Creative Soccer Culture

Kevin Trapp On Life In & Out Of Football & The Return Of The Bundesliga

Reflecting on a journey that has seen him scoop up numerous domestic honours with PSG before his return to Frankfurt, Kevin Trapp discussed the highs and lows from his career with us, as well as his interests outside of football and how he feels about the return of the Bundesliga.

Germany has a pedigree for producing some world-class goalkeepers, and Kevin Trapp is right up there with them. Looking up to Oliver Kahn as a youngster and then later Manuel Never, Trapp is now carving his own reputation as a formidable stopper. The 29-year-old made a name for himself at Frankfurt early in his career, making 96 top-flight outings for the club between 2012 and 2015 before moving to the French capital, and now he’s back at Frankfurt, reinforcing his status as a contender for the national side’s no.1 jersey. Hungry for success, he talked us through lockdown, football’s return, and how his piano playing is going.

Firstly to start with, how would you describe the experience of the last few weeks to months for you personally? 

Like for everyone, it’s one very special situation that we have never had before. You didn't really know what to expect or what's going to happen or how to handle the situation because people say stay home and you have social distancing and all these things… for example, when you go to the supermarket or wherever you go, whatever you touch, needing to disinfect your hands and wash your hands afterwards. It’s a situation we never had before. From my experiences in Germany... I think they did a great job in handling the situation. We weren’t really locked down in the sense that we could go out and walk around... I know that people have had it a lot harder. For example in France they have been home for two months now and haven’t been able to see or do anything.  So I tried to make the best thing out of it by learning some piano and a language… things like this. It was important to keep busy and do something positive with the time.


How is everything now you’re back? Even going for lunch together, that must be a weird experience.

Yeah it is weird. Though actually, they are organised really well but it is really weird. Separated tables, you get in line for your food, you cannot serve yourself.  It’s a different experience.

Nice. Tell me about learning piano. And how do you keep busy?

I like to listen to music and good songs, but I'm not really talented when it comes to knowing what music is about. So this was a big challenge for me to learn, because I don't have talent like that [laughs]. So I’ve been learning to at least to be able to read the notes but then I got bored so fast and I said, “OK, what songs do I like that I could learn to play on the piano?” Songs like Una Mattina, River Flows in You or John Legend, All of Me  things like that. I thought that if I would be able to play them then I’d be really proud of that achievement. It went well so far.

I’m looking forward to seeing when the record drops...

Let's see… I need to make progress. Maybe I'm going to do a single or something [laughs]. I have to be honest it’s really nice to listen to music but honestly to play, it’s interesting to really see how difficult it is to play with the coordination you need with two hands. I like the experience of learning very much.

It must be quite a good thing to learn given football can be so hectic – is this the calming tonic you need to help you relax away from the game? Is it calming for you?

It really calms you. It really makes you relax. When you play, you sit there and listen to the music but for me, it’s more the feeling you get from being able to play the right notes and make it sound like a song. For me, that’s the good feeling. It’s true though, when you’re stressed and you go sit there and play, it makes you calm.

Did you see the forced downtime over the last few weeks as a chance to reflect as well?

Honestly, I think a lot of people would feel that way. For me personally, you start thinking about different things. You start seeing things differently. I think before everything was in a rush. You’re always wanting more and better and faster in whatever it was and now everything just slowed down. The world is slowing down. It's not in a rush like it was before. Before you had always the feeling, “okay, if I'm not doing this today or tomorrow, I'm going to miss something or this and that” and so now you just have the feeling. “OK nothing is happening.” You can connect with people, you play games with them, whatever it is like monopoly or things like that. It has given us that opportunity to connect with more people. I feel that you open up to more people, you ask them how their life is going. You just see things from a different point of view for a lot of things. I think that for many people, it’s the same thing and same feeling.

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I'm proud of what I have done so far but I need to say it in a different way – I'm never satisfied. That's the difference”

Would you say you've learned things about yourself? Having that time to slow down, has your outlook changed a little bit?

It was actually a great feeling, not to be in this rush or not having this pressure or this mindset when you think “I’m going to miss something”. At the beginning of it all, you would wake up and say, “OK, what I'm going to do now because nothing is happening.” But then trying to switch it in this mind or in this situation and then your outlook changes to more, “OK, just enjoy the situation as much as you can and make the best out of it. Like connecting to people, talking, being open. You’re still close to your family even when it's just by face time. It makes you think more about the situation and it was a good time to reflect. That's for sure.

While it is a good time to reflect, it must have made you so hungry to get back playing. How desperate have you been to get back on the pitch?

