Sitting in a bar with a retired sportsman is always special. Although if the aforementioned retired sportsman is only 21 years old that adds a weird taste to this special feeling. I was going to find out in the interview with former quarterback Patrik Szicherle what role American football played in his life in the past and what room it has in his future.
For how long did you play American football?
Patrik: Well, I played for around five years. I started in 2007 and retired in 2012, so yeah, that makes it five years.
Why did you decide to play this sport? I mean, it doesn’t have huge traditions in Hungary, how did you get to it?
Well, you know, I actually started to get pretty fat, and I was just looking for something to do. I began to watch American football in 2006 and I started to like it, so I decided that that would be the right thing to do. I found myself a team pretty quickly. It was really easy, as we had like twenty teams in Hungary, and like four in Budapest… So it was rather easy.
What were your first impressions of the sport when you went to a training session?
I actually almost spit my lungs out, so it was pretty tiring but I felt that I’m going to be the part of something and it was really good.
What was your first team?
It was the Budapest Cowboys.
What was the reason that you went to that team?
Well, in 2007, the only really established junior team was the Budapest Wolves and I felt they were pretty good, so they wouldn’t need me. So I was just looking for a second tier team and the Budapest Cowboys were perfect. I worked with really good junior team coaches, and it just felt like it was the right team. You still could learn from the coaches but it was not the best team in Hungary. I knew that I could develop into a better player by listening to my coaches.
When was it decided which position will you play in?
Around three months. Basically when you start playing American football, you will have to do everything. You will have to learn tackling, throwing the ball, catching the ball… I just felt that I threw the ball pretty good, so I felt like I need to be a quarterback. It was what I wanted to do and it turned out pretty good, so that’s it.
Have you ever had dreams about playing somewhere else?
Not really. Everyone wants to be a quarterback because they are the stars, that’s where you get the chicks and stuff… And it’s never boring. Most of the time, the games are on you. If you *** up badly, the game will be *** up badly. If you play good, it’s pretty much a sure bet that your team is going to end up winning. I loved this responsibility it came with.
I see. Did you have any matches throughout your career when you felt you played well but still, you lost the match?
Yeah, there were several games like this. When I transferred to the Budepest Wolves and later to the Budapest Hurricanes, we were playing in Austria. What you have to know about Austria is that those guys are really good. They are the best junior team in Europe, the Austrian national team, so the competition was really hard and it didn’t matter how good we played, we always lost. … One we played the Danube Dragons, and they have a really fine junior team. I played the hell out of myself, that was the best game in my career, and we still lost by some forty points.
They were that good, really. They had a player who actually played in the Team World against the USA. That player alone decided the whole game, so it was tough.
Yeah, I can imagine. What is your favourite memory of playing American football?
Winning my first junior Hungarian championship. It was just a pretty good feeling to be on top of Hungary. You know, Hungarian junior leagues are so easy because either the Wolves or the Hurricanes always win it, and I played for both teams, and I won the Hungarian championship two times. You know, Hungarian championships are so easy that we knew we were going to win, and it was just fun to go out like that. It didn’t really matter what happened we knew that we will win it in the end. It was just fun playing these games, it was just too much fun to imagine. We could do anything we wanted and we still ended up winning.
Based on that, your junior career was quite successful.
Well, I wouldn’t say that because we did not care about Hungary. So, how shall I put it? If we were sky high on cocaine and drunk for 24 hours before the game, we still would have won it, without a doubt. So we wanted to win in Austria. That was the main point, and we ended up with an 0-9 record in Austria in two junior seasons. And actually, the second junior season was pretty good, even the Austrians admitted that we were really good but we still were not good enough, so that sucked. So, I wouldn’t say it was successful, it was partly successful.
What was the reason then that you retired?
First of all, I grew too old, so did no count as a junior any more as I turned 20. In the senior team, I would not have any opportunity to play, so there was no point in paying X amount of money for not being able to step on the field. I really enjoyed playing throughout my junior career but it’s an amateur sport in Hungary. You don’t get paid, you don’t get any benefits, so it was fun but it was time to turn to school and focus on my school activities, so that was it.
Weren’t there any weaker teams available to play for or you weren’t interested in that?
I wouldn’t have played for weaker teams. There would have been no point in that, really, because the rest of the guys around you would have sucked. They would be really-really bad players, they would never do what they should do, and that would’ve been just annoying, so that’s why there would’ve been no point in going to a weaker team to play football for hobby. I considered football my job for a long time, so it would have been just too much of a change and I didn’t want that.
What are then the hopes for Hungarian American football players? How can they be successful in it for a long time?
Well, pretty much what you can do is to be pretty *** good and by pretty *** good I mean that the best in Hungary by miles. Then you could probably and in theory end up playing in an Austrian team, and that is pretty good. Actually, the Vienna Vikings are the best American football team in our region. There’s a Ukrainian player who started to play there when he was 16. He’s probably 19 now, and he would end up playing for the senior team, and he would pretty much earn lots of money until he’s around 35.
Probably most Hungarians know the American football from the NFL Is it comparable to any other league in the world or in Europe?
No, it’s not, absolutely not.
So if someone would go out for a Hungarian American football match, would he recognize the sport from what he can see?
Well, probably yes, but he would end up crying. Comparing the NFL to any other league is like comparing the flying ability of a trolleybus and an aircraft. There is no point in comparing them.
American football is a pretty tough sport. How did you cope with injuries?
Well, you need to work out, you need to go to the gym, and basically if you put a considerable amount of muscles on your body, you will survive easily. The most I got was a torn shoulder-muscle, but I was still able to play with it, although it was quite painful. I’d say that in Hungary, you don’t have that many chances to injure yourself. If you are fast enough, they will never catch you. Most Hungarian players suck, so if you have anything special, like special amount of strength, or really fast speed, you are most probably safe, because most of the guys in Hungary can’t do anything to you.
What are your future plans in life?
I’m going to study in either Denmark or Finland. It’s either going to be hotel management or European studies. Of course depending on which tracks I will choose, I will either be a hotel manager or I will get a job in the EU. I’d like to get some money, of course, like everybody, get a small house somewhere, family, car, and that’s it.
Do you see that football will play any role in your future?
I don’t think so. I mean, I of course will watch NFL games, and college football games, and watch the NFL Draft, but I will not return playing. It would have to be a really special occasion, but I highly doubt that I will return to the field.
By: Dávid Koczó