All too often it has been emphasised how surprising it is what this club with the smallest budget in the entire Bundesliga (national league) has achieved in recent years. From being promoted from the second division, now to the glorious entry into the Europa League Play Off. The underdog, how do they do it? And like Prolactal, hardly anyone would have expected such a success story. But what distinguishes TSV Prolactal Hartberg from the other clubs – apart from the budget? How do you manage to go from a small second-division club to not only challenge the big players in the Bundesliga, but to teach them to fear? An attempt to explain.
After all, change plays a significant role here too. TSV Prolactal Hartberg has managed to utilize the tailwind of any changes as an upwind and thanks to the small, almost family structure, it has always been possible to react proactively and flexibly. Well, do you notice the similarities to Prolactal? Hardworking and committed employees behind the scenes are just as indispensable as the playmakers we see on the pitch week after week (and now every few days). For TSV Prolactal Hartberg, the Corona crisis was challenging as well, but thanks to the dedication of everyone involved to the club and many volunteers, the financial situation was far less devastating than for the big teams in the league. Even if this is not always an advantage in everyday life, in times like these it is a great thing to have not only paid, but above all committed employees who live for the club. One example is Roland Puchas. Born in Hartberg, he manages the media work for TSV in addition to his 40-hour job at a tax auditor in Graz. What others like SK Sturm have employed 10-15 people for, he does on a voluntary basis, all by himself in his spare time and takes days off for match days during the week. This example is typical for TSV, because things are tackled where they should be tackled, responsibilities are not questioned, and work does not get postponed. Together we reach our goals faster and the players on the pitch are provided with the best support possible.
On the field, hardly anyone has made his mark as much as Dario Tadic has this season. The young dad and dedicated Hartberg player was not only dangerous in front of the goal, but also made a major contribution to where TSV now stands, namely in the Europa League Play Off. Nevertheless, the sympathetic striker remains firmly on the ground with both feet. This is not at last due to wedding preparations with his Doris and all the things you experience with a ten-month-old baby.
Dear Dario, thank you for answering our following questions! But first of all, congratulations on this incredibly successful season, which was also so unbelievably different concerning the Corona situation. How did you actually spend your time during the lockdown? For you as a football player, there were huge cuts in your daily work, from 100 to zero within a few days, so to speak. How did you manage to keep yourself fit and then return to score as usual when the league continued?
I spent the Corona time with a lot of home training, we had our own programs put together by our athletic coach to stay at a certain level and to be able to start training again at approximately the same level as we left. Personally, I enjoyed the time with my family and I spent a lot of time with our son. Since so much happens each day at that young age, it was a unique opportunity to be at home every day. Besides, we were also in the final stages of building a house, so the compulsory break came almost at the right time, because I could do a lot of things here.
What did you personally take away from this time?
Since football has dominated our everyday life and the planning of our leisure time in the last few years, the Corona period showed me very drastically that football is not really that important, but that health is the top priority. And I hope that we can all take this down-to-earth attitude and experience with us and learn from it.
How did it feel to be back on the pitch after weeks of uncertainty whether the season could continue?
Of course, it was an unbelievably great feeling to finally be back on the pitch after almost six weeks. As I said above, football is of course not the most important thing, but for me it’s more than just a job, it’s a profession. As a professional footballer, you’re normally on the pitch every day, but if that stops overnight, you’re simply missing something. And then, of course, it was even more enjoyable when we were all allowed to train again and also when the green light was given for the season to continue, as we obviously still had a lot to do in the championship group and wanted to show that we not only belong in the Bundesliga, but that we can also keep up with the top teams. We played super interesting and offensive football this season, and I think we showed the last sceptics, that we can keep up with the big ones. It was an unthinkably successful and outstanding season, in which one highlight chased the next and now the victory against Austria and thus Europe … magnificent!
After two successful seasons in the highest Austrian league, is there now also some kind of favourite opponent and why?
(smiles) I think my favourite opponent has become Rapid Vienna. They are just always great games against such a big traditional club with a huge fan base. After I’ve already scored against them a few times, you can definitely call them my favourite opponent (smiles again). And in general, there’s also plenty of action for the fans, because there are almost always some goals scored in exciting 90 minutes.
What is the biggest change when you play in front of empty ranks? Do you lack motivation?
Yes, the energy that such a full stadium brings with it is simply lacking. The spectators pushing you forward and cheering you on. I think the fans sometimes underestimate how much influence they actually have on us players. It was really a big change and the matches have almost more of a training character than one where it’s all about the points. But well, we’re all professional enough and we’ve learned to deal with it. After 2-3 games, we all got used to it. Of course, we really miss our fans, but we all hope that we can play in front of fuller ranks again in autumn at the latest.
Which of your two teammates would you bring along to a 14 day Corona Isolation and why?
I don’t think I’d take anyone of the boys. Since I’m with them every day in the cabin all year round, I think it wouldn’t hurt to get some distance from all the hustle. I think it wouldn’t be bad to get a break from all this. I would use the 14 days of isolation to recharge my battery, recharge energy and reflect.
What has been the biggest change professionally and privately in your life in the last 4 years. What has changed for you since you played with TSV in the Bundesliga?
In football, the biggest change was certainly the attractiveness of the opponents, who regularly play in Hartberg when the Bundesliga moves in. Of course, it’s incredible when you suddenly play against Sturm or Rapid in front of 5000 spectators, that’s something I didn’t even dare to think about four years ago in the regional league. And then, of course, the complete perception; we have created such euphoria here in Hartberg, which has lasted for years and will continue to do so. It’s a huge positive event and it’s just overwhelmingly nice to be a part of it.
Yes, and privately also a lot has happened of course. The building of the house in a neighbouring village of Hartberg, the birth of our son and soon we will also get married. So, it is not only going well professionally, but also privately and that gives us additional strength.
What do you think makes the TSV so special? Is there a recipe for success?
The recipe for success is certainly the down-to-earth attitude of all the guys in the team. We don’t have any superstars, where one of them stands above the team and considers himself more important. We also do a lot together off the field, whether it’s mini-golf, a drink or a meal – we’re a sworn in team. And then of course the familiar environment here in Hartberg, which makes the whole thing special.
And now a small outlook into the future. What would be your absolute dream game in the Europe League Play Off?
At the moment this is difficult to say, because many positions in the other national championships are not yet fixed. But a great draw would be against Tottenheim Hotspur from England or AC Milan from Italy.
Interview: Isabelle Pitter