Kolkata - For league entertainers 1899 Hoffenheim there was no rest for the weary at the end of an strenuous Bundesliga campaign, but a trip to India has left a lasting impression on centre-back Jannik Vestergaard.
Since Sunday the Sinsheim side have been touring around India as Bundesliga ambassadors. After landing in Dehli, the team travelled to Kolkata before enjoying a brief trip to the mountainous region in the state of Mizoram where they won a friendly against a select XI 3-0 on Tuesday evening.
Talking to club's official website achtzehn99.de upon their return to Calcutta on Wednesday morning, Vestergaard discussed his impressions of the world's second most-populous country.
Question: Jannik Vestergaard, what was your initial reaction when you heard that you and your team-mates would be touring India at the end of the season?
Jannik Vestergaard: I had never been to India before and didn't know much about the country. But I was intrigued and thought it was really exciting that we were going on such an exotic trip.
Question: But now you've had a chance to experience quite a few things over the past few days...
Vestergaard: There are so many different things to try and take in, but the country has definitely made a lasting impression on me. The poverty is everywhere, it’s hard to put it into words. Some of the people literally have nothing and find themselves living on the streets. It's impossible to imagine. It's a very weird feeling and it really makes you think about life a lot and how small some of our day-to-day problems really are.
Question: The game on Tuesday took place in a stadium with a capacity of 6,000. There was almost double the amount in attendance though. Even upon your arrival there were hundreds of fans lining the streets. How did that feel?
Vestergaard: It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It even started at the airport. Incredible. The enthusiasm on display genuinely took us by surprise because it really came from the heart. We felt it. The atmosphere inside the stadium was second to none. When we came out onto the pitch to complete our warm-up, the fans reacted in a similar way to that of when a Bundesliga goal is scored. Being brought off at half time, myself and the other players had to be escorted off by security men just to be able to get to the changing rooms. It was the type of atmosphere that will live long in my memory.
Question: How challenging was the athletic part of the evening?
Vestergaard: We were caught off guard a little. The Indian side were incredibly energetic, combined well and really pushed us. We wouldn’t have been able to have any complaints had we conceded. However, it was, simply put, just a lot of fun to be playing in such unfamiliar surroundings. Some of were definitely tired following the long trip, but we weren’t afforded the opportunity to take things easy. Add to that the heat and humidity - I don’t think I’ve ever sweated as much as I did last night.
Question: On Monday it’s back to Hoffenheim, after that training doesn’t start until the beginning of July. What are your plans for the time in between?
Vestergaard: I’m going to travel to Copenhagen to visit my family and will definitely be spending most of my time in Denmark, seeing friends and things like that. Before that though, I’m travelling to Greece with my girlfriend to enjoy a week on the beach.