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Eintracht Frankfurt professional Ansgar Knauff challenged with DFB juniors

Dhe life is child’s play. At least that’s what it looked like on Saturday morning in the training camp of the German U-21 national team, when the young football stars were visited by 25 kids from the “Kinderlachen” foundation and kicked around with them on the training ground in Halle/Westphalia as the mood took them. Right in the middle and happy to be there: Ansgar Knauff, at just 20 years of age, one of the young season’s climbers at Europa League champion Eintracht Frankfurt. He, who wanted to be a professional soccer player from an early age, was happy about the informal introduction to a hard working week. “If I were still young and had such an opportunity, it would have been the greatest thing for me,” said Knauff before his fifth appearance for the U-21 team.

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The young man from the Lower Saxony university town of Göttingen has retained a down-to-earth attitude, even in the face of his meteorically accelerated career, which will help him on his way up as a life compass. For now, his focus is on Germany’s oldest junior national team, which aims to qualify for the finals of the 2023 U-21 European Championships in Romania and Georgia by the end of this week. There is still one point missing, which should at least jump out on Friday in the home game against Hungary in Osnabrück.

Knauff, son of a Ghanaian and raised in the care of his German mother, looks back on a turbulent football year between the fourth and first divisions, between the Champions League and the Europa League, between Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt. He was there in January, unlike before when he was second in the league, in the limelight – especially with the great successes in the knockout phase of the Europa League, to which he, each time playing the full game, scored a goal in the Quarter-final first leg against FC Barcelona (1-1) and in the semi-final first leg in London against West Ham United (2-1).

Awarded by UEFA

The sometimes irresistible sprinter and dribbler on the right wing says when he looks back on his first half of the year at Eintracht with their intoxicating trip to Europe and the final triumph against Glasgow Rangers in Seville: “That was incredible for me. I experienced a lot with the move to Frankfurt.”

After a relatively short summer break, the European Supercup awaits in Helsinki on August 10th, the duel between Knauffs Eintracht and the Champions League record winner Real Madrid and then, from September onwards, the first Champions League round for the Hessians after their glorious European League campaign, at the end of which Knauff was named “Europa League Young Player of the Season” by the European Football Union. How will he cope with all the successes and honors at a young age? Knauff says: “I’ve always been myself and stayed the same. Whether it was going well or not. Now it’s important to just keep at it.”

He, who was already a little high-flyer in dealing with the ball and opponents as a child, seems as credible as he did on Saturday at the Halle venue just outside Bielefeld. What speaks for a certain lack of vanity of the spectator player with the talent for steep climbing and tricking his opponents is his willingness to pitch in as a team player. “When I sat on the bench with the Borussia Dortmund pros and was asked if I wanted to play in the second team to get match practice, I always said yes. I want to play and develop in every game, whether it was in the first, the third or, like last year, in the regional league. You can get something out of everything for yourself.”

This is one of the reasons why the Eintracht shooting star always remains appropriately self-critical. He says: “I still have to improve in all areas. Especially in defensive play. There’s still room for improvement there. Offensively, I can get even better with my left foot in goal closure.” However, Knauff’s qualities outshine his deficits. And he likes to call them by their names: “My greatest strength is my good pace. I go into the games relatively carefree, try to play my moves and dribble in one-on-one situations.” With his carefree way of kicking, the right-hand rail player has long since become the counterpart of the more powerful and experienced Filip Kostic become the left side.

Knauff’s loan contract with Eintracht runs until July 1, 2023, before he returns to Dortmund, where he made his debuts in the Champions League and Bundesliga in 2020 and 2021. His sponsor Edin Terzic, who has returned to the head coaching position at BVB, congratulated him after winning the Europa League with Eintracht. “We are on good terms,” ​​says the player, “which is also quite normal. But I’ll still be playing in Frankfurt next season. I don’t worry about anything else now.”

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