November 11 marks the start of Carnival season, and in one of Germany's Carnival hotbeds Cologne, there has been plenty to celebrate on the field this season too, as their goalkeeper Timo Horn explains.
bundesliga.com: Timo, first of all, a question for fans all over the world: What makes 11 November a special day in Cologne?
Timo Horn: “Yeah, it is the start of the carnival season. It is an important day for everyone from Cologne, I grew up with it, my parents would celebrate it and naturally you become a part of it. It is a core part of the city and on that day, it is jam-packed, everyone celebrates it and there is a very positive atmosphere flowing through the city. A lovely day.”
bundesliga.com: How is the start of carnival celebrated?
Horn: “All the bars are open at 11:11 and that’s when it all begins, people are celebrating, everyone is dressed up and it is the beginning of a long carnival season.”
bundesliga.com: As a native of Cologne, it must be part of your DNA?
Horn: “We always have a bit of luck that the international break is at this time as well, so those who are not national team players have the opportunity to celebrate it. At Effzeh, we have a tradition that everyone comes to training in costume. It always makes an impact on the younger and newer players and it is always a nice day.”
bundesliga.com: Let's go to the next game in Mainz, also a carnival team from a carnival town. Does this fact make the rivalry perhaps even greater, to be the better carnival team?
Horn: “There is only one team that really identifies with it and that is Effzeh. In Cologne, you say ‘alaaf’ and for me it is the real carnival, it is also a fair bit larger than in Mainz. But it is always an interesting game against Mainz, it has been a hard-fought game in recent years. They are playing a good season and we have full focus on them.”
bundesliga.com: What do you expect from the game in Mainz?
Horn: “They are a physically robust team, against whom you have to hold your own. At home, they are also very dominant and have given the big teams problems. They have a good style of play and a blended team who take it to the opposition with an eye towards the goal and winning and we have to do what we have done in recent weeks, put Mainz under early pressure, not let them settle into the game and then we have a chance to do something.”
bundesliga.com: What would a win against Mainz mean?
Horn: “When you look at the table, you see that there aren’t many points between us and the top but also not so many points between us and the bottom, it is a very hard-fought and even league. It would be nice to pick up the three points as we have been waiting a few weeks for a win. We had a few draws and a few games where we could've gotten more, such as the game in Dortmund, where we ended up going home empty-handed, and now it’s the time to get three points again.”
Watch: Dortmund 2-0 Cologne - highlights
bundesliga.com: Let's talk about the man of the hour at the club, Anthony Modeste. What happened to make him play so well and score so regularly?
Horn: “I think that he worked really hard on it. He didn’t have an easy period, with a lot of injuries that set him back, wasn’t always able to take part in the full pre-season, which meant fitness was lacking a bit. But in the meantime, he has returned to a position where he can really help us. His goals have been a lifeline for us. In the air and the penalty box, he is incredibly difficult to defend, he has an instinct which you don’t lose in the difficult times. He has returned to form, the goals have followed and it's clear to see that his confidence is back on the pitch and that has an effect on the opposition.”
bundesliga.com: What are Tony's special qualities, both athletically on the pitch and as a character off the pitch?
Horn: “He's an incredibly important player for the team, he's also a very funny guy and he lifts the mood in the team, even at times when things aren't going to plan. He knows the club and its history well, he helps out the younger players and stands side by side with them. There are not many better finishers in the box in the Bundesliga than him. His instinct and ability to anticipate when and where the ball will come in, that cannot be taught. He has demonstrated that over and over again, with the 25 goals he scored to take us into Europe, and he is on his way towards another good return this season. I'm delighted for him.”
bundesliga.com: How did you like his last celebration with the coach’s hat?
Horn: “Yeah, I think that was a spontaneous thing. The coach may have wanted him to get back into position and perhaps score a third goal, and Tony grabbed the hat. That is the kind of thing that goes hand in hand with Tony and Cologne, the emotion that was missing for so long with covid. And with the stadium full with 50,000, emotions can fly out and you can understand that.”
bundesliga.com: And what do you think of his goal celebration with the glasses?
Horn: “That's his goal celebration, his trademark. There's a matching emoji which I like posting. That's how he and the fans identify him.”
Watch: Steffen Baumgart on Modeste's 'hat-trick' celebration
bundesliga.com: What do you think of the club’s season so far after 11 matchdays?
Horn: “I think we had a really good start to the season. Many people had their thoughts about us before the season, whether the squad was too weak for the Bundesliga with the two or three departures, which the club had to do for financial reasons. They were good sales. Through covid, the situation has not been made easier in terms of new signings, but with Steffen Baumgart as coach, he has given us confidence from day one and has set us on a path which we are far from finishing. And I think in the meantime we've developed a totally new playing philosophy, attacking football with high pressing, giving the opposition problems. On the other hand, we could have earned a few more points but it's a process we're working on, and I think we are on the right track and will collect more points from it.”
bundesliga.com: As a goalkeeper, you’d prefer clean sheets. Why has it not worked out for you this season and how nice would it be for you?
