Despite being 34 years old, Christopher Trimmel - and the team he captains, Union Berlin - appear to only be getting better with every passing game in the Bundesliga.
The Austria international is leading his side's incredible surge towards European qualification in what is only Union's second-ever top-flight campaign. All the while, Trimmel is a freelance tattoo artist in his own time, and has even inked up fans of the club in the stands at the Stadion an der Alten Försterei.
bundesliga.com sits down with one of the most interesting players in the Bundesliga...
bundesliga.com: Christopher Trimmel, it took you a whole season and 25 more matches to finally score your first Bundesliga goal last week in a 2-1 win over Cologne. How much did you celebrate?
Christopher Trimmel: "Not extensively. Obviously, I had one or two beers, that's part of the deal but I think they won't come about very often for me. I'm incredibly pleased, though, that it's finally happened - scoring my first Bundesliga goal. That needs to be celebrated a bit!"
Watch: Trimmel scores his first Bundesliga goal in a win over Cologne!
bundesliga.com: Can you describe the goal and the feeling immediately afterwards?
Trimmel: "For the goal, I think I was a bit forgotten in the background. It's not very easy to defend in a back five. If you press high, if you attack from the opposite side, you end up having an advantage. It worked out well for me. The shot was well struck. Afterwards, it was pure joy. I think that was evident."
bundesliga.com: How sad are you that you could not share this moment of emotion with the fans in the stadium?
Trimmel: "It's a pity. Not only because of my goal but generally. We're quite successful at the moment. We play good football. We miss the fans. We cannot celebrate this success with anyone but we still motivate ourselves by winning games for them, those who are sitting at home in front of the television."
bundesliga.com: You scored your first goal in the Bundesliga but you have set up goals for your team seven times. How satisfied are you with your personal performance this season?
Trimmel: "Very satisfied. 11 assists last season set the bar high for me! I want to catch up to that. I'm on the right path. Set-pieces and playing down the wing are weapons for us because we have players that are very good in the air. That's why I'm happy that it's working well this season too."
bundesliga.com: You are one of the best set-piece takers in Europe. Names like Liverpool's Trent Alexander Arnold and Barcelona's Lionel Messi regularly appear on this list. What is the secret to this special gift of set-piece taking? How does this come about? How often have you and must you train for it?
Trimmel: "I think the training is an important factor. We train for it once or twice a week. Quite often. It's part of the game. There are multiple factors to it: you need a good touch, a good feeling. My job is to make the ball go where it needs to. The second important factor is the runs my teammates make. It has a lot to do with timing and being able to assert yourself. That is why it's not only up to me and why my teammates deserve the credit because they work very hard for it."
bundesliga.com: Almost exactly a year ago, we had an interview after the 25th Matchday. At that time, Union, as a promoted team, was in a sensational 11th place in the table with 30 points. This season, in their second year in the Bundesliga, you have eight more points, are in seventh place and are fighting for a place in European football. How do you explain this stability and how eager is the team to fulfil its dream of Europe?
Trimmel: "The reasoning. Well, I think we strengthened the team well before the season. We now have players like Robin Knoche and Max Kruse. We added players that have sufficient experience from playing in the Bundesliga. I think we, as a team, have developed further. At the beginning of the season, you could feel that we had improved, especially in possession. I'm obviously very pleased. The results don't lie. We have the points. We've not really had a bad game all season. That proves that the team is functioning well. I think our target is and will be to not get relegated. We want to reach 40 points and over. That's the first step. When we reach that, we'll redefine our targets internally and see what the possibilities are. As soon as you're in reach of such positions, you'll be drawn to attack them. It would be a lie to say we didn't want that."
bundesliga.com: At the beginning of April, there will be another big duel in the Berlin city derby against Hertha in their own stadium. The first leg ended in a 3-1 defeat. Such a result should not be repeated, correct?
Trimmel: "No, even in the first game, the game wasn't bad until that red card. If you analyse the game, it's not like we put on a catastrophic performance. It was simply difficult to hold on with fewer players on the pitch. That's why we're hoping we can finish this game with 11 players on the pitch while also fighting to win the match for our fans."
bundesliga.com: Is the derby already on people's minds? Are they already talking about it and what does this game mean to you as an Austrian? How do you experience such a derby, also taking into account the history of this city?
Trimmel: "It's a very, very special game. You can always feel that, even when the game is three weeks away. There are always conversations about the derby. It's always like that. I had that in Vienna for six years. It's one of the most beautiful types of matches you can experience, especially with fans. Obviously, without fans, a very big part of that is missing but we know that it means a lot to them and if you manage to win a game like that, you would be making them very happy at home."
bundesliga.com: Who is the number one in town: the one who gets more points from both confrontations or the one who has the better table position at the end of the season?
Trimmel: "You have to differentiate between those two things. The whole 'city championship' is a league including only Hertha and Union. No one else. That motivates you and fires you on, however, the most important thing is what happens at the end (of the season). That's where our focus lies."
bundesliga.com: Hertha are in the middle of a relegation battle. Would you be happy if your rivals were relegated to the second division or would you, the fans and the city miss these very emotional experiences?
Trimmel: "We would definitely miss them. I'd never look forward to that. Especially now as the fans haven't been here to watch. I would much prefer them to remain in the league to be here and to continue having city derbies."
bundesliga.com: Your contract expires at the end of the season. Are there already thoughts and talks about a contract extension or are the signs pointing to a farewell?
Trimmel: "I cannot comment on that. There are talks, of course. Everyone that understands football knows that talks with players start early on, however, I cannot say more than to say that talks are ongoing because there is nothing more to say at the moment."
bundesliga.com: Would you like to stay with Union and in Berlin?
