heinnews’s David Hein this week caught up Andrey Voronin, striker for German football/soccer club Hertha Berlin. They discussed his leaving Ukraine as a 15-year-old, advancing through the German leagues, playing for English side Liverpool, the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and his ponytail.
heinnews: Hello Andrey, you left Odessa, Ukraine for the German city of Mönchengladbach in 1995 as a 15-year-old. And it was your dream to become a footballer. Looking back, how do you remember the past – the move, the arrival and the start in Gladbach?
Voronin: Of course it was not easy for me in the beginning. I came to a foreign country as a young kid, didn’t know anybody, didn’t speak the language and was separated from my family. But over the course of time, I got used to things more and more and the problems became fewer. And Borussia Mönchengladbach helped me a lot.
heinnews: You made your professional debut in 1997 in a Gladbach team which included stars like Stefan Effenberg and Martin Dahlin. What did it mean to you to transfer to a club like Mönchengladbach that had so much tradition?
Voronin: I remember exactly my first game. I was substituted in during the second half of the game in Munich. We lost 3-2 against Bayern, but a dream came true for me. It was something really special for me to play with such a well-known club like Mönchengladbach.
heinnews: Then you transferred to Mainz, where you established yourself as a top goal scorer. How important was your three years in Mainz, especially in 2002-02 when you scored 20 goals?
Voronin: That was a very important experience for me and an absolute milestone for my career. Alone the matches in the relegation battle in the (third division) Regionalliga really had an impact on me. When Jürgen Klopp came in as head coach things really went well for me. I really have a lot to thank him for.
heinnews: As a 23-year-old, you were a pretty well-wanted striker, including big clubs such as Dynamo Kiev, Stuttgart and Bologna. Why did you decide back then for Cologne?
Voronin: I definitely wanted to play in the Bundesliga. Cologne was a club with a good name, which was run very professionally. Besides, the stadium was just being remodeled. I just decided for the most interesting spot.
heinnews: After one season in Cologne, you want on to Bayer Leverkusen and after three successful seasons there it was onto FC Liverpool. That was certainly a step higher than the Bundesliga. What impressed you most about Anfield?
Voronin: I will never forget my time in Liverpool. FC Liverpool is an absolute top club in the world. The atmosphere in that stadium is just fantastic. They play unbelievably quick football in England. I wouldn’t have missed the whole experience for the world.
heinnews: Your time in Liverpool was a mix of good and bad experiences, the main bad experience being your ankle injury. How do you look back on your time at Anfield? And do you look forward to going back after the season?
Voronin: Like I said already, the time in Liverpool was great. I had my appearances and in my opinion I played successfully. Whether or not I return to Liverpool will be decided in the next couple weeks.
heinnews: You were in Germany 12 years before you went to Liverpool. And now you are back in Germany at Hertha Berlin. What was it like for you to come back to Germany?
Voronin: Germany is my second home and I feel really good here. I have a lot of friends here and everything has a certain order to it here. It wasn’t an adjustment at all to living in Germany again.
heinnews: In Berlin, you have played a major role in the success of current Bundesliga leaders Hertha Berlin. What are the goals for the team this season? Do you want to win the title?
Voronin: Before the season, we set a clear goal. We want to play for the international spots. And we will not let a short-term stop atop the standings keep us from that goal.
heinnews: The Ukraine national team reached the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup before losing against Italy. You were not able to play against the future world champions. How disappointed were you that you couldn’t do anything against the loss?
Voronin: I was very disappointed because I already was out of the tournament injured in the Round of 16 and couldn’t play the rest of the way. It’s bitter for every footballer when he can’t play and has to watch.
heinnews: Ukraine are currently third in the 2010 World Cup qualification – even on points with Croatia but with one fewer game played. How do you see Ukraine’s chances of reaching the World Cup in South Africa next summer?
Voronin: We play in a really tough group and it will not be easy to qualify for South Africa in a group like this. But as long as we have chances then we will give everything we have to reach this big goal of ours.
heinnews: Here the last question … why do you wear the ponytail? Have you ever thought about cutting it off?
Voronin: I have tried a lot of different hair-dos in my life. My wife likes the ponytail the best. So that’s why I don’t go to the barber.