Horn: “That's always the aim for a goalkeeper. The attacking way we play means there is, of course, one or two risks in defence, so while you might concede some counter-attacking goals, you score more. As a goalkeeper, I may not always be so happy but as long as we get the points and play well, then I am happy. We’re on the right track there and it won’t be long before we get a clean sheet in the Bundesliga.”
bundesliga.com: Only one goal conceded in six out of 11 games. Is that the positive news, despite the attacking style of play?
Horn: “Yeah, I think so. Defence starts in attack, when you press high and win the balls there. That lightens the load for the defence and allows them to stay compact and focus on defending. It starts at the front and the coach is always mentioning that the forwards are the first defenders and should win the ball early, so I think if we can make that work in the coming weeks, we’ll concede fewer goals.”
bundesliga.com: Cologne are clearly playing more offensively and courageously under new coach Steffen Baumgart. Does this also affect your play in goal?
Horn: “That does change some things as we play higher up the field and I need to watch my distancing as there's the possibility of long balls coming through, which we have seen in some situations where I have been an active player. The coach encourages that. The way we open things up has changed as well, wanting to play flatter, draw the offence in and find space behind the defence. That has usually worked well, but once against Union Berlin it didn’t work, we conceded and a lot of people saw that. But with this style of play, we have created a lot more chances and that is how we will approach the coming games.”
bundesliga.com: What kind of person is Steffen Baumgart?
Horn: “A very open coach who has strong inter-personal communication skills. He speaks to a lot of people individually for every game and has tried to make everyone feel involved, which is great for the team’s harmony to have somebody like that leading the way and knowing that he lives every moment with you on the sideline. He's like the 12th man. He always gives us input on the side and that's great for the team, always observing. Off the pitch, he is a very affable person, not like he sometimes comes across, very easy to approach and he's brought us on in terms of confidence and that does us a lot of good.”
bundesliga.com: You haven’t missed a Bundesliga game since March 2017, playing 124 times in a row in the division. Is that a record that makes you proud?
Horn: “Yeah, that makes me very proud. Particularly as I've grown up here, being able to perform for the team and stay, fingers crossed, injury-free. That's very positive and makes me proud to be able to help the team. Every match I’m allowed to play for Effzeh means a lot to me. And right now in this phase where we have fans back and the stadium is full, you feel the emotions you carry within as someone from Cologne and it makes me proud of every game I can play.”
bundesliga.com: No other goalkeeper in Bundesliga history has managed to not concede a goal in his first 364 minutes. How proud does this record make you today?
Horn: “Yeah, back then we had a different approach to what we have now. We made life very difficult for the opposition and our defence played more defensively, which in turn helps in terms of not conceding, I think we played 13 matches without conceding in my first Bundesliga season, which for me was a success and I hope to hold on to that record for a while longer.”
bundesliga.com: You’ve been with the club since youth level and have been the number one keeper since 2012. You also stayed true to the club despite relegation. What does the club mean to you personally?
Horn: “This is my second home. I've played for Effzeh since I was nine years old, since 2002, which makes you proud when you come from Cologne. My parents grew up here and became Effzeh fans. As a kid, I dreamed of playing in goal and I’ve achieved that. That is a wonderful thing for me and I always try to show that, in amongst everything that goes on, this is something that will always be there and makes me very proud.”
bundesliga.com: You have already experienced a lot with the club. What moments have stuck with you?
Horn: “The two promotions, of course, but also qualifying for Europe for the first time in 25 years, even if the season afterwards was not so successful with relegation. Managing that after 25 years was one of the best moments because I saw what it meant to people like my parents and grandparents, who went through long periods which weren't so good. To celebrate something like that and be a part of it was indeed a special moment.”
bundesliga.com: You're now 28, so actually have your best years as a goalkeeper ahead of you. How long do you still want to stand between the posts?
Horn: “It's always difficult to set goals like this but I feel good. I don’t have any physical problems and I have in mind to play until 35 and then see how the body responds from year to year. It's difficult to plan it but I feel I still have a couple of good years ahead of me.”
bundesliga.com; During a training camp, FC-TV produced a morning magazine with Timo Horn as a presenter. Will there be more of it soon and could this possibly be your new field of work after your career?
Horn: “There are many so-called experts in that area. Yeah, perhaps it would be fun, I find it interesting. I’m not certain if the morning magazine has a future but the guys always come up with good things and it is a fun thing to do, to mix things up during the training camp, and I’m excited to see what will come of it.”
bundesliga.com: What do you wish for yourself and the club for the whole season?
Horn: “First of all, I’d like a consistent and calm season for us, as far as that is possible as it is never calm in Cologne, but that we always deliver performances, pick up points and have nothing to do with the relegation battle. Also to think a little bigger and see what comes of it, but I think if we continue to deliver consistent performances, like we did in the first part of the season, then we will play a good season and see what comes from it. It's all very tight, but we look up rather than down and want to continue to deliver this type of football and a good season.”