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“Total goosebumps” was how Betim Fazliji described his first outing on the Millerntor turf two-and-a-half weeks ago. Just 78 hours earlier, the 23-year-old had trained at FC St. Gallen before travelling to Hamburg the same evening. Now a fully-fledged St. Pauli player, Fazliji looked ahead to the tasks awaiting him this season at a midweek press conference.

Despite his young age, Fazliji already has 87 top-flight appearances under his belt in the Swiss Super League. Now the defensive utility player is having his first taste of life away from home with the Boys in Brown having lived with his parents in St. Gallen. "It's been a nice experience for me in Hamburg so far," says Fazliji. "It's a very beautiful city and the conditions here at St. Pauli are superb."

In captain Leart Paqarada, who advised the right-footed player to make the Millerntor switch, the Swiss-Kosovo dual national also has a direct point of reference in his new hometown. The two players know each other from the Kosovo national team and even have a joint group chat with some of their teammates. "He's a good lad and gives me lots of tips," says Fazliji, who tracked Paqarada's progress at Boys in Brown even before he joined the club. "The other players also ask if we want to go out for a meal, for example. I'm very happy we have such a cool team."

All this means the new recruit is getting to know his teammates better and better off the pitch. After brief outings against Hannover and Nürnberg, Fazliji made his first start in the 4-3 DFB Cup defeat of SV Straelen. "I was really pleased when I heard I was starting," reveals Fazliji, who analyses footage of his performances meticulously after every game and is also very self-critical. "I still lack an instinctive understanding with my teammates but that's partly because I've only been here a fortnight."

Though the result was right in the cup, the Boys in Brown know the performance has to improve at FC Kaiserslautern on Sunday (13.30 CET). The Red Devils, who were interested in signing Fazliji themselves, have also made a decent start to the season, taking four points from their opening two games. "We can't afford to give the ball away so often because we're up against a better, more aggressive team," Fazliji says. "We have to be on the ball right from the opening whistle."

Photo: Witters