Trimmel: "I think everyone that knows me knows that I feel at home here in Berlin; at Union Berlin. That is no secret."
bundesliga.com: You have already planned your future after football! You are a professional tattoo artist and have your own tattoo studio. How did his passion come about?
Trimmel: "The art has always been a hobby. I've always liked to draw and to paint. I wanted to study art at some point as well. I had my first tattoo done 15 years ago by a friend of mine. He suggested I start drawing with him, something I ended up doing. He saw a lot of talent in me. That's how I got into tattooing, step by step. I started in Vienna. I was at his studio a lot. I watched, learned, designed and tattooed. Now, in Berlin, I've been a freelance tattoo artist for the past two years. That's how it started."
bundesliga.com: How much time do you currently devote to tattooing per week?
Trimmel: "Now, during Corona, I'm not able to tattoo because the danger is too high. For me, as a footballer, the DFL. The politics have very strict hygiene protocols. Something I understand. However, I design and draw a lot. It used to be Monday and Tuesday doing tattoos while Wednesday was for designing. I'm at it around three days a week."
bundesliga.com: Have you done all the tattoos on your own body yourself and is your work of art already complete or are you going to continue/add to it?
Trimmel: "I haven't had anything done personally on my body. It's all been done by a really good friend of mine. If it's complete, we'll see. At the moment, yes, however, in the art industry, it's never over. It would be over when there's no more space on the body to tattoo!"
bundesliga.com: Many footballers have tattoos. Have you ever discovered a special work of art on a colleague?
Trimmel: "There are a lot of interesting tattoos. I check them out but the one that stands out are, for example, Ibrahimovic's back interests me a lot because I follow his tattoo artist on social media. That is top-class art."
bundesliga.com: After promotion to the Bundesliga, as a gesture of gratitude, you offered to give fans promotion tattoos in exchange for material valuables. How many fans took you up on this offer?
Trimmel: "There were very, very many! What I did was I set five tattoos up for a raffle. There was a winner. I've already given him one. There were so many applications. At the moment, I think I have given 40 or 50 fans tattoos. It's a special story so, afterwards, we talked about the promotion; about that moment. A lot of them were in the stands. That's why it was so fun."
bundesliga.com: Will you repeat this offer if you achieve qualification for European football this season?
Trimmel: "No. No. Nowadays, I already know so many of them. A lot of Unioners come to get new tattoos from me but, like I said, my daily schedule is not ideal. At the moment, I have no time. Usually, like I said, I can only work Monday and Tuesday. I don't push the people away but they do need to be patient."
bundesliga.com: Besides drawing and tattooing, music is another passion for you. What is your favourite band and describe the music?
Trimmel: "There are a lot of good bands. I enjoy Punk Rock a lot, Heavy Metal. There are a lot of bands. 'Sick of It All' is from New York. I know this will not sound familiar to most people but it's a scene I grew up in. I still listen to that kind of music. It grounds me; calms me down. I listen to it while I design my tattoos that's why it's definitely a factor that is very important for me."
bundesliga.com: And what about the club anthem "Eisern Union" by Nina Hagen? What emotions does that release in you?
Trimmel: "Of course, I mean, if you've ever been on the pitch for Union and heard that song, you do get goosebumps. Especially when the fans start singing. It's one of the first things that motivates you when you first walk out on to the pitch. That's why that song is very important for me."
bundesliga.com: What headline would you most like to read about yourself at the end of the season?
Trimmel: "I don't know. I think simply that we've developed further and that I have done a good job as team captain. That's what I work on the most: leading the team. Like I said, the development of the team is very important to me. Very down to earth headlines. I don't want anything extravagant, just facts that tell the truth."
bundesliga.com: As captain of your team, you have a special relationship with your coach Urs Fischer. How do you rate his contribution to the development of Union Berlin?
Trimmel: "He plays a huge role. The manner in which he envisions football. The way he prepares us for the games is unique in itself and very good. The difficulty nowadays is to create a fitting game-plan for the players, one that isn't too complicated yet also one that's not vague. It must be balanced. You need to be perfectly coached for those 90 minutes. You can see that with us, the things that have stuck and that seem to work automatically. The second thing that sets him apart is our development that keeps increasing. There's no such thing as a 'perfect' game. There's always something to improve. That's something else he shows us. That's something every player feels and takes note of. Every one of us can continue developing."
bundesliga.com: You play with Marvin Friedrich in defence, among others. Is that someone who could make the leap to the German national team and the European Championships?
Trimmel: "If his development continues this way, definitely. It's something I believe him to be able to do. I feel it and see it every day in the training sessions. As vice-captain, he's taking on more and more responsibilities. He manages his role completely. In this sense, he has a very positive future ahead of him in terms of football. I definitely see him playing for the national team."
bundesliga.com: Speaking of the European Championship: you are also participating with your home country, Austria. Your group opponents are Northern Macedonia, the Netherlands and Ukraine. How do you rate your chances at the tournament?
Trimmel: "It's difficult. The Netherlands are definitely the favourites. We don't need to side-step that fact. Our goal will be to give it our best and to definitely to win against Ukraine and North Macedonia. I think we're able to. We have quality. Even against the Netherlands. I've never been to a tournament like this before. I think it's a very special moment. We can always have a very good day and while the opponents have a bad one. That's why we will always believe and give it our all."
bundesliga.com: Who do you see as the favourites to win the European Championship?
Trimmel: "For me, Germany will always be at the top. Even though there is a lot of criticism flying around, I still think that their experience and team-spirit will play a very big role."
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