The problem is that the first two weeks was like okay, “for now, we stop everything. Nothing's going to happen.” But then we went back training and it was only in small groups. You train and train but you didn’t really know where those efforts are going to go and if we were to get a game. We didn’t know when it would start again and when we’re going to play again. So it was more in the beginning just like kicking with friends [laughs]. Those days when you’d just be playing football with three or four people. You’re out there and you do some stuff but being out there, being on the pitch, but being able to go out and breath fresh air and do what you love was fantastic. When they announced they were going to go back to play, it was fantastic. I mean, to be honest, there's a lot of controversy here. People saying it's too early. “Why can they go back and play soccer when my kids can’t go to the playground or whatever”. Many people have separate or different opinions but the fact that we are able to go back and that the politicians let it happen means a lot. It means that the league is doing a great job, that people are respecting the hygienic rules and everything. So seeing the numbers and everything, what's going on in Germany, I think everybody did a great job. For me personally, I'm very excited to go back to play.

Football is such a commanding part of your life, did it make you realise how much love that you have still for the game in the purest sense?

A few months ago, I was injured and every time you get an injury, you really see how lucky you are to do your job because at that time, you can’t do it. You see all your teammates playing and enjoying you’re there injured and fighting to come back. Now it was like you have to organise your day by yourself, because it's not a given by coaches or by the club, then it is totally different and you really see how lucky you are to be doing what you are doing. As a professional, you go out every day and you have 25 – 30 people around you. Your teammates, the staff, you’re out in fresh air and you are doing your hobby as your career and your work. You get to do what you love and then all of a sudden it’s just taken from you by an external situation or force.

And then you go back and it was guessing, are we really going to play or not? You fear it being cancelled. So then when you hear the possibility is there to play again, you are like a kid and you realise how much for you, you have to go back out there any play. Hopefully everything goes well because even when we go back and everything is well organised, you have like a huge responsibility for the other people right now. We have to be the example to show that everything is working. We really have a big responsibility right now to show that we are examples and can be idols for a lot of people.

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You've been social distancing for a long time. How does it feel like you took some sort of going back in and being around players? Do you feel like you’re back home, where you belong?

It was weird because normally when you don't see your mates it is because you are on your holidays. So you’d usually be enjoying that time all doing different things. But right now it was like, OK, you isolate at home and you’re not going to be around people you see all the time. So it was different. We still have this kind of social distancing and of course, we are back in training now but everything is not the same. It hasn’t gone back to how it was before. There’s a lot of rules we have to respect, but it is still a great feeling to be back and being with them and talking to them and being able to play, of course. 

So, addressing the elephant in the room... it doesn't feel like you're being thrown into unsafe territory? All the players are happy?

I think everybody has their own opinion. Everybody thinks differently about the situation but I also think everybody has to be open about it. It’s important that if someone isn't comfortable with the situation, that they say. We’re all in this together. It's not something that you can just go over and it's done. It's a serious situation and it’s still a very serious situation for the whole world that you see every day in the news but you somehow have got to trust the people who are responsible for us. The league prepared and planned a situation that means we’re about to move back to playing. The highest person politically accepted that plan and said, “OK, if everybody's respecting these rules then we are able to go back to playing”. I think if the most senior people are saying that then we can be sure and safe that everything has been put in place for it to be healthy.

Everyone is going to have eyes on the German league now because we're so hungry for football. Do you feel you excited about that? The extra eyes on and being able to showcase it as a league?

I mean, we can be a great example for the rest of the world. With us, we are the first and only championship to be back playing, we can give a great example for everyone else to follow. If we properly figure out the plan that is in place for the league then we give that advice to the rest of the world. Football is kind of essential for the people here. They love football and they love to watch it. We know the whole world is going to watch the Bundesliga right now because we are the only league playing. That is a good feeling but it’s not an additional let’s say, “pressure”.

Away from Covid-19... You touched on reflection, wind the years back. How would you describe the journey you’ve been on over the last decade?

A fantastic journey. I played my first match when I was think 19 or 20 I think and as a little child, you have this dream of playing professional football and seeing all the stars who you have seen before in TV, like Casillas, Kahn, Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham and Kaka and you just want to be like them. All of sudden you’re then playing your first game. I remember when I played my first game, I was like “now I’m a Bundesliga Player”. So from Kaiserslautern to Frankfurt, they gave me another opportunity to play here in the Bundesliga again because at the time Kaiserslautern went down into the second division. I was really happy to extend my contract but then a few months later came Paris and I was like, “OK, wow, all these players who you were playing on the PlayStation with, like Zlatan, Thiago Silva and whoever, all of a sudden I was a teammate of them.

