Kofi Kyereh and that crafty free-kick
Tuesday, 16. February 2021, 11:00 Uhr
More than two years after blind footballer Serdal Celebi was nominated for and won the August Goal of the Month competition in 2018, another St. Pauli player has made the shortlist in Daniel-Kofi Kyereh. We spoke to Kofi about his crafty free-kick under the Heidenheim wall and his chances of winning the January Goal of the Month award.
Hi Kofi, first of all congratulations on being nominated for January's Goal of the Month. How did you find out about it and what did you think when you did?
My mum and my uncle wrote to me and sent me a link to the Goal of the Month page. I clicked on it and immediately recognised goal 3. Obviously I was delighted, it's the first time I've been nominated for the Goal of the Month award.
What do you think of the other candidates?
They're all fine goals. If I were a neutral, I'd pick Nadiem Amiri's. That's my favourite, but Levin Öztunali's goal is really good as well.
On to your goal, Rodrigo and Leart were standing over the ball and the position was actually more suited to a left-footer. What did you say to them before the free-kick?
I hadn't said anything to the lads about it beforehand, and in the short time available I had to persuade Rodrigo and Leart that I should take it. It took me a while to talk them into it. Rodrigo takes most of the free-kicks and rightly so, but I was relatively certain it'd come off and I'd put it away, and that's what I told them. They could tell I was really sure, so they put their trust in me, which I then repaid with the goal.
When did it occur to you to hit the ball under the wall? Was it spontaneous or had you been planning it for a while?
Before the Bochum game I was already thinking about rolling the ball under the wall and in if we got a free-kick in the right position. We didn't get a free-kick against Bochum, but we did against Heidenheim. After the shooting drill in the warm-up, the free-kick takers always practise a couple of times. At Heidenheim it was Rodrigo and Paqa, and then me, from the exact spot where I took it later in the game. Without anyone really noticing, I casually knocked the ball low into the bottom right corner of the empty goal. Igor Matanović saw what I did and threw me another ball. He said I could have another go, no problem. He thought I hadn't hit it properly! When I mentioned it to him after the game, he just looked at me wide-eyed and remembered. We had to laugh.
I can believe it. But you hadn't really practised it, had you? You usually practice free-kicks with mannequins and you can't shoot under them...
That's right, it's difficult. But it's not that hard to kick a ball low and accurately into the corner.
How often do you practise free-kicks and set pieces in general?
I've never known a coaching team who practise set plays as much as Schulle, Loïc and Fabi do. They put so much thought into it. We have a set-piece group who sit down with the lads and collect ideas for things we'd like to try out at some point. We practise a lot and usually go through all the variations in the final training session. For direct free-kicks, it's me, Rodrigo, Paqa, Omar and Knolli. We often grab a ball and practise free-kicks. Against Regensburg, one of our variations worked to a tee, as you could tell by the goal celebrations and the jubilation on the bench. It was a special goal because all the hard work in training had paid off. We'd kept going close but one component was always missing.
How important are set pieces these days?
They're very important, considering the fact we're not the biggest side in the second division. We're at a disadvantage in most games in terms of height, although we've conceded very few goals from set pieces, and from corners the lowest number of any team in the league. We're doing well from attacking set pieces as well. That shows all the practice is paying off and how important it is.
Moving on to the Darmstadt game, let's say we have a free-kick near the box. Who's going to take it, Rodrigo, Leart or you?
We'll see. Rodrigo might have an idea, or maybe Leart or me. Let's see. We'll discuss it and then hopefully one of us will put it in the net.
We'll find out whether you scored the January Goal of the Month a few hours after the Darmstadt match. How do you rate your chances?
I'd be so happy if I ended up winning. I'm not stressing about it, though, and I think Nadiem Amiri's goal will win it. Our legions of fans do give me cause for hope, though, so we'll see how it goes.
If you would like to select Kofi's free-kick as January's Goal of the Month, you can vote for him here until Saturday, February 20 (19:00 CET): Vote for the January Goal of the Month!
Photos: Witters/FC St. Pauli