The Bundesliga Fanatic recently had the opportunity for an exclusive interview by Abel Meszaros with 1.FSV Mainz 05’s versatile Argentine attacker, Pablo De Blasis, in late November, 2017. Born in La Plata, the 29 year-old began his career with the famed local club Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, the side founded in 1887 that claims to be the oldest footballing club in South America. Pablo is in his fourth season with Die Nullfünfer, and his known for his runs down the sideline, his durability, intensity and enthusiasm, having now featured in 90 Bundesliga matches. Special thanks to Mainz for accommodating our request
Abel Meszaros: First off, thanks for taking the time after practice, I appreciate it.
Pablo de Blasis: Thanks for the invitation!
AM: Let me start by asking you about the match against Cologne, there was obviously a lot of controversy regarding the penalty that you were awarded. Upon first look, there looked to be contact between you and Kocka Rausch, but later both the referee Felix Brych and your coach Sandro Schwarz admitted it wasn’t a penalty. What did you think?
DB: No, no of course when I saw the replay many times, I said, no, no penalty! But no yellow card to me also (for diving – there was a fair bit of talk about this being a “Schwalbe”). I felt the contact and I went to the floor. But yeah, probably not a foul….
AM: Yeah it was definitely not easy to tell in real-time, but then there is the video review, VAR. In this case it showed where clearly what you said that it wasn’t a foul. Now what do you think of VAR in general, there are a lot of people quite unhappy with it?
PDB: Yes, it is a strange thing, because sometimes it is very difficult to decide what happened on the pitch. Some people still say yes that was a foul and a penalty, but some still disagree and say no, never! And sometimes that is even after video review! I think a good rule would be if captains were allowed a look, or even a challenge. But just one time, don’t do it 4-5 times and not like 10 minutes after the play. With this VAR and the calls to Cologne (VAR headquarters) during the game, it makes the job of the referees even more difficult, you know. But I of course don’t know the solution, it’s sometimes good and sometimes not. It’s difficult
AM: Yeah, it’s confusing also for the fans, especially in the stadium. Sometimes there’s a foul on a corner or a free kick and the ball goes to the other side and then it gets called back and people don’t know what is going on. I want to ask you about the Cologne game: you played against your former teammate Jhon Cordoba, what was that like? Are you guys friends off the pitch, did you talk to him?
PDB: Yes, we spoke before and after the match and talked about the tough situation in Cologne and the city. We didn’t have a lot of time to talk, but I just told him I hope they start winning some games. It is a very difficult situation for them.
AM: Let’s talk about your season with Mainz: there were a lot of changes once again in the summer, a trying season last year brought lots of new signings and a new coach, Sandro Schwarz. The first game looked quite promising to me, as Mainz had I think 63% possession and played very attractive football against Hannover, who had one chance saved early on by Rene Adler. They scored their other chance later, and Mainz lost somewhat unfairly. That was followed by the loss to Stuttgart, two games that looked winnable. What was the mood after those setbacks and how did you guys react?
PDB: Yeah I agree, it’s games that we could have done better in, because winning against teams like Bayern is obviously very hard. So to lose the opening two games against promoted teams, it was tough. And then we lost 4 of the first 5…so we had to change and now the situation is different. We’ve only lost one out of six and feel more confident out there on the pitch. With that confidence we hope we can win more, but in the Bundesliga every game is very hard, you never know.
AM: Then the team rebounded vs Leverkusen, (3-1) including a great set piece goal that you helped set up. Any idea on why you seem to do well vs Bayer, you beat them 3-1 last season as well?
PDB: Yeah, we always do well against them, but I don’t know why…(laughs)
AM: Then you lost to Bayern, but losing to Bayern is what happens to most teams. Afterwards came the low point, losing from 2-0 up at home vs Hoffenheim on a 92nd minute Mark Uth winner. That must’ve been very rough, although you seem to do well against them – there was the 4-4 draw last season where you scored twice. The Bundesliga fan in me wants to see those kind of games more! What makes the games vs TSG so wild?
PDB: Yeah, those games are always very enjoyable, because they are a very good team, know what to do with the ball. But for a team like Mainz, we have to understand that every game has to be taken differently, and we have to play our game.
