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Thorben Hoffmann’s latest Kicker column offers insight into playing for Sunderland at Christmas

Thorben Hoffmann’s latest column for German publication Kicker brilliantly explains what life was like for the Sunderland goalkeeper during Christmas time - it’s well worth a read!

Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Ron-Thorben Hoffman missed yesterday’s game against Wycombe Wanderers due to Covid, but in his latest column for the German publication Kicker, the goalkeeper discussed the effect of the virus on football and his spur of the moment decision to get the booster jab following the full time whistle at Doncaster.

The 22-year-old also talks about his first experience of playing over Christmas and how he felt to miss the League Cup game at Arsenal:

Christmas is a time for all people around the globe to come to rest, review the year and then look forward again with renewed vigour - especially in times like these. Not so for footballers in England. Between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, all stadiums from Plymouth to Sunderland are busy. Boxing Day on 26 December is traditionally a special football day on the island.

But why actually? Originally, the English lordships packed gift boxes for their servants on this day to compensate them for the lost holidays. At the same time, this day was increasingly used for excursions, for example to the British Museum in London. This trend did not escape the football clubs either, and as early as 1888 many matches were scheduled on Boxing Day, naturally also in the hope of high spectator numbers. Incidentally, the great Michel Platini went to Juve and not to the island for precisely this reason (the weather may also have played a role).

So Christmas was going to be very different for the Hoffmann family this year. In fact, for the first time in my 22 years, we did not celebrate together with the whole family in Germany. But let’s take it one step at a time. The last time, we had slid into a first crisis together. And the international break in mid-November came just in time for us to recalibrate. I spent 48 hours with my family in Germany and came back to the Stadium of Light full of energy. In front of 30,000 fans, we actually managed to turn things around with a 2-0 win over Ipswich Town in a traditional duel! Or did we? In the following away game against Shrewsbury, we unnecessarily lose the game and give away the victory when we are outnumbered.

Then it’s off to Cambridge: not to study, but to a duel with United that is stormy in every respect. It poured and blew for 90 minutes in the most amazing way - and as a child of the Baltic Sea, I don’t say that like that. So it’s all the nicer that we fight our way to victory and take the momentum with us. Nevertheless, we have lost ground due to the previous defeats and have fallen out of the top two places. But we are fighting our way back - step by step.

And: Christmas is approaching. At the same time, the days are getting shorter and Corona is (again) more present. Many matches have to be postponed due to infected players or quarantines. So far, we are getting through these challenging times well, especially due to a strict hygiene concept. With the game at Arsenal in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals, we have a real highlight coming up. It’s just a pity that I’m not playing, which as a competitive athlete I always want to do, of course. But, by arrangement, Lee Burge is on at the Emirates Stadium. He does the cup games and was instrumental in getting us to London in the first place. I support him, just as he does for me, sportsmen like.

On Christmas Eve, we can take a breather after all. My family comes and we spend a wonderful time together, albeit, for the first time, without grandma and grandpa and the other family members who are staying in Germany. A very special challenge for my mother.

On Boxing Day we then set off with the team for the away game to Doncaster and play on 27.12 at 12:30 - an unusual time chosen because of the “Sky” broadcast. We win 3:0, my family is in the stadium. After the game we have a coffee together and discover a vaccination station where Pfizer is being vaccinated. After a brief consultation with our family doctor, I get a booster right there on the spot.

And there is a real booster on top of that on 30 December: at home in the last game of the year in front of a record crowd of 35,000 fans in a sea of mobile phone torch lights against Sheffield Wednesday, we win 5:0 and end the year grandly in first place!

I’m quite happy with my first few months on the island. We’re on course for promotion (again) and I’ve kept seven clean sheets in 19 games. I think I can build on that. I thank all the fans on the island and in Germany for their great support and say: I wish you all your dreams come true in 2022 - and stay healthy!


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