PHILIPP IS A TRUE EXAMPLE OF JUST HOW FAST THINGS CAN GO IN FOOTBALL. HE WAS PLAYING IN THE SWISS SECOND DIVISION LAST SEASON, WHEREAS THIS SEASON HE IS CHARGED WITH KEEPING OUT SOME OF EUROPE'S TOP STRIKERS IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.
Goalkeepers are often said to be mavericks. There could be nothing more homely, however, than the sight of Philipp with his four-legged friend, Sam. The Red Bull and the Golden Retriever have formed an inseparable duo since May 2020.
I grew up having a dog around, my grandmother's, and it was always my dream to have my own one day. With Covid there were a lot more opportunities for puppy training as they have to spend a lot of time at home when they are very young. It was just the perfect time for me and he was the perfect choice. He is just so incredibly lovely with everyone. He always wants to come along and is always in good spirits.
There has been plenty going right on the pitch in recent months too to put Philipp in a good mood too. The German/Swiss keeper won a battle to start between the sticks against Nico Mantl and made his competitive debut for us on 1 August. Just a few weeks later, qualification for the UEFA Champions League had been secured and two strong group stage performances against Sevilla and Lille delivered.
It all went very fast. It was definitely my plan for it to work out like this at some stage. I came here to play, after all. We had conversations in pre-season when I was told that I had a realistic chance of becoming a regular starter. I was able to get some playing time and experience in Switzerland. I knew what I could do, and I just gave everything to get here.
His move to Salzburg in 2018 was not a smooth one as an injury blow struck him at the worst time imaginable. He was still in Leipzig when he suffered a meniscus tear. He went straight into a new environment after recovering, without having the playing time. He got this with a year-long loan to his mother's homeland. The 23-year-old was a regular starter at Swiss second division side FC Wil. He developed well there, not only on the pitch:
I matured off the pitch too. I was already independent here, but I think going alone to another country is something quite different. My girlfriend stayed in Austria and we saw one another only every few weeks. When it comes to facilities, we have a very high level here in Salzburg. In that regard I saw the other side again, and learned to sweat it out.
Independence, maturity and perseverance were required from Philipp at an early age when he left his parents' house to faraway Stuttgart to live in the football academy there:
Leaving home at 14 or 15 is never easy. It's easy to settle in that kind of academy though. The other boys are going through the same thing, after all. The time you spend together gels you, and I am still in contact with a lot of the guys.
He was born and grew up in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, has a mother from Lausanne in Switzerland and has played in all three German-speaking countries. Asking Philipp to define his home is difficult:
It is really difficult for me. You could say that my home is where I was born. I have been away from home for so long now, however. My home is now actually Salzburg. I have felt extremely happy here, even before I went on loan to Switzerland. As the football is going very well for me now, I think that the overall package is just superb. Where I come from close to Düsseldorf it's a bit more like big city life. That's great, but with my dog Sam it's definitely nicer to have all this splendid nature around.
It's important for our goalkeeper to be able to switch off. He mostly does that through sport:
I play tennis, for example, when I can fit it in between training and matches. Now I also play a little bit of golf with Antoine. We were playing away in Hartberg and saw a golf course there, and we said we had to give it a try. Generally I just love sport and really get excited by it. I really enjoy watching Formula 1 and was at a race for a first time in Spielberg this year.
That Philipp is able to look beyond the football bubble is shown by his involvement in social initiatives. When he moved to Salzburg, our captain Andi Ulmer soon became a useful contact in the dressing room and role model for him:
He has been in the team for a long time, of course, and is someone who new young players can try to emulate. He is always involved off the pitch with Wings for Life, for example. I think it's cool that it's not just about football for him.
Philipp learned at an early age how important it can be to help others. He initiated his own project as a 19-year-old, and every Christmas since has sent boxes of presents to the Escolinha de Futebol Revelacao football school in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. Philipp wants to give the young footballers everything they need to play football despite their disadvantaged backgrounds, such as kit, boots and goalkeeper gloves:
That all developed very spontaneously. I was in Brazil and wanted to see a bit of the country outside of the big cities. I just went to the football school there to have a look. It's great to see how things are developing well there recently. The kids there now have a lot more possibilities.
Back on the pitch in Salzburg it's clear that our goalie has the technical ability to play in other positions too. At the start of his football career, in the youth ranks in Dinslaken, he played as a striker. Does he miss scoring goals? Philipp has to laugh and says:
I could still do it, theoretically! I prefer stopping the opponents scoring though.