This journey has been incredible. You learn a lot in Paris, you play with these stars. The contact with Frankfurt never really ended or stopped and when it came to changing clubs again, I was only really thinking about what the situation was in Frankfurt. I saw that they had developed; for the second year in a row they were in the Semi-Final of the Europa League and they had won the German Cup. All these things are what you dream about as a child are kind of happening. You’re playing against huge players like Cristiano Ronaldo, like Messi, you’re a team mate of Zlatan, Neymar and Mbappe. I’m more than grateful for everything I have lived so far.

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What would you say have been the greatest experiences that you've had?

It is difficult to say. I mean, coming into a professional team and seeing this and you have all these games you play in front of 50,000 people every weekend is a fantastic experience but then you come from a you go from Frankfurt to Paris. At this time, Frankfurt was what you’d call a normal German Bundesliga club, they were finishing tenth or eleventh in the table, then you go to a club that wants to win the Champions League and is full of those stars. I think this experience… my first days there were like, “hey this is a different world, it's fantastic”. To live this, I feel was one of the greatest experiences, but besides my first game, beside the first national team game - All these things to live for and you live for the first time, a game for the national team against Denmark. I can still remember that feeling, how it was, when they told me, “you're going to play”. The feeling after my first Bundesliga game or the feeling of going to sign for great teams and being able to play with all these top players is an incredible feeling.

I always wonder what it must be like to be a goalkeeper on the pitch and the view of the pitch you have – how would you describe the unique view you have on a game and what do you take in?

[laughs] I’m always complaining because every time we score, I have to celebrate on my own because as a goalkeeper, you’re kind of isolated on your own position. But that position is a very special and different place. You have your own kit, your own goalkeeper coach, you’re the last person who can avoid a goal, you have a lot of responsibility. It’s a fantastic position but very different from let’s say the rest of the players on the field.

What goalkeepers did you look up to in a big way when you were younger? Who were those key players and what was it about them that grabbed you?

Well, it was when I was really young like six, seven or eight years old. It was Oliver Kahn. He was captain of the national team, captain of Munich. He had this attitude of wanting to win every game, everybody respected him as a person and as a goalkeeper so when I was younger, I always said I wanted to be like him. When I grew up and got older, it was more like players like Neuer that I would watch. When I started playing, Neuer started playing and was doing his own matches and he kind of changed the whole goalkeeper game by being so modern and having a different way of playing. He’s the kind of role model right now for every goalkeeper. He was 20/21 when he played his first game and he was a totally different goalkeeper than what we had ever seen before. Now he is the German national team goalkeeper and he’s won nearly every title you can win. World Cup Champion, Champions League, German club champion. Almost every title you can win in your career, he’s a very humble person, a very nice person - all these things in a person - being successful, being a great goalkeeper, being an amazing person - he’s someone you can really look up to as an example.

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I’m always complaining because every time we score, I have to celebrate on my own because as a goalkeeper, you’re kind of isolated on your own position”

You won the quadruple with PSG and then went on to go to a World Cup with Germany... regardless of the outcome, what do the moments like that mean to you personally? Like you said, when you think back to yourself as a kid, they are dreams aren’t they?

If someone had told me when I was 20 years old that I would go on to live all this, I probably would have said, “no way!” At 28, being able to participate in a World Cup even if, like you said, the outcome wasn't great, was still an incredible experience. You win many titles in your career, you play Champions League, you play with all these players together, play with Frankfurt in the Semi-Final of the Europa League – all the experiences we have here with our supporters – all these thing are just incredible. Playing for the National Team, means you’re one of the best players in Germany. All these things you're telling yourself as a child are happening. So, I mean, there’s not much more besides being healthy, that you could dream of.

Listing off milestones like that shows the incredibly journey – how proud of you when you hear the words come out of your mouth?

I'm proud of what I have done so far but I need to say it in a different way – I'm never satisfied. That's the difference. It's like, “OK, I’ve lived a lot, and had many good times but I’m going to be 30 years and I’m still not finished. I’m living day by day and saying I still want to get better, I still want to have this, I still want to fight for this and work for this. Of course, everything that has happened so far to me, I’m really grateful for and proud of but it’s not finished yet and it’s not like I say, “I’m happy and I’m satisfied with what I’ve done and I’m going to stop now”. I still have huge goals now in Frankfurt and to be successful in every kind of way.

Yeah, with that in mind, how much does personal success make you hungry for more? Even going out onto the pitch must give you such an adrenaline rush – do you finish one game and instantly want to play the next?

Yeah I mean you go training by training and game by game. You go out on the pitch, you have this adrenalin. You want to win the game, you win the game and then you’re already saying, “ok, I want to win the next game”. You’re going to show yourself again and you're going to confirm your own performance or alternatively if the game didn’t go well then you’re going to go into the next game having trained and work harder for that next game. All these things are the same in the approach in that you say to yourself “OK, what I have lived so far is great but it is forgotten somehow, it’s the future that counts. So look more like this; what I have done so far is good, it’s great, but I’m still not done until I finish.

