Too honest for the tough circus of professional football?


The early end of Martin Hinteregger’s professional career hurts, but is almost symbolic of someone whose career never resembled a typical run-of-the-mill career in this business.

He sometimes suffered from it, but he also benefited from it.

To portray him as a victim of “the media”, as is sometimes the first reflex, falls short.

Viewed soberly, Austrian football loses one of its outstanding representatives of the past decade.

Only 18 players have played more international matches than his 67 in the entire ÖFB history, and it goes without saying that many more could have been added without resignation.

In normal condition “Hinti” has not had to tremble for his regular place in the national team for many years, in top form you could catch yourself wondering why this central defender has not arrived even higher in the European club pecking order.

But that’s exactly what Hinteregger’s career wasn’t really about sooner or later.

The Carinthian had long since positioned himself – with all the advantages and disadvantages – as the somewhat different professional.

Sometimes certainly consciously – as a smartphone abstainer, Bergdoktor fan or helicopter pilot.

Sometimes certainly more subconsciously, when he missed the national team tattoo for a birthday or had the misfortune to run happily in front of a mobile phone camera at an Augsburg team evening.

Anyone who is already able to publish their official biography in their late 20s definitely has a lot to tell – and perhaps already had the approaching end of their career in mind when the book was published last summer. The 29-year-old confirmed that he had been thinking about it since autumn 2021 and already knew about it at the Europa League final.

From this point of view, the decision came as a surprise, but it does not seem to have been a hasty decision.

While other professionals sometimes threaten to fall into a deep hole after the career final whistle, a deeper crisis of meaning at Hinteregger seems unlikely.

Plan B exists with his company “TMH”, founded together with ski jumping Olympic champion Thomas Morgenstern, with which sightseeing and cargo flights are completed by helicopter.

The immense level of awareness of the two bosses will presumably play a role in the business model – and rightly so, of course. Who wouldn’t take that into account if given the chance?

Which brings us to the opening question and the “Yes” as an answer. The unqualified answer yes would simply not be factual. Honestly yes, but not “too” honestly.

Precisely because Hinteregger is noticeably different and in any case a guy, he has become the darling of the audience – which is generally a good thing, which means a lot to him and from which he has undoubtedly benefited.

The fact that so many members of the football community regret his departure is also due to the fact that he is not the phrase-mongering bore who has learned phrases by heart.

At the same time, it is understandable that characters like Hinteregger, who at the same time want to be “just human”, not only enjoy the increased attention.

The one does not exclude the other. Sometimes you can say “neither something positive nor something negative” about things, circumstances or in his case people – who would know that if not “Hinti”…?!

“I wanted to change, but I couldn’t do it. I have a saying that’s honest, but it doesn’t always fit the situation. I just can’t hold myself back, and if that’s my opinion, then I have to say it like that. I find it difficult to answer diplomatically, which would sometimes be better. Because when I say something, it is often initially conveyed negatively by the media, “said Hinteregger a few days ago in an interview with the “Default”.

Another thought in the same conversation: “The press no longer wants the players to go out with people. They want perfect professionals like a Haaland and not ones who step out of the machine. Those with rough edges no longer wanted, although I would think it would be good that exactly that is promoted.”

From this perspective, the answer as to whether Hinteregger was too honest might be different. It is his feeling, his opinion, so of course to accept it. It is possible that a pain threshold was exceeded with the tiresome Sickl cause.

Nevertheless, one can raise an objection.

On the one hand it is always problematic to lump “the media” into one pot, there is such and such. On the other hand, we in “the media” would be idiots (Hinteregger quote with a wink) if we didn’t appreciate guys like him.

The assumption that kickers with rough edges are not wanted in the media is by no means correct. But on the contrary.

What can undoubtedly be discussed is whether it is discussed too hysterically when someone does deliver a saying. Plain text has become quite rare in this industry.

This ball can safely be passed on to anxious media trainers, who teach their protégés the same phrases over and over again, and above all to those clubs that, for example, emphasize the last remnant of personality or polarizing statements from interviews.

But well, it’s not Hinteregger’s job to think this part of the football business through to the end, no matter how exciting mental games about professional life in a fast-moving social media world may be.

The most important thing – and many people in football in Austria can probably agree on that – remains anyway: He did his actual job well for years, to the delight of many companions and fans.

Both sporty and as an authentic representative of his guild.

Both will be sorely missed.

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Peggy McColl

Mentor l NY Times Bestselling Author. Hi, I'm Peggy McColl, and I'm here to deliver a positive message to you!