Sitting at home and not allowed on the pitch – Benjamin Pavard is just as annoyed by the situation as his colleagues. The Frenchman was raised to be ambitious and strives for perfection. speaking in an interview with FC Bayern Munich magazine “FC Bayern`s 51 Magazine”. made available to omasports, he talks about isolation and his strong debut season so far.
Benjamin, the most important question these days: how are you?
I don’t think anyone’s feeling great at the moment. My situation is mixed. I’m home alone here in Munich. My parents were supposed to visit at the end of March, for the game against Eintracht Frankfurt and my birthday a few days later. But these plans are obviously not feasible at the moment. Fortunately, we can at least see each other on video calls these days. Celebrating a birthday alone is very unusual. It’s not much fun.
How is your family doing, how is your contact to France?
They’re doing well given the circumstances. I have no siblings, and being so far apart in this complicated situation is not ideal. The controls are very strict in France. You’re only allowed a maximum of 500 metres from your front door. I heard, for example, that a man drove across the border to Belgium to fill up with gas – and had to pay an enormous fine. You need a certificate to go to work. In Paris, friends of mine are sitting in their apartments and aren’t allowed to go out – I put myself in their position and tell myself that I’m lucky to have a garden and shouldn’t complain. I can certainly cope with the isolation more easily, I have space to do sport.
How difficult is it for the mind to deal with the current situation – as a competitive athlete, but above all as a human?
As I said: I can’t complain – other people have it much, much worse. But this isolation, completely alone, far from the family, it’s not something you’d want to go through for a long period of time. We are in daily contact, we make calls and write messages. The question “How are you?” suddenly has a much deeper meaning than usual.
Has this crisis changed your view of the world?
I think people are becoming more thoughtful. Social contacts are extremely limited. I’m just noticing how long the days are when you spend them completely alone. We talk about these thoughts and feelings during video training with the team. We’re missing the football, the competition. We know what’s important in life: health, of course – and as an athlete I miss the competition. That spurs us all on. I miss the daily training, I miss the stadium, I miss the fans in particular. We just need to have a little more patience than usual against this particular opponent.
Are you afraid for football?
Not really. But you have to look at the smaller clubs that are not in the spotlight. Some are struggling to survive. They are the backbone of the sport, because almost every talent starts at a small club. I hope for solidarity, and it’s up to the clubs and associations to solve these problems.
What motto should people use to tackle this particular challenge?
People should follow the rules the governments have imposed, based on recommendations from health authorities. Then I’m confident we will soon get out of this situation well.
During the period of isolation, how are you keeping yourself fit?
We have specific plans. After breakfast, training with the team via video is usually at 11 am for one and a half hours. I have my own gym at home and a pool, so I can do additional sessions myself. And I’m often in the garden doing something with the ball. Without the trusted guidance of our physios, the whole situation is more difficult – and not so nice, because the team spirit is missing. In a time like this, you realise just how well looked after we are at FC Bayern. The physios make things so easy for us players. So here’s a thank you to our medical staff at Säbener Straße – you are extremely important.
What about nutrition – have you become a good cook in this situation?
(laughs) No, unfortunately I’m not a great cook. And here as well I have to say that the FC Bayern food is simply first class. We usually eat at lunchtime at the Säbener Strasse and I usually take something home with me in the evening. I’ve been ordering food quite often in isolation, but it’s not ideal. I definitely should learn a bit. And another thing is clear: eating alone is depressing.
So let’s move onto sport, as a distraction: On your shin pads at the World Cup there was a quote from Nelson Mandela: “Je ne perds jamais. Je gagne ou j’apprends.” In English: “I never lose. I win or I learn.” What does this saying mean to you – why did you choose it?
