The German national team does it like the Dutch, the Japanese and of course the Austrians once did. At the height of the Tyrolean municipality of Seefeld, national coach Joachim Löw and his squad are preparing for the upcoming European championship. However, under very special conditions. The reason for this is of course the corona pandemic. This is a minor flaw for the community: there will be no fan celebrations, nor will there be any contact with the team. Tourism director Elias Walser explains what it looks like on site and why Seefeld is still looking forward to the footballers from Germany.
ntv.de: Mr. Walser, Seefeld has made a name for itself. No longer just as a winter sports destination, as a host community for World Cups and World Championships, but as a feel-good place for soccer teams. How could that actually happen?
Elias Walser: It actually has a long history. It started around 25 to 20 years ago with Italian teams. For example, AS Roma were guests. Or even Lazio. The word got around that we have a great football pitch, but we put a lot of effort into it, but it’s worth it for us. And of course we have invested a lot in the surrounding sports infrastructure in recent years by hosting the Nordic World Ski Championships.
But how did it actually come about? Who discovered Seefeld for football? Or how did you advertise football in Seefeld?
No, at that time we had an employee, Ottmar Sommer, who was even employed by us and then ran it as an agency. He traveled through Europe and presented us. So was the beginning. In the meantime, however, we are looked after by a football agency that specializes in organizing training camps. They establish the contacts for us.
And now Germany is coming to them as the next great nation …
Yes, we have already had the Netherlands as our guests, the Japanese and of course the Austrians. But Germany is the absolute crowning achievement. For us that is undisputed. But we’ve also had big clubs here, including Manchester City and RB Leipzig. And I think the good work with RB was one of the reasons why the DFB chose us. Because, as you know, the people of Leipzig make zero compromises when it comes to preparation. If it doesn’t fit, they won’t come. You can’t buy anything there.
Then the contact came about via the RB-Schiene in Salzburg, or how?
No, that actually came straight from Leipzig. About Ralph Hasenhüttl, who was still the trainer at the time. He knows the region and is here often. This is how a little tradition came into being. RB was here with all the coaches, most recently with Julian Nagelsmann.
As the head of tourism, how bitter does it actually feel that Germany is coming and has to seal itself off completely?
That’s a pity. We had to discard our original concept. But I’ve talked to a lot of guests and fans over the past few days, and there’s a lot of understanding. And most of them are simply happy that there is something at all that was not necessarily to be expected two or three months ago.
But for the region it just has to feel really bitter, because you have the team on site and no opportunities to make something out of it …
Sure, you still know the pictures from South Tyrol before the last tournament. It was almost a folk festival. We would have expected something similar. We’re right over the border, after all. There would certainly have been great potential. But I’ll tell you honestly. After six months without tourism, we have now started from zero to 100 and are simply happy about everything there is and don’t think of a “what-if …”.
How much effort did you actually have to put in to create the conditions for the national team to be able to prepare for the EM under the influence of the pandemic?
Sure, the football fields are of course closed. And that since winter. We have to thank FC Seefelder Plateau very much again, but luckily they were able to switch to other courses in the region.
Just a moment, brief inquiry: the seats have been completely closed since winter? Because of Corona? Or to save them for the national team?
Yes, we saved the places for the national team. That was also a condition of the DFB, but we wanted it to just create the perfect conditions. You have to understand this against the background that the time between winter and summer is very short here at 1200 meters above sea level. But we have a good understanding of the local kids, who are happy that Thomas Müller and the best footballers in the world are now training on their lawn.
Let’s get back to the limitations. What else did you have to do?
Of course we had to build protective fences around the squares so that no one could get too close. There is also a privacy screen, simply to avoid 100 people suddenly gathering, otherwise we would get into trouble with the local authorities. We also had to reroute two hiking trails, which is not a major intervention, but at least. And parts of our popular roller ski route had to be closed. But for the professionals who also train there, for example, this is not a problem, they can switch to a nearby route for a few days. Sure, one or the other doesn’t think that’s that great. But we get great approval from most of them. After all, it’s not just any Mickey Mouse team, but a former world champion. It’s okay.
There have also been reports that you turned off a webcam near the pitches …
No, no, that’s not true. We had to switch them off temporarily because we had problems with the internet connection, they used all the TV channels. But we have solved the problem, the camera is running again. But we promised the DFB that we would turn them off during training sessions.
Again briefly on the privacy fences: Would these also exist if Corona didn’t exist?
Well, the DFB is already aware that they are with us in the mountains and that those who really want to can watch from a high seat with a telescope. So everything would not have been cordoned off anyway.
All the soccer teams that are guests in Seefeld always visit the same hotel? Why actually?
Well, I think the size of the hotel is perfect. And all the rooms face south, so there is no argument between the players (laughs). But it’s just like that: the paths to the training grounds are ideal. I don’t have to go through town, I’m not stuck in traffic, and I can be there by car in three minutes. I think that just makes the difference.
How are you currently easing the situation? You know that the DFB team also likes to ride a mountain bike during preparation …
A lot is possible with us again. Tourism is running, trade has been open for a long time. While strict precautions are still in place, visits to the restaurant and bar are again allowed. Only when it comes to group size, there are even stronger restrictions. I assume that the national team will also go on trips. That she gets on her bike or goes running. But of course it will all take place in secret. And without contacts.
Austria has declared Great Britain a risk area again because of the Indian mutation, which has an impact on entry and quarantine rules for several German national players. Does that also affect you as a church?
No, the DFB is negotiating that with Vienna. This will be discussed with the responsible health department. We have no influence on that. But I think that there is a general rule for footballers during the European Championship. After the German national team, our Austrians also come to us. And they have a European Championship game in England. There will presumably have to be some special permits.
So, you said earlier that the visit of the German national team is the icing on the cake. Who does your heart beat for at the EM? DFB team or Austria?
Ideally, both teams will meet somewhere after the group stage in the tournament.
I would watch the game on TV wearing a Germany jersey.
But then probably alone …
No, already with my best friends. But the sayings that come then, I can stand them.
Tobias Nordmann spoke to Elias Walser.