It should be emphasized because this team shows that Austria has always been and still is a cultural melting pot. And that we are close to the east. In Vienna, the tone and mentality in Belgrade are closer than in Cologne, for example. To put it in a nutshell: the national team continues to tell a little about the history of the monarchy.
Speaking of Arnautovic: He is probably the most popular player in the Austrian squad.
It’s the same everywhere: from tennis to Formula 1, boredom dominates. Personalities are rare, and Arnautovic is one. That fuck it mentality is wonderful.
Can you work better with guys like that as a satirist?
I have largely avoided the subject of football in my career. I once dealt with the reduction of reason in a program that occurs in men over 50 like me when important goals are scored shortly before the end. But, I’ll tell you honestly: I like football too much. The machinations around it, gladly, but that’s actually politics. The fun ends with soccer itself.
You used to do cabaret with the former national soccer player Herbert Prohaska on ORF. Others make fun of his pronunciation.
I have too much respect for the achievements of these people who are on TV because they have achieved something. Günter Netzer was inviolable for you in Germany, wasn’t it?
There was definitely a persiflage, but of course not because of his knowledge of football.
He was certainly lacking the humor a bit, that’s true. In Austria we grew up with the pronunciation of Ernst Happel, who came from Ottakring and then spent a lot of time in the Netherlands: The result was a mixture of Viennese and Dutch, with words like “Schpeelers” instead of “Spielern”. But: It was inviolable. Like Beckenbauer …
Before we go in that direction, let’s get back to the topical. At the European Championships, Austria will meet North Macedonia first …
… the Faroe Islands of the Germans!
You are referring to the German defeat against North Macedonia in March – it was really as traumatic as the legendary 0-1 the Austrians against the Faroe Islands in 1990?
No, so: Before they beat the Germans – which we liked very much here, I would like to emphasize again – we thought it was not an over-team. So: a win in the first game and it looks good. Now that has changed and the first match is decisive.
Will that be a second Hungary in 2016, when Austria lost 2-0 in their first EM game and came under immediate pressure?
Same process: In 2016 we played our second game against Portugal, this time against the Netherlands. Strongest opponent, this time we should perhaps not play 0-0 again, although we should have lost 8-0 in terms of chances, like we did against Portugal back then. But something’s going on in the third game against Ukraine, I see chances for the round of 16.
In Austria, do you always look to Germany, just because of the possible malicious joy?
In a certain way we are connected to the German media, as you know that at SZ only too well. So of course we get a lot more than the other way around, especially from the Bundesliga, where practically all of our EM players play. I put it diplomatically: The German national team has never sparked the big wave of sympathy in Austria. Even if the former reputation of the Germans – play badly, but win – is no longer quite as relevant. The arrogant sports reporters stayed with you.
Well, the conversation wasn’t that bad.
I am talking about your fellow television broadcasters. There is commentary from above in lashing language and that the others were better is generally not an option. That you can neither win nor lose with dignity is the last remnant of German arrogance in football. And of course we in Austria suffer a lot more than the Italians because we understand the language.