It’s not explicitly about Nelson Mandela, but this quote is what drives me on. It’s my motto in life. In every game, every training session and many situations in everyday life, I always say to myself: In the end, you learn more from your defeats than from your victories. Or better: you have to draw the right conclusions from your defeats. I’ve been through some difficult times, but this saying has always helped me keep going, to look ahead and move forward in life. I’ll wear this sentence on my shin pads forever, and above all I’ll have it in my head.
On your shin pads you also have pictures of your dad Frederic and your mother Nathalie. Do you always carry them with you?
Yes, these photos are essential for me. Without my parents, I wouldn’t be who I am. I went to football boarding school very early, which was difficult for my parents and me at first. It was a tough time, and if they hadn’t encouraged me, I wouldn’t have gone through with it. I was very sad at first at boarding school. But it was the right path. And now we’re all proud: we did it together.
After Manuel Neuer and Joshua Kimmich, you’ve played the most minutes this season. Did you expect that?
No, never. If someone had told me that in the summer, I’d have shaken my head in disbelief. But I’d prepared for this move to FC Bayern and I felt from day one I could fundamentally develop my play here. I’m still a long way from the end of my journey.
From relegated VfB Stuttgart to an indispensable Bayern player – what’s the secret?
I always aim to improve. It’s not an empty phrase. No matter how a game ends, I ask myself after the final whistle: what did I do wrong? What can I do better next time? That is my incentive. I always analyse myself after every game. It’s all good when you look at what went well – but you’ll grind to a halt in the long run. Football is about the little nuances, you have to study them because that’s how you stand out. You have to have an eye for the details of this game.
How did your first nine months at Bayern make you even better?
You can see throughout the entire club there is a strong tradition here – and an enormous hunger for more. I like it. I’m a competitor. I want to challenge and assert myself. That’s the only way to move onwards. I will not rest, never. I owe a lot to Hansi Flick and Niko Kovac. Trust strengthens every player. I want to give something back. Resting on one’s laurels is not for me. It only brings you down.
How did you grow up, how was football integrated into your life?
I started playing football at the club when I was four or five years old. My father was our coach – a tough coach who made us run a lot and held very intense sessions. He asked a lot of us and attached great importance to hard work. He always told me what I could do better. I think I took my attitude, that I’m never satisfied, from him. He asked things like: “Can you run faster now – or what’s going on there?” He drove us, he said to me: “If you don’t do more than the others, I’ll sub you off!” It was best not to speak to Papa for two hours after a defeat – so I didn’t. It all sounds like a lot of pressure, from an early age. I thought that was good. Dad always wanted the maximum, he always showed me my weaknesses. He’s played an enormous part in my career. I was brought up like this: self-reflection makes you stronger. You always have to be honest with yourself, even if it’s tough. The path led to the World Cup in Russia at the age of 20.
Your goal against Argentina was spectacular – did you practise that shot beforehand?
Not really. But I always tried to do something like that as a child. Very few goalkeepers expect a shot like that. But as a defender, my job is not to score goals. It’s more important in my position to set up others with passes and to ensure that we’re calm in front of our goal. I was generally in the team for the World Cup – and that started just before the tournament. I was very lucky that Didier Deschamps was watching VfB Stuttart. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been nominated. It’s different with FC Bayern. Everyone is under the spotlight. In Russia I thought I’d be happy to play a few minutes of the World Cup. But then everything went like a dream. I went to Bayern partly to stay relevant to the national team. For me it’s the best club in the world, with the best players in the world. Bayern will win the Champions League again soon, I’m sure.
There isn’t much about you in the media. Does this relate to your calm character?
I prefer to stay in the background. The big media hype is not for me. I prefer to focus on the football, then I don’t have to read any headlines about myself.
What are your wishes for the future?
That people take care of themselves during this unique time and listen to what the health experts advise. We can only get everything under control if we all stick together. I hope that we’ll all see each other again in the stadium soon. And for us as a team, I hope that as soon as football resumes, we’ll win, win, win. There’s no other way at FC Bayern.
All quotes credited FC Bayern´s 51 Magazine, #saebener51