Kuntz: I’ll never give less than 100 per cent for Turkey
Stefan Kuntz took over as Turkey coach in September
Exclusive interview with German former EURO winner
He says it's an "interesting and exciting new challenge"
Back in the 1990s, Stefan Kuntz was one of the best forwards in Germany, winning UEFA EURO 1996 with his country. He was undefeated in his 25 international appearances (featuring in 20 wins and five draws, while scoring six goals), setting a record that stands to this day for the most German caps without a loss.
Now aged 59, he has carved out an equally successful second career for himself as a coach, winning the U-21 EURO with Germany on two occasions. The striker-turned-mentor then took on a new challenge in autumn this year with his appointment as head coach of Turkey.
FIFA.com sat down with Kuntz for an exclusive interview just ahead of the final matchdays in European qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
FIFA.com: What are your conclusions after your first few weeks as the Turkish national coach? Stefan Kuntz: It’s a very interesting and exciting new challenge for me, with strong emotions involved. I have new players and new things to handle. I already knew about the potential of Turkish football. Turkey has always been a country of talented players, and I’ll do my utmost to bring young Turkish players into the senior national team, where they can compete at the highest level.
What made you take on this challenge? You had real success as Germany U-21 coach – is this the next step for you? After winning the European Championship twice with Germany’s U-21s, in 2017 and 2021, I felt that I wanted to do something new, and I needed a fresh challenge. The offer from the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) to be head coach of the senior national team came at the right moment in my life and was the right job for me. I feel proud and very happy to be in charge of Turkey, and I’ll never give less than 100 per cent for the country.
Can you tell us what your work looks like at the moment? Are you also involved in the youth academies in Turkey? In the short term, I’m just concentrating on our Qatar 2022 qualifying matches. I’m following a lot of games from the stadiums and on TV. After November’s qualifiers, we’ll sit together with the TFF board to discuss where I can be of help in other areas in Turkish football. I’ll also visit clubs and have one-to-one meetings with their coaches.
Your first two results were a 2-1 win in Latvia and a 1-1 draw against Norway. Are you satisfied with that? A coach is only ever satisfied with victories (laughs). The win against Latvia was key and the way we got it was pleasing. Thanks to that win and the ‘never-say-die’ attitude from the players, I think that we’ve created positive vibes between the people of Turkey and our team. Nevertheless, there are still areas that we can improve on in training sessions and matches. If you think of each player as a piece of a puzzle, we’ll use them in the best and most proper way to form our own picture.
You have Norway and the Netherlands in your group, which certainly makes things tough along the road to Qatar. Do you think that Turkey will manage to qualify? On the one hand, we need to focus on the task ahead of us and win our two matches against Gibraltar and Montenegro. Then on the other, we need help from our group rivals. If the door is left ajar, we need to be ready to go through…
Just before you took over, Turkey lost 6-1 to the Netherlands. Was that just a one-off result? That match is in the past now, and the same goes for what happened under the previous coaching staff. I’m not in a position to judge that period.
How strong is the Turkish team? I’ve only had the chance to work with the team for ten days so far and it’s not easy to make a definitive assessment within that period. I’ll be able to make a better assessment after spending more time with my players. For now, we’re trying to create a balance between younger and more seasoned players – think of it as a mix of experience and courage. I have noticed though that the spirit within the team is growing.
Turkish people absolutely love football to the point of being fanatical about it. Has that been your experience and is it different for example compared with the fans in Germany? I know the passion of the Turkish fans from my time as a Besiktas player during the 1995/96 season. They’re very emotional – like me (laughs). Our first home match against Norway was played in front of 50 per cent capacity, but they supported us like the stadium was completely full.
The next EURO in 2024 will be in your home country, Germany. What would it be like to have Turkey there? Just thinking about the idea of building a new Turkish national team and qualifying for UEFA EURO 2024 in Germany is enough to get me excited and motivate me to work even harder.