There is an urban legend that floats around everytime the name ‘Florian Fuchs’ is mentioned. Rumour has it that when the German was in his early teens playing junior level hockey for Uhlenhorster in Hamburg, the senior team coach was rather impatiently marking the calendar. The coach was waiting for the day Fuchs would turn 16 – the minimum age required for players in the German Bundesliga. And once the striker reached that age, he was immediately thrown into the starting lineup for the game against Dusseldorf. The legend goes further to profess that Fuchs actually scored on debut.
Eight years on, the 24-year-old plays down the incident. Instead he prefers to credit coincidence for his sudden inclusion in the senior squad. “The main strikers in the team were all injured and we desperately needed a forward. That’s why the coach called me up,” he says. As for scoring on debut, he thinks hard before admitting he can’t remember too clearly. “I can’t remember if it was the first game or second. I don’t really think it was in the debut game though,” he adds.
There were no doubts about his performance in his Hockey India League debut nonetheless. In Dabang Mumbai’s opening game of the season, their $96,000 acquisition – the second most expensive in the season after compatriot Moritz Fuerste’s $105,000 – opened the scoring for the team. Subsequently, Fuchs has been a linchpin for the Mumbai-franchise’s attack. A serial poacher, his mesmerising stick-work inside the circle is well complemented by his knack of being at the right place at the right time. His mindset too employs a team approach rather than individual flair. “For someone who scores so many goals, he’s unusually unselfish. He doesn’t mind making a pass even if he could have scored himself,” explains team mentor Viren Rasquinha.
Interestingly enough, when it comes to the HIL, there’s another rumour that floats about around Fuchs – the striker declined coming to earlier editions of the marquee tournament since he wanted to complete his Bachelor’s degree. This rumour he agrees to.
Fuchs admits that the state in which the sport is viewed in Germany leaves players with no option but to be qualified for an alternate occupation. “Football is the main game, so you can’t rely only on hockey to make a living,” says Fuchs, pointing to the irony that he was part of the victorious German team at the London Olympics, and was incidentally awarded the Young Player of the Year award that same year.
Consequently, Fuchs is a budding economist. But he isn’t satisfied with just the under-graduate degree. Now playing for HC Bloemendaal in the Netherlands, the youngster has signed up for a Master’s program in economics. “I don’t see myself as become a coach once I retire from playing. What I actually want to do is get into entrepreneurship,” he says, smiling.
Meanwhile, the lack of support for the game in Germany made the auctions for the HIL even more important for Fuchs and his two countrymen playing in the league, Fuerste and Tobias Hauke. In fact, he remembers waking up early to watch the auctions live on his computer. “It was 6.30 am. All three of us were awake and we kept texting each other,” he says. “Once I was picked, I started jumping around my room, screaming and shouting,” he adds, laughing.
But before coming to India, he recalls talking to Fuerste extensively on what the HIL is about. It’s a special bond Fuchs shares with his national team captain and former Uhlenhorster teammate. Especially since the striker spent most of his childhood idolising the senior player. He may not remember his first goal, but he does remember his first chat with Fuerste, back when he was 16.
Nicknamed ‘Bambi’ because of his skinny legs, the then teenager had thoughts that perhaps the senior team opportunity had come too early. That was until Fuerste, who plays for Kalinga Lancers, walked up to have a word with him before the Dusseldorf match. “He started talking to me about his first game in the senior team,” recalls Fuchs. “All he told me was that I was in the team because I had a good natural game, and that I should play that same natural game without thinking too much about anything else,” he further states.
It was an advice that did a world of good for him. His natural game is goal-scoring, and he is a prolific exponent of that. He did it well for Uhlenhorster, and then for Germany. And now he hopes to continue that spree in the HIL.