Munich / Frankfurt – Kirk Heidelberg has already achieved a lot in German football. As a coach, the now 64-year-old won the German championship twice.
Now the Native American is starting a new adventure – the European League of Football.
Before the start of the new league season (live on ProSieben MAXX and ran.de from 19 June), he talks with races about the duel with Wroclaw, the development of football in Germany and the uniqueness of the ELF.
race: Sir. Heidelberg, how hard is it for a coach to form a whole new team for a new league in such a short time?
Heidelberg: It’s a lot of work, of course. There is a new playbook that all players will have to get acquainted with. But we have a good team and above all a lot of good German players.
race: On the 1st match day, the Polish representatives meet the Panthers Wroclaw. This team is mostly well rehearsed, has dominated the Polish league since 2016 and has been champion every year since then. Is this the most difficult access possible?
Heidelberg: I assume it is a very good team. However, it is difficult for all teams in this league to assess the opponent correctly before the 1st match day. Of course we watch videos from last season. But of course we do not know what role each player will play this year. So the focus is on us.
race: You were active in the Bundesliga and the German Football League for a very long time and won the championship with the Cologne Crocodiles and the Hamburg Blue Devils. What attracted you to the European League of Football?
Heidelberg: It’s just so exciting to be a part of this new league and train some even better players. Of course, I also have a good connection to Commissioner Patrick Esume, who I used to train with the Hamburg Blue Devils. He has an amazing vision that I also believe in. For me, it was important that it was a professional league. I was into amateur sports for a very long time, but I finished. Now only professional sports appeal to me.
race: How do you rate in the European League of Football?
Heidelberg: I do not want to compare ELF with any other league, because in the end it does not matter. I also can not judge the quality of the other teams yet. We just want to show every fan in Europe that ELF is at the top. In basketball, we have also managed to build a strong and very popular league in Europe. Football also has that chance.
race: What role does former German NFL professional Christopher Ezeala play on your team? He is considered a very versatile player type.
Heidelberg: He is a really good football player, very fast and powerful. We plan him as a running back, but he can play different roles. We will see how we best use him as the season progresses. He will be of great help.
race: What can you tell us about the internal competition for the quarterback position?
Heidelberg: We have not yet decided who the starting quarterback should be. Our American quarterback is Daniel Farley, who played for Solingen Paladins in Germany. He was also in Sweden with the Carlstadt Crusaders and won the championship there last year. Farley is a really good quarterback. Then we have the Germans Jan Weinreich and Jannik Nowak.
race: With Bennie Anderson, Jerry Evans, Vince Marrow and German Peter Heyer, you coached several players who later got contracts in the NFL. Who could now take the leap from the Cologne Centurions to the NFL?
Heidelberg: To get into the NFL, you need extremely talented and extremely good skills. ELF is a great showcase to show yourself. We’ll see who can seize this opportunity.
race: They came to Germany in the mid-1990s and then took over the Hamburg Blue Devils. What was the reason you, as an American, moved to Europe in the first place?
Heidelberg: I just wanted to work as a football coach. In Hamburg, I had the opportunity to make this my profession. I was single then. So nothing kept me in America. You should also know that American football was very popular back then, especially in Hamburg. We had between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators for each home game.
race: How do you assess the development that American football has taken in Germany since then?
Heidelberg: Football in Germany is better than it was then. We now have so many great coaches and players in this country. Of course, the fact that the NFL and the Super Bowl inspire so many people in Germany also plays its part.
race: You even returned to North America in the meantime, was among other things a guest coach in the Canadian Football League at the Toronto Argonauts. Was it your desire at the time to establish yourself permanently in American professional football?
Heidelberg: no I just wanted a new experience. Canadian football is a different game than American football. There are twelve players on each side instead of eleven and the field is much larger. It was an interesting time. But I would rather coach American football.
The interview was conducted by Oliver Jensen
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