Lillestrom - They say home is where the heart is. For TSG 1899 Hoffenheim's Tarik Elyounoussi, however, that might not be strictly true. Despite being in his homeland of Norway on a pre-season training camp with his team-mates, the 27-year-old can hardly stop thinking about the "packed stadiums" and unique atmosphere of the Bundesliga.
Indeed, the attacking midfielder is already itching for the big kick-off, as he told Hoffenheim's official website achtzehn99.de in this interview...
Question: Tarik Elyounoussi, you must have been to your homeland of Norway at least once this summer holiday?
Tarik Elyounoussi: The first thing I did was to visit my family in Morocco. My original plan after that was to go to Mexico, but I was called up for the Norway national side. Of course, I didn't mind that disruption to my plans too much! After that I went to Rome, which I really liked, and then on to Norway. Fredrikstadt is my hometown and I always feel really comfortable there, even though some of my family lives in Morocco.
Question: In the pre-season friendly against Lillestrom you played against your former club, and it'll be the same again on 28 July when Fredrikstad are the opposition. Are they special games for you?
Elyounoussi: Absolutely. I only played in Lillestrom for a few months actually, but I had a good time when I was there. Like I said, Fredrikstad is my home and they're also my club. It was there I learned to play football and at 12 or 13 years old I used to watch the professionals. The club will always have a special place in my heart and I have lots of friends there who'll come to watch the game. I'm really looking forward to this friendly to conclude our time in Norway.
Question: Since you're an expert on Norway, can you tell us what is typically Norwegian?
Elyounoussi: Here in Norway, life revolves around the weather. When the sun shines, life takes place outside. Everyone loves it and everyone is happy. Lots of Norwegians have a little holiday hut for the summer, and some even have a second one for the winter. You can unwind there, switch off and spend time with friends. That's typically Norwegian.
Question: Can you give Hoffenheim fans some tips for a holiday in Norway, then?
Elyounoussi: I'd say the best thing to do is simply to spend time outside. The nature here - I'm thinking of the fjords, the sea, the mountains - is just breathtaking. You have to go walking here or take a trip on a boat and go sailing. Particularly further north, it's amazing. When I was here, we played a few times in Sogndal, where it's unbelievably beautiful. The stadium is right in the middle of the mountains, it's crazy.
Question: Speaking of football - what does it mean to the people here?
Elyounoussi: Although there are plenty of winter sports here - mountaineering, biathlon and cross-country skiing to name a few - purely in terms of numbers football comes out on top. So many children and young people play football. When the national side play, everyone wants to watch it, and when the club sides are successful in Europe then it's a big deal. Of course though, when it’s snowing, everyone loves winter sports.
'There are no easy games'
Question: Are you excited about the new Bundesliga season already?
Elyounoussi: Of course, although at the moment I'm pretty tired. We're training a lot and we're working hard. I need to look after my body well and make sure I'm able to give everything in each training session. But we know why we work so hard: it's for that feeling of walking into a packed Bundesliga stadium. That's what I live for as a footballer. It's all about the big games and that tension when points are on the line.
Question: Hoffenheim's start is far from straightforward though...
Elyounoussi: Correct, but when we play 1860 Munich in the DFB Cup [on Saturday 8 August], we won't be thinking about Bayer 04 Leverkusen or FC Bayern München. What's important is that we take every game as it comes. The tough start could actually be a benefit as we get right into things early and our focus will have to be spot on. That's another thing about the Bundesliga: there are no easy games.