Sheraldo Becker, 27, comes from the famous Ajax football school. The Dutchman joined Union in 2019 and has scored five goals since then. We spoke to the striker before the derby on Saturday in the Olympic Stadium.
Mr. Becker, what’s nicer: winning a derby in front of your own fans – or in a foreign stadium?
It’s always nice to win a home game, but to win a game like Saturday’s in front of a full Olympic Stadium: that would be a great feeling. On the one hand you have to approach it like any other game because we want to win every game. But I’ve been in Berlin for three years now and I can already feel that the derby is one of the most important games of the year – for the fans, for the club, for everyone.
Hertha is fighting for relegation, Union reached the goal of 40 points for the season with a win against Cologne last weekend. Does the derby come at a good time now?
Yes, it’s convenient because we finally won again last weekend and we’re all in a good mood now. It’s been difficult in the last few weeks because we played well but still didn’t win. We created a lot of chances and still didn’t score any goals. It was the other way around against Cologne: we didn’t create much and still won. That was important.
How concerned has the team been that they’ve only won once in their last seven games?
The situation was not new to us. In the first and second years of the Bundesliga we also had such phases in which it was difficult for us as a team. But if you fight and talk to each other and work together, then the points will come eventually. We’ve been doing that for the past few weeks.
Staying up in the league is as good as certain: now new goals should be set. How realistic is it to finish internationally or win the cup?
We do believe that both are possible. If you believe in it, then it’s possible. At the beginning of the season we had set the 40-point mark as a goal. We wanted to stay in the league and only then talk about whether more is possible. Now we’ve reached that point where we can talk about it. Of course it will be a difficult game against Leipzig in the cup semifinals, but we want to get to the final and we want to win the final.
In the league, Union was in a very similar situation last April: around 40 points, seventh place. They ended up qualifying for the Conference League.
Yes, but you also have to look at the other teams. It’s different this year because so many teams are playing so well and scoring points. That wasn’t necessarily the case last year. At the time we felt that we would only need a few wins to reach the international places. We want to get as many points as possible and then see where we end up.
You looked pretty annoyed against Köln when you were substituted in the 72nd minute…
I can explain. As a player you always want to help your own team and in my position you always feel like you just need one more chance. The coach said to me: You can get angry, that’s normal. But in the end he makes the decision for the team, it’s not about me. I then accepted that.
How is your relationship with the coach in general?
He’s very open, you can always talk to him about anything, and I talk to him a lot. I’m a pretty emotional player by type. Every time I lose – even a four-on-four in practice – I’m still annoyed the next day. But the coach helps me a lot, both on and off the pitch.
In an interview last October you expressed your frustration that you don’t start more often.
I didn’t play that much back then and I was getting frustrated. Then came the interview and I had to say what was in my heart. Like I said, I’m an emotional player and sometimes I just do things that aren’t necessarily good. I spoke to the coach afterwards and we agreed that something like this wouldn’t happen again.
At the time, did you really think about a move in January?
Good question. You never know in football. When you’re not playing and another opportunity comes along, you might think about it. On the other hand, I’ve been here for two and a half years and I knew that if I work hard and show myself in training, the coach will see it. It wasn’t really on my mind to leave the club.
You’ve played a bigger role since Max Kruse’s surprising move. Were you secretly happy when he left the club?
If you play more then you take on more responsibility and I want to do that too. But I wasn’t happy because I played with Max a lot too, and that was very good for me and for him at the time. He’s a very smart player who helped us a lot, but he made his decision. We’re going to show everyone now that we have very, very good players even without him.
You now have a very important partnership with Taiwo Awoniyi. How has your relationship with him developed over the past two years?
In the beginning it was difficult because we had never played together. It was also difficult for me because I played more as a winger and rarely as a striker, so I had to learn new things. But the most important thing in football is that you talk to each other and we did that. Now we work very well together. Now it only takes a very quick look between us and then I know exactly what he’s up to and where he wants to run to. Although I also have to say that we should score more goals.
There is currently a lot of speculation about Awoniyi’s future. How annoying would it be for you to have to give up this partnership in the summer?
That would be tough. Every player is different and you have to build a good relationship first. You have to work on that in the pre-season and talk to each other a lot. I’ve been playing with Taiwo for a long time now and I know his strengths. We would miss his goals, but also his strength and speed.
And what does the future hold for you? Your contract only runs until 2023: is it possible to leave in the summer?
I’m not thinking about that yet because I want to focus on the rest of the season first. We have some big games ahead of us and that’s very important for us as players too. In any case, it’s not like I’m saying: I don’t want to sign a new contract. But we’ll see what happens in the summer. If, for example, a club from the Premier League came up with an offer, then of course you would have to think about it. But that’s not on my mind at the moment. I’m happy in Berlin, my family is here, my son goes to school here. Making a decision is easy. Making the right decision, however, is difficult.
In addition to the departure of players like Kruse and Marvin Friedrich, many decisions have recently been made regarding the squad planning for the next season. Players like Robin Knoche and Christopher Trimmel have extended, while Grischa Prömel will now join Hoffenheim. Does that have an impact on the atmosphere in the dressing room?
No, that’s part of the football business. The most important thing is that the players who don’t extend are still giving 100 percent. You can see that with Grischa, for example. He’s a great player who is very important to us on and off the pitch. Now he will leave the club in the summer and we will miss him. But he continues to give everything in training and in games. That’s how you have to do it.