Friendly, humble and most of all, a fantastic goalkeeper. The Green-Whites number one, Jiri Pavlenka, is, as the football cliché goes, a safe pair of hands. After two appearances for the Czech Republic national team and great performances for Werder, Pavlas has been, at least for the statisticians, one of the best goalkeepers that the Bundesliga has to offer. WERDER.DE spoke to Pavlas about his strengths, his weaknesses and his time at SVW so far.
WERDER.DE: Hi Jiri, thanks for your time. We wanted to talk to you today about the topic of strength. Why is physical strength so important for a goalkeeper?
Jiri Pavlenka: “As a ‘keeper, you have to have a lot of strength to dive and make saves, that is one reason. Also you feel a lot better and more confident if you are strong physically.”
WERDER.DE: How important is it for a goalie to also have mental strength as well as being strong physically?
Pavlenka: “In my opinion, being mentally strong is even more important. You are under immense pressure as a goalkeeper as you have to be completely focused for 90 minutes so that you can be on the ball in decisive situations. I don’t have a specific training programme for that aspect of the game but I think that you improve in that regard as you gain experience.”
WERDER.DE: Are there superstitious elements, for instance having the number one shirt that gives you additional strength?
Pavlenka: “I take strength first and foremost from good performances from me and the whole team. The number on the back of my shirt isn’t very important for me but I do have two pre-match rituals – firstly I always run onto the pitch with my right foot first and then I knock on both posts and the crossbar before the match. I am a bit superstitious then, I guess (laughs).”
WERDER.DE: But hand on heart, what do you make of the statistics? You have in terms of saves, the highest number of stops out of all the goalkeepers in the Bundesliga.
Pavlenka: “The coach also told me about that. I don’t really look at statistics or give them much thought but that statistic is quite a pleasing one for me. But being higher up in the table would be more pleasing for me.”
WERDER.DE: Do you ever watch your performances or your great saves afterwards on TV?
Pavlenka: “We analyse the games really intensively afterwards of course. To be honest, I am more interested in the goals we concede than the saves I make. I always want to improve.”
WERDER.DE: Now we have spoken a lot about strengths. Let’s talk about your biggest weakness. What is your biggest weakness – mainly off the pitch?
Pavlenka: “Chocolate. I love chocolate in any form. I have heard of the Bremen chocolate Hachez. I have to have a taste of that at some point (laughs).”
WERDER.DE: Within the team, you have your own little team with your goalkeeping trio of you, Jaroslav Drobny and Michael Zetterer. Do you guys get on well?
Pavlenka: “Yeah really well, they both gave me a warm welcome and Jaroslav is always up for a laugh in training, it works really well. I have to say that I feel at home in the side and I have become really good friends with Drobo and Theo who helped me a lot as a fellow Czech guy here. In terms of the German language, they are both real role models for me.”
WERDER.DE: Your coach Christian Vander is also really important for you goalkeepers. How is it working with him?
Pavlenka: “He is a brilliant coach. The sessions are a lot more intense with him than in Czech Republic. Kiki is also a great guy so I feel myself improving with every training session with him.
WERDER.DE: To conclude, another look at your international career. You have represented your country twice this season in games against Azerbaijan and Qatar. What does that mean to you?
Pavlenka: “It is a huge honour for me but at the moment for me the main priority is about my performances at Werder. That we can get out of the situation we’re in at the moment is much more important.”