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It's a good outlook. When we go back to your time at PSG... you were a regular at things like Fashion Week. Can you tell us about that side of you and what your interests you have away from football?

Yeah. When I met my my fiancee, it came from her. She’s really strong in the fashion business so I got to learn a lot with her. It taught me more about her and the work she does. It just happened naturally and organically. You get to know people and when you’re in a place like Paris, such a city of Fashion and the lifestyle that comes with it. I’ve always said football is my first priority and it is my work. I never want to loose focus or loose track on football. I’m interested in different things too though, like getting to know other people, other businesses and industries to see how they work and how different worlds work. So all these things are things I find really interesting. I want to see more than only football, that’s what makes life interesting.

Would you say that your your mindset is one that goes looking for new experiences and new opportunities?

One hundred percent. One hundred percent. As I said, I’m barely satisfied and I always want more and faster too. Like what we were saying about the world slowing down, it’s interesting for me. I don't want to stop learning. I want to continue learning every day and getting better every day so having this more time is a positive for me and it’s positive mindset to never be satisfied. I’m grateful but not satisfied and learning every day. 100 percent.

Thinking about fashion week once more and you’re sandwiched between David Beckham and Neymar at a Kim Jones runway show, that's kind of like a whole another level. Tell us about that night and that experience...

When you think about David Beckham, there are no words. He’s such a legend. It's like he's not known as a football player anymore. He’s an icon. Neymar, he’s a superstar. It was a great night. I have much admiration for Beckham and for Neymar, for what they have done so far and what they are doing. Being able to sit there with them was nice. Just to get to know each other was incredible.

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I have much admiration for Beckham and for Neymar, for what they have done so far and what they are doing. Being able to sit there with them was nice. Just to get to know each other was incredible”

Did you speak to Beckham much during that time?

We spoke kind of small talk, but it's very busy at events like that. You aren’t really able to speak at length, same for Kim Jones, we’re in touch but he was working. So we had small talk but it’s not easy to talk much more than that at events like that.

Those players are trailblazers off the pitch with such a strong image. That's such an important part of football today. You do a good job with your image yourself, who do you look at as inspiration for yourself?

Well, I always have people I'm looking up to and say he's doing a great job but what I want is to be me. I don’t want to copy someone. I want to be my own version doing their own things. Of course, if you see someone like Beckham - he was very successful and Cristiano Ronaldo the same - they’re kind of businessmen as well. But what I want to be and what I want to work for is that people don’t see me as just a football player. I want to be more  than just a football player who was playing for ten years and that’s it. That’s why I said I want to see more of the world than just football. Learning every day, seeing different angles of the business around it.

Football obviously gives you the opportunity to see much of the world, how have you enjoyed being able to explore the globe through football?

That's the beautiful thing about football. Football unites to world. You get to know so many people, so many interesting people from all over the world from all kinds of businesses. You’re able to travel and see different countries, different cities, different mentalities and that’s beautiful football. Football gives you many, many opportunities to grow as a person. If you use those possibilities well, football can give you a lot more than only playing football.

When you talk about the platform football gives you, what are those things that stand out that you’d really like to achieve?

[laughs] That is this kind of question like, what are you going to do after a career? It is a hard and tough question to answer right now. Ultimately I’d like to continue with that mindset. Get to know a-lot more about other people and seeing what really gets you, what you're interested in, and what affects you the most. I could imagine a career after football but right now it’s really hard to say what direction I would like to go in. I don’t know, I have no idea. I just hope that I can continue in this way, get to know other people.

Let’s talk about returning to Frankfurt – how special is the place for you?

There are so many important people here for me, it’s a beautiful place. To know that you have these kind of friends, this is just a huge value for me and Frankfurt for me is what you could say as my hometown. I have my friends here, my family are one and a half hours away, the city is beautiful and you have many things to do. Great people here. So for me to be here and to be here playing for this club, for the supporters, was the decision I knew I was going to make when I had the chance to go back and when I decided to move from Paris, I really felt that I wanted to move back here.

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With everything that's gone on over the last couple of months… you already said about the world slowing down, what would you like to achieve on the pitch more than anything?

Well, I mean, it is the first big step to be back playing. I want to win and I want to be successful just as everyone else here does too. What I wish for the rest of the championship is that we win as many games as possible. We can see it as a tournament right now. We have 9 games to play and we want to want to win these 9 games and be as successful as much as possible. Afterwards, of course, still growing as a goalkeeper, being better than I was yesterday or today, learning as much as I can and hopefully win some titles with Frankfurt. This happened already a few years ago and you see fantastic it can be to win a title with Frankfurt. That would be amazing.

Photography @kevintrapp

Daniel Jones

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