As soon as Matthew Hoppe learned of Schalke's interest, his plane ticket across the Atlantic was already being booked.
Not only the example of Weston McKennie made Hoppe's decision to move to the Bundesliga a "no-brainer", as the 19-year-old told bundesliga.com in an exclusive interview.
bundesliga.com: How did you first make contact with Schalke?
Matthew Hoppe: "I was coming off of two really, really good seasons in America and I had my eyes set on Europe. I got in contact with my agent from Bond MG, Bond Management and he got me the opportunity to do a trial at Schalke. I impressed Norbert [Elgert] and he wanted to bring me out so I came to Schalke."
bundesliga.com: Why Schalke and what did you already know about the club?
Hoppe: "They're obviously one of the best teams in the Bundesliga so it was obviously a no-brainer decision to come out here so that I can compete. I think that the club fit me because I work hard. That's one of my best attributes I think."
bundesliga.com: What is the perception of the Bundesliga in the USA?
Hoppe: "How is the Bundesliga seen? Obviously, I think that the appeal of it is growing in the United States. Soccer in general is growing in the United States."
bundesliga.com: What do you notice is most different here to the USA?
Hoppe: "Well the biggest difference is in Germany they focus more on tactics and the technical side of it. Especially last year under Norbert, he took a wholesome approach and he was so focused on the tactics and the development of the players. I think that was something that I really needed."
bundesliga.com: How did you end up in football?
Hoppe: "I grew up playing a whole bunch of sports: baseball, football, soccer. Soccer was something that I had a passion for and my dad had a passion for it as well. We just bonded over it and he trained me almost every day, that's how I got to be the player I am today."
bundesliga.com: Your name would seem to hint that you have German roots?
Hoppe: "Yeah, it's a German last name. I have some German in me on my dad's side."
bundesliga.com: Was it a difficult decision to make the move to Schalke?
Hoppe: "My agent gave me the opportunity to go on trial over here and at the trial, I impressed. When the opportunity came to sign the contract it was a no-brainer and it was a decision that I don't regret at all and that I am happy I made."
bundesliga.com: How different is youth football to the professional game?
Hoppe: "Well there's obviously a big difference in level. The U19s to the U23s it's a lot more physical, but I had a lot of time to work on that because I was back home during the quarantine. I had four months to put on some weight and develop that side of my game. The change from the U23s to the Bundesliga is massive, the game's so much faster and you have to be so much smarter."
bundesliga.com What is your favourite position on the football pitch?
Hoppe: "I could play anywhere up top, but the position I want to play in, the position I think I'm best at is the nine, the striker."
bundesliga.com: When and how did you hear about the decision to promote you to the senior team?
Hoppe: "I was training with the U23s and the coach pulled me aside from there and said: you're going to the first team tomorrow."
bundesliga.com: How did the team receive you?
Hoppe: "Obviously when I came I thought that the atmosphere would be low, but everyone was really nice to me and we all just wanted to work hard. That's what we're doing right now."
bundesliga.com Do you keep in touch with the other Americans in the league? How about Weston McKennie?
Hoppe: "I've talked to a few of them but we don't have regular contact. I've talked to Weston a few times."
Watch: Hoppe "was ready" for Bundesliga debut
bundesliga.com: What have you learned by making your debut under Coronavirus restrictions after your first taste of football in this league?
Hoppe: "It's harder, it's faster, it's just… I don't know how to describe it. For me, everything changed so quickly and my first game was an away game at Gladbach, so that would have been a pretty tough situation to make my debut with fans. It would still have been a dream come true and I still would have done everything I can to help the team. Obviously, I miss the fans at the Veltins [Arena] and I wish that they could be there to support us and watch us."
bundesliga.com: As such a young player, what can you do to help a team which finds itself in such a difficult situation?
Hoppe: "The only thing I can do is just work hard to try to bring the team up. Do whatever I can. Just one victory and then I think everything will change. I'm very optimistic, I think we can do it."
bundesliga.com: Do you keep in touch with your family?
Hoppe: "With my family it is good. I call my mum and dad every day, sometimes twice a day, just to tell them how training went. They like to hear about all of that, you know? I think my dad wants to come out to see the game next week because we have a midweek match. We'll have to see how that turns out."
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