Interview: Ferdinand Tille, volleyball libero and World Cup silver medalist, quits. – Sports

Ferdinand Tille is in his home office on Monday, taking his lunch break, and his two-year-old son Jonathan soon starts screaming in the background. He is a little unwell and is therefore not in daycare. Everyday life in the life of a young father and employee who has now swapped the playing field for the office chair. Tille, 34, is one of the most famous German volleyball figures, 165-time national player, third place in the World Cup, three-time cup winner with Generali Haching. And always someone who had fire in him on the field. At the end of last week, his long-time employer, WWK Volleys Herrsching, announced the end of Tille’s career with the words: “Dear fans, you have to be very strong now! Because libero Ferdinand Tille is announcing the end of his career and after eight years of Herrsching and 27 years of volleyball he wants to now take a different path.”

SZ: Mr. Tille, has the fire in volleyball simply gone out after this quarter of a century?

Ferdinand Tille: No, I didn’t have the feeling that I didn’t feel like it anymore. There are simply other things in life that are even more beautiful. My son Jonathan will be three in November and Alma will be one in October. And between full-time work (Tille is a supply chain expert at Infineon, ed.), building a house and the children, everything became a bit tight on time. I realized I could no longer play at the level I expected of myself. Even if from the outside these were perhaps only nuances. And that it’s not good for my family and me if I’m away so often.

SZ: Let’s look back at the beginning. You come from a volleyball family and grew up in Mühldorf. When did you hold your first volleyball?

I was there in the volleyball hall almost as a newborn when my father played or trained. Always in the ball cage so I was protected.

Then it was even 33 years of volleyball.

It can be said like this. Later we had a volleyball net set up in the garden; my brothers Leonhard and Johannes always played against me. But I tried other things first, football, athletics. When the football selection didn’t go any further, I started playing volleyball at TSV Mühldorf and took courses. Then I went to the Kempfenhausen volleyball boarding school. I wanted to become a beach volleyball player, but I was too small and skinny. At some point in the summer, when I was 17, Generali Haching’s coach Mihai Paduretu called me and asked me if I would like to be a libero in the first division. Mihai threw me into the deep end.

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Tille in the Hachinger jersey in 2009

(Photo: Imago)

Paduretu went through the Romanian Stelian Moculescu school – which teaches you not to be squeamish with your players. Did you feel that too?

His hard hand, this severity, that was just right for me back then – and for many other young players. Throwing someone out of training has happened several times under Mihai, including me. “If you don’t feel like it, go home,” he then said. And I: “Okay.” The next day there was a clarifying conversation. I always felt sorry for it, you don’t want to let your team down.

In 2010 you were named the best libero at the World Championships and received $15,000. What happened after that?

I fell into a hole. I was in my early 20s and felt like I had achieved everything. And just thought, what do you all actually want from me? I didn’t expect this award at all, nobody expected it. A move to Italy was canceled because I injured my thumb. I could have also gone to Russia, to Berlin or Friedrichshafen, but there was no concrete offer on the table. I was frustrated and didn’t want to play libero anymore.

Then, after five years of Haching, you moved to France for two seasons, to Arago de Sète in the Mediterranean. Still as a libero, but abroad. A feel-good decision?

It was a great experience to immerse yourself in life in France. And I can only recommend that everyone broaden their horizons abroad. You have to find your way into a different language and get out of your comfort zone. At some point in Germany it was always the same teams and the same faces that you met. Just life in Sète on the Mediterranean, the sun, the food and wine culture there, that still shapes me to this day. My friend Judith was there, every free day we went somewhere and explored the country.

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Tille 2015 in the Champions League Final Four in Berlin with Belchatow.

(Foto: Conny Kurth/Imago)

After another year in Haching, you moved on to Skra Belchatow in the Polish league in 2014, which is considered one of the best in the world.

It was a great volleyball challenge, but you can’t compare it to life in France. It was a shame that it ended after just one year. The coach would like to keep me, they said, but the president would rather have his own son play in my position. Ultimately, it was a good time to go back because my girlfriend and I were already suffering a little because of our long-distance relationship.

