James Rowe spoke to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim defender Justin Hoogma exclusively for WFI.
They discussed signing for Hoffenheim, his time in the Netherlands at Heracles Almelo, and what it’s like to play under highly rated German manager Julian Nagelsmann.
They also spoke about the differences between the Eredivisie and the Bundesliga, and what the Dutch league could learn from their neighbouring country.
In 2017 you signed for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Are you enjoying your time at the club and also playing football in the Bundesliga?
I am really enjoying play for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. I made a conscious decision to come here in order to become a better footballer as I thought I would develop quicker in the Bundesliga rather than the Eredivisie.
The Bundesliga is at a much higher level than the Eredivisie. It’s a fantastic environment here at Hoffenheim, and I believe that I have progressed in this last year.
I am confident of making a big enough impression to play more matches in the future. There are many great clubs here in the Bundesliga who play good football and I am delighted to be a part of that.
What can you tell me about your current manager Julian Nagelsmann. What are his qualities as a manager?
Julian Nagelsmann is a great manager who I believe will go on to manage a massive club in the future.
His tactical ability is fantastic in terms of adopting concepts and tweaking things, and it is really impressive in my opinion.
As a player you learn a lot from him and he is part of the reason why TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are doing so well. I only have positive things to say about playing and learning under him.
You played for Dutch team Heracles Almelo in the 2016-2017 season . How do you look back on your time at the club?
I had a great time playing for Heracles Almelo. Since my father Nico-Jan Hoogma came to Heracles Almelo from Hamburger SV in Germany, I had been involved with the club first as a supporter, and then to make my debut for the club was something very special.
During my time there we had a great team with a good back room staff too. I made my first steps in professional footballer at the club and I have very fond memories of my timeint Almelo.
You have played in the Eredivisie and are now gaining more experience in the Bundesliga and German football. What do you believe to be the biggest differences between the Eredivisie and the Bundesliga?
For me personally the biggest difference is that the tempo here in the Bundesliga is much higher than the Eredivisie.
In my opinion the Eredivisie is currently behind the Bundesliga in a tactical sense. For example, many of the teams in the Netherlands play the same way in terms of a strict 4-3-3 formation, and a particular way of playing.
Although, FC Utrecht under their then manager Erik Ten Hag were clearly different than the rest of the teams, and that was tough to play against with Heracles Almelo.
But here in Germany you never know what you can expect from your opponent as every team plays in a different way. I believe that we can learn a lot from that in the Netherlands.
I admit that the level is higher here, but that also has to do with much better financial resources and the Netherlands can’t do much about that, but we can definitely improve tactically in club football.
Your father Nico-Jan Hoogma has just been named as a director of football at the KNVB [Dutch FA]. Have you spoken about the appointment, and how is it for you that your father will fulfil such an important role at the KNVB?
Yes we have spoken about his appointment and also when he was approached by the KNVB. I am really proud of him that he will have such an important role within the KNVB.
It’s a great honour for him too to help Dutch football get back on it’s feet a little bit . I believe that he is also highly capable for the role, and I have full confidence that he will do a great job and I am really happy for him that he has such a role within the KNVB.
Could you say who is the best player that you have played with so far in your career?
There are two names that come to mind. Here at Hoffenheim my teammate Kevin Vogt is a fantastic player. I often study what he does on the pitch and how he plays in order to improve.
With Jong Oranje I played with current Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong and he is a very special player who plays football in such an easy way.
Who is the most difficult opponent that you have faced so far in your career?
Of course playing in the Bundesliga and Eredivisie there have been a few opponents that have made life difficult at times.
We played against Bayern Munich during pre-season last summer in a tournament called the Telecom Cup. I played against Robert Lewandowksi and he truly is a world class striker
Finally, Justin, you are still young but you have accumulated a lot of experience. Who are the manager’s that have helped you so far in your career?
When I was very young in the youth teams I had a manager called Rene Roord at Quick ’20. Roord was also a professional footballer who had to end his career at a young age, but I got on really well with him and he taught me many things including about the will to win. The team we had at Quick ’20 was also really good.
Other managers include current Heracles Almelo manager John Stegeman, who gave me my debut at the club and I will never forget that. Robbie Alflen was his assistant there, and he also has fantastic football knowledge.