“At 40 the oven is out”

As a child, Florian Stritzel had to defy his father’s ban. “He knew that you were always the celebrated hero or the idiot of the nation in goal,” says Stritzel. He still became a goalkeeper – and at the moment Stritzel falls into the first category. The regular goalkeeper of SV Wehen Wiesbaden is one of the best in the second Bundesliga. There are once again high hopes for him in the home game this Friday (6.30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the second Bundesliga and on Sky) against 1. FC Nürnberg.

However, there were other times in his career. It was a long road to happiness for Florian Stritzel. At the age of thirteen he moved to Hamburger SV. Left alone from home, Stritzel was the youngest player at the boarding school. He fought his way to the professionals, but once there, national players René Adler and Jaroslav Drobný dueled for the coveted place between the posts. “I learned a lot from both of them,” says Stritzel, “but of course I didn’t get to play.”

Then he really messes up

The path took him to Karlsruher SC, and he later moved to Darmstadt. But he didn’t get to play there either. Established professionals stood before him. “A lot has to happen for something to change in the goal. I wasn’t really aware of that at the time,” says the 30-year-old professional. When “Lilien” coach Torsten Frings gave him the chance in a game against Union Berlin in 2017, the goalkeeper made a mistake. His father’s worries had been confirmed in that moment. Stritzel junior had to wait almost two years until his next assignment.

In 2021 he moved to Wiesbaden in the third professional league. The step back paid off, Stritzel finally became number one. Since last summer he has been back in the second division after a strange season finale. On the last day of the match, players and supporters celebrated the promotion together on the pitch – without knowing that their competitor’s game was still going on.

“At some point a fan touched me on the shoulder,” says Stritzel, “and said Osnabrück had won. I thought it was a bad joke.” Wiesbaden had to go into relegation. The frustration quickly turned sour. First “Depp”, then hero: “I knew: No matter who comes, we’ll go up.” Bielefeld came, Wiesbaden went up.

In his first season as a regular goalkeeper in the second division, the 1.97 meter man is the guarantee for a six-point lead over the relegation places. A trade magazine named him the best goalkeeper of the first half of the season. The numbers confirm this: Stritzel made the most saves (73), and he also has the best save rate of all the league’s goalkeepers (77 percent).

Stritzel plays particularly well in front of a large crowd. He was voted player of the game in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and Hamburg’s Millerntor Stadium. “What could be better than showing what you can do in sold-out stadiums?” says Stritzel.

“When things get tight, I look for the target player up front”

This self-confidence, along with his goalkeeper coach Marjan Petkovic, is the reason for the strong performances. But in order to develop that, he first had to mature. “Today I think to myself before a game: What could happen, you are perfectly prepared, you feel good. You can’t do that at the beginning of your career,” reports Stritzel. Now he has “the self-confidence to say: You have to get past me first.”

And yet he remains self-critical. What could he and his teammates improve? “Everything.” The focus is on playing more courageously with the ball. Although only two teams in the league have conceded fewer goals – only three teams have scored fewer. “We have to develop the ability to play well in possession of the ball, even under pressure from opponents when building up the game,” says Stritzel, who plays an important role in this. He wants to open the game more often with short passes. For the newcomer, however, pragmatism is paramount: “We don’t have to die in beauty. When things get tight, I look for the target player up front to take a breather.”

His good performances brought him into the sights of Michael Gspurning – even though he saw the mistake against Union Berlin up close as Köpenicker’s substitute goalkeeper at the time. Today he is the goalkeeper coach for the Austrian national team.

Stritzel played a few international matches for Germany, but the Northern Lights also holds the passport of his father’s home country. “I like the people, the food, the conviviality. That makes me rave,” says Stritzel about Austria. “I’m on the radar at Gspurning. It would make me brutally proud.”

“At 40 the oven is out”

Stritzel’s contract expires after this season. He is talking to Wehen Wiesbaden about a long-term collaboration. “The talks are going well, but we’re not in the final stretch yet,” says the goalkeeper. For Stritzel, family is more important than big money: “Of course you can quickly earn a hundred thousand euros in football. But at 40 the oven is out. Then maybe you are divorced and rarely see your children. Life offers so much more than that.”

Frank Heike, Hamburg Published/Updated: Recommendations: 3 Alex Westhoff Published/Updated: Recommendations: 4 Daniel Theweleit Published/Updated: , Recommendations: 118

Out of consideration for his children, Stritzel still lives in Darmstadt. He would also be open to a move further afield. “I’m always happy to listen to everything and if the family agrees, I would never say in advance, for example, that I’m not going to Saudi Arabia. That would be ‘work and travel’.” However, it is “very likely” that Stritzel will stay in Wiesbaden next season. Florian Stritzel could become a celebrated player again in a duel with the “Club”.


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