Here too, like after the 2010 World Cup, you struggled with your role as a libero. Always only defense and acceptance, never allowed to serve or attack. Why did you sometimes find this to be torture?

Training always became monotonous at some point, regardless of the trainer, even if the exercises were interesting at first. At some point I just got tired of just pushing thank you balls in training. That spoiled my desire. After my time in Poland, I found new motivation in Herrsching. I actually thought, one more year of volleyball, finishing my studies, that would be it. In the end it was eight years.

What did Herrsching’s coach Max Hauser do differently?

At some point he noticed that I can be very moody in training – and perhaps infect others with it. And that if he keeps me happy, the training goes well too. I was then allowed to take part in training as normal, and sometimes be an outside attacker, and didn’t have to endure this boring libero training.

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His best experience: In 2014, Tille (from right) won World Cup bronze with Lukas Kampa, Georg Grozer, Dirk Westphal and their colleagues – the greatest German success in 44 years.

(Foto: Conny Kurth/Imago)

Lenny Graven is your successor in Herrsching – he is considered one of the greatest German talents in this position.

Lenny does it well, he is still very young at the same time. I tried to give him as much as possible. Now he has to become even more consistent. And louder on the field.

You say that, who was always considered impulsive on the field, arguing with opponents and referees.

Oh, at first it was always said that I was too calm, but at the same time I was very, very ambitious, almost over-ambitious. That went away a bit later. But then they said I was too loud. In any case, I was never the one who conformed to the norm.

Your best experience?

That immediately comes to mind: the World Cup bronze medal in Poland. We were a bit tipsy when we watched the final, and not everyone knows everything about the award ceremony. I was later honored in Belchatow, where I then played club volleyball. A star with my name and jersey number was even embedded in the ground on a square in the city. In Germany, no one cared about our success.

Worst experience?

By a wide margin: missing the Olympic qualification in Berlin at the beginning of 2016. I just felt sick afterwards. Later we all had nothing but emptiness in our heads. Of course I would have liked to experience the Olympics, that was my big dream. But it wasn’t meant to be.

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Trauma in Berlin: Tille never fully got over missing the Olympic qualification.

(Foto: Conny Kurth/Imago)

The German women are currently playing their Olympic qualification in Poland, the men in Brazil at the end of September. Your chances are considered minimal. Why didn’t the DVV team make the big leap internationally like the basketball players?

German volleyball lacks the player potential that other teams in Europe, such as Italy or Poland, have. This is due to the position and also the pay. If you look at the men’s European Championship final between Poland and Italy, I’m pretty sure that everyone who was on the field will become millionaires with volleyball. In the German team there are perhaps two players. Our sport is not that valued in Germany. This is why many talented people quit earlier than is actually necessary.

Not so your youngest brother Johannes: He is Germany’s new passing hope – and plays volleys for the champions Berlin.

I’m really happy for him, I’m very proud when I see him play. And I’m sure there’s still more to come and he’ll make a lot of progress.

And Leonhard, the middle one?

He has stopped playing volleyball and will most likely move to South Tyrol to our grandpa’s house at the beginning of the year and work there as a gardener and landscaper.

As you can hear, the Tille family doesn’t just settle in South Tyrol. How is your home progressing?

It’s already in Gernlinden, but I didn’t have to do much, it’s a turnkey prefabricated house. I have saved up the equity for the house over the years. I laid a few cables and promised the children that I would make them a bed. I like building things out of wood.

Finally, probably the most important question: Have you already found a nice place in your new home for your trademark that you have worn for years – the yellow shoelace that you have always used as a headband?

The problem is that I lost the yellow shoelace during a preseason game last season. As far as I can remember, it was in Seefeld. So if the caretaker finds him, he’s welcome to send him here, but that’s probably a little late now. The replacement in white, well, it’s still in my gym bag. And it’s now at the back of the closet.


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