Holger Engel is a Hertha fan and lives in the USA. In an interview, the guy from Neukölln tells how he brought the feeling of the Olympic stadium to Florida, why he thinks Pal Darday can stay in the league and why a meat tenderizer is needed in case of defeats.
rbb | 24: Mr. Engel, you are a fan of Herta who lives in exile in the United States. How long have you been loyal to the old lady?
Holger Engel: As a native of Neukölln, I’ve been a fan of Hertha since I was 10 or 12 years old. In the beginning, my father always took me to the stadium, and I developed a passion for the club early on, collecting autographs and heading to the airport when the team returned to Berlin after away matches. Twelve years ago we (Engel and his wife, editor’s note) moved to Florida and have been running the “Taste of Berlin” restaurant there for eleven years now. My sister-in-law had immigrated to America before that, so we visited her often. We’ve always liked it. At some point, we closed our shop in Berlin and started a new life in Florida. We find it more free and comfortable here.
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You used to be very close to the team. An entire ocean now separates you from Berlin and Hertha. What does match day look like in your daily life, with the time difference, the telecast and everything that goes with it?
Our games start at 3:30 at 9:30 am. I get up early, make myself a coffee and take my dog outside. And then the TV turns on, ESPN+ broadcasts all the Bundesliga games. So I watch all Hertha matches! Online – and podcasts like “Derby capital“,” ExilHerthaner “or” HerthaBASE “- I also try to get as much information as possible and stay informed. If Hertha doesn’t play well, it’s not bad. Then I get to work and knock on a few slides! By the name of Hertha” when I was in Florida For a training camp in the winter, of course, I was there a lot. You immediately have a sense of belonging again. That was really cool. You can talk to Sandro Schwarz and the players and take pictures – and they really cared about what it’s like to live and work in Florida.
Holger Engel wallpapered his home with the Olympic Stadium.
You just mentioned that you go to a small chip to cool down a little bit after the poor performances by Herta. Do you watch matches alone?
Sometimes my son watches too and I have two Hertha friends who sometimes come over to play games. I have a big picture of the Olympic stadium hanging on my wall at home – it gives you a completely different feeling! Everyone who comes here to watch football loves it. But after the matches I can always distract myself quickly because Saturday is a normal working day for us and there is always a lot to do.
Could your US environment do something with Herta?
The club is still relatively unknown here. When people watch the Bundesliga here, they usually watch Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund matches. These are the well known clubs here. But: I have a Hertha flag hanging outside my house, there are several stickers on my car, there is a scarf hanging in our restaurant and we have a table with the Hertha logo on it.
Then you are like an ambassador for Hertha in the United States.
Yes, exactly, one or the other asks what Herta is all about. Americans are usually friendly and open anyway, and they are always happy to talk to you.
Holger Engel with Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Hertha BSC is moving ahead with plans to build a football stadium just for itself. If so, will you return your wallpaper?
maybe yes! I hope it looks just as beautiful. The atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium is one of a kind, especially when it’s sold out. But if there were only 40,000 spectators, things would look different. There were times when only 5,000 or 10,000 fans came to the Olympic Stadium.
When was the last time you were there by yourself?
That should be in 2021 against Borussia Mönchengladbach. There were only about 15,000 spectators in the stadium due to the pandemic. However, it was a special experience for me because I hadn’t been to an Olympic stadium in ten years. Then I was in an away game at Hoffenheim when we unfortunately lost 3-0. But you always suck at air especially when you’ve been living clean for so long.
Is it true that you yourself adjusted the opening times of your restaurant to match the starting times of the Hertha Games? And how does that go down with your guests?
Basically, it’s not so bad. When the restaurant opens in the evening, nothing in Germany happens at night anymore. I allow the restaurant on Saturday mornings when there are games. The restaurant is always closed on Sundays. And on Fridays we offer a lunch menu and then close shop around 2:00pm and don’t open again until about 4:30pm. In the meantime, I can always watch Friday games without any problems. Everything fits perfectly.
But if anyone can still save Herta, it’s Bal Darday!
Do you also serve something typical of Berlin in your restaurant, maybe even some kind of Hertha dish?
Unfortunately, not Hertha’s dish, but we mainly serve German specialties. There is a military base in Tampa. Many of the soldiers have already been stationed in Germany and are therefore familiar with German cuisine. They are happy when they get a curry, schnitzel or goulash from us – everything they already know is from Germany. With our German cuisine, here we are, so to speak, exotic. Americans love it and they’re glad we’re here.
To return to Hertha: Pal Darday, an old acquaintance, was recently head coach of the blue and whites again. How do you feel about the crucial weeks ahead?
I must say I was hoping to see Sandro Schwartz continue as coach at Hertha. He’s a really passable coach, a really good guy. But if anyone can still save Herta, it’s Bal Darday! I hope we win the necessary games – and maybe again through relegation – to stay in the league. I certainly trust Pál to do that.
In the event of relegation, matches will start a few hours earlier than next season.
That would be really hard if the beep was already at 7:30 in the morning. In later games, I had to see how I could watch games in the restaurant at work. Of course, very few second-division matches are broadcast on American television, and that would add to that.
Thank you for this interview!
The interview was conducted by Jonas Bürgener, rbb Sport.
Broadcast: rbb UM6, April 22, 2023, at 6 p.m
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