AM: You mentioned the 9 points in the last 6 games, with just one loss to Schalke and solid draws vs Gladbach, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg. And of course Mainz seems to beat HSV these days frequently, it’s the game where Danny Latza tends to score! It seems to me that you are winning the games against fellow lower end of the table competitors like Cologne and HSV that you were losing earlier on (Stuttgart\Hannover). Can you talk about what is different, is it the tactics or the formation or something else over the last 5-6 games?
PDB: It’s difficult to explain. Now we started to win some games, you know, but it’s always very hard. I think the biggest difference is that we’re fighting more in games. Of course sometimes we possess the ball more, sometimes the passing works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But in the last 5-6 games we fight more for every ball, we concentrate for 90 minutes and we have to keep this mentality to win points. We may not always get 3 points, but we need to play that way to win points especially away from home. (Note: Mainz have just 2 points from 5 away matches at the time of the interview)
AM: Switching gears, I want to ask you a little bit about your background. Like many other Bundesliga fans, I found out about you during your success with Asteras Tripolis, when you guys knocked out Mainz in the Europa League qualifiers. Afterwards Christian Heidel signed you for Mainz and you became loved and respected, not just in Mainz but all around the Bundesliga. You were 26 by the time you made it to Germany and 24 when you moved to Greece: what were some of the stops along this unusual, difficult journey?
PDB: It was not easy, but that’s football. Christian Heidel came and saw me in Greece and then I signed with Mainz. It was a very happy moment for me!
AM: There wasn’t a lot of information about your time in Greece, but I did see this great Youtube clip of your goals from 2013\14 where you scored so many goals with your head. You also played as a center forward! That really surprised me, people don’t really expect Pablo de Blasis to score headers!
PDB: Yeah, I think it’s because I’m not scared of anybody, I just attack the ball. I also like heading the ball, I practice it a lot, I spent many hours perfecting my technique. I also usually know when and where the ball is coming from, then I just attack it.
AM: I really enjoyed something you said in an interview, where you discussed your size, how you turn it into an advantage: being smaller you can get away with more, as the refs don’t call so many fouls on you, because they don’t always believe you can push a Jerome Boateng or Niklas Süle.
PDB: For me, height is just a number. There are a lot of short, smart Argentinean players, Maradona, Messi….Tevez, the small players are very successful!
AM: Coming from the Greek league to the Bundesliga, what were some of the main differences?
PDB: It’s more physical for sure, there’s a lot more running. But also, the level of play is very high and it’s a big challenge mentally on an everyday basis.
AM: You came to Mainz, a city that is very open-minded and has a great welcoming atmosphere. Despite a lot of changes at the club, you quickly became and remain a fan favorite. What does the city and the club mean to you?
PDB: For me, Mainz is a dream come true! Playing in one of the best leagues in the world. I love football, I’ve loved it all my life! It’s the best thing in the world. To play for such a team like Mainz has been the best thing in my life, along with my daughter! I have a lot of emotion for the club and the city, it’s the first thing on my mind everyday.
AM: Can I ask you a trivia question? Do you know which teammate did you play the most matches together with?
PDB: No, I don’t know….
AM: Stefan Bell, 90 games and 85 with Daniel Brosinski. So, who are some of the guys you are friends with on the team, who do you spend time with off the pitch?
PDB: Ah! (laughs) Jairo Samperio, Giulio Donati and Alex Maxim. They all speak Spanish, so it’s easy and we spend time together.
AM: What are some of the things you do when you’re not training or playing football?
PDB: I play with my daughter a lot these days (she was born last year). But we try to stay and hang out together with my friends. Since our wives are friends, we spend time with some of our teammates, too.
AM: Finally, I want to ask you about all the positions you play. Rather than listing all of them, I’ll just ask what your favorite is? To me it seems like left attacking midfielder is where you have the most success?
PDB: Yes, I think that on the left side or the number 9 are my best positions, but I’m always happy when I make it to the first XI. It doesn’t matter if it’s left or right!
AM: Finally can you talk a little about your objectives for the season. What are some of the team goals?
PDB: I think the first thing is to do better than last year for the team. I think the most important thing for us in the fall is to finish strong and start the second half of the season from a good position in the table. On a personal level, I hope that the team will continue to play attacking football and create more chances, because that’s good for me (laughs). I wanna score and assist a lot of times because that helps the team!
AM: Thank you so much for your time and best of luck going forward in the season!
PDB: Thanks and let’s speak again!