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Buchtmann eyes return to action

Christopher Buchtmann quickly dons the orange warm-up shirt with the St. Pauli badge on it before the laptop camera is trained on him. It’s the next step on his journey back to work. On this Thursday morning, the 29-year-old is taking questions from the media at a virtual press conference. When Buchtmann talks about his long injury layoff, the “extremely difficult time“ he outlines is tangible in more than just his choice of words.

Christopher Buchtmann quickly dons the orange warm-up shirt with the St. Pauli badge on it before the laptop camera is trained on him. It’s the next step on his journey back to work. On this Thursday morning, the 29-year-old is taking questions from the media at a virtual press conference. When Buchtmann talks about his long injury layoff, the “extremely difficult time“ he outlines is tangible in more than just his choice of words.

Buchtmann can look back on an exciting career to date. As a youngster, he won the German Under-17 Championship with Borussia Dortmund and, with one goal and four assists to his name, had a major hand in Germany becoming European Under-17 champions in 2009. While still a minor, he moved to England, initially to Liverpool and then to Fulham before returning to Germany and FC Köln. The native of Minden eventually found his footballing home at FC St. Pauli, where he has spent close to nine years now.

The most difficult period for the midfield general in all that time has to have been his current injury layoff. It began with an Achilles problem that eventually required surgery. Buchmann experienced another setback, this time a mental one, when his rehab took longer than expected. “My fiancée and my family have been a huge help during this very difficult time,” says the club’s longest-serving player. “But the encouragement of the doctors in my rehab was important, too, and we eventually found the key to what was causing the problem.”

Meanwhile the football landscape has changed significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Buchtmann made his last second-division appearance in front of a sell-out crowd at the Millerntor, a game that ended in a scoreless draw against Dynamo Dresden. The left-sided midfielder has thus yet to experience the feeling of playing behind closed doors, though he has been following the matches of his teammates very closely. “It’s obviously harder to watch when things aren’t going so well,” says Buchtmann, looking back at the first half of the season. “But we’re playing stupendously well at the moment, few teams have any answers to us.“

The Boys in Brown found themselves in a similar situation four years ago when, after a poor first half of the season, they secured their second-division status with games to spare thanks to a storming second half. Buchtmann was a mainstay of the team in that 2016/17 campaign and sees some parallels with this season. “We marched up the table back then as well,” he recalls. “I think we might even break that season’s record.“

Buchtmann would love to have a chance to play a part in that. The switch to a midfield diamond, which he considers a key factor in the upturn in fortunes on the pitch, is one that suits his style of play. “We’ll have to see how things continue, the rest is not my decision,“ he says regarding a possible runout before the end of the season. “I’m on the right track so far.” If Buchtmann does make his 174th competitive appearance for the senior side this season, he’ll have featured in each of the last nine campaigns for the Boys in Brown. And he’ll have finally put an end to the most difficult period of his career to date.

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