MAN Truck & Bus
I'll never forget my first trip
Since spring of this year, the German Football Association has been travelling in the MAN Lion’s Coach. Christian Hochfellner, coach driver for the DFB TEAM, speaks about his day-to-day work, the new coach, the seating arrangements and his best journey with the team.
The 35-year-old from Limburg an der Lahn has been a coach driver for the German Football Association (DFB) since 2012. Christian Hochfellner first drove for the national team in 2014. In 2016 he succeeded his father Wolfgang Hochfellner, who had driven the team since 1992, as the principal coach driver.
HOCHFELLNER Honestly, no. It happened like this. I have always been interested in large vehicles and initially wanted to get my truck driving license. My driving instructor then asked me if I didn’t also want to sit for my bus driving license at the same time. This did naturally make sense, especially since there has been a coach operator in my family for over 50 years. I then came to the DFB through my father.
HOCHFELLNER I was allowed to take my first trip as second driver for the DFB in July 2012 – with my father of course. It involved an overnight journey from an international match in Hanover to the next match in Vienna.
HOCHFELLNER My first trip as principal driver will always be unforgettable. I collected the players from Tegel Airport in Berlin on 15 July 2014 – as newly-crowned world champions! My father sat with them on the flight from Rio, so I brought the team coach to Berlin and was then to surprise the players by taking them to an open truck, which subsequently drove them through the city. Only thanks to a police escort did we manage our way through the masses. I then drove the coach around 200 metres behind the truck and took the team back by coach from the Brandenburg Gate to Tegel Airport again after the celebration. People everywhere were lining the streets and celebrating. That was an amazing experience.
HOCHFELLNER The coach stirs enthusiasm wherever it goes. People grab their smartphones and take photos, car drivers hit their horns and wave. You have to adapt to this as a driver, of course, and take account of the car drivers’ special driving style. But it’s understandable: lots of people want the unique opportunity to see the national team’s coach and capture it. When I take a break during longer journeys, people often ask whether the team is on the coach or whether they could possibly take a look inside.
HOCHFELLNER The team mostly travels by plane given the large distances. I drive the coach from Frankfurt to the venue in advance and then drive the team from the airport or from the train station to the hotel, to training, to the match and to all other appointments.
HOCHFELLNER I enjoy listening to great music, especially rock music, golden oldies or music from the 1980s and 1990s. I generally compile a playlist. The WIFI on the coach means that nowadays you can easily use various streaming services, without needing to mix tapes as in the past. I do usually like being on the road and enjoy the scenery.
HOCHFELLNER Like all other passengers, the players also listen to music, play cards and have a chat.
HOCHFELLNER Sporting management and the team-behind-the-team have their fixed places. The players less so, they often switch around.
HOCHFELLNER Before the match it’s calm and concentrated. Meetings rarely take place on the coach. The mood after a match naturally depends heavily on the result. The music may be a bit louder if they win, just like the conversations. Sometimes there is absolute peace and quiet after defeats.
HOCHFELLNER If time permits. Then I sit together with the rest of the team-behind-the-team in the stadium stands. About ten minutes before the end of the match, I make my way to the coach and prepare everything – coordinate departure with the marshals or police, load the luggage, switch on the heating or air conditioning system. So I still haven’t experienced a final whistle live in the stadium.
HOCHFELLNER The coach offers the players special comfort due to the large distance between seats, leg supports, leather upholstery and much more besides. It is also equipped with a 5000-watt music system, for example. For me as a driver, there are all the latest safety features, such as BirdView and automatic transmission. And I’m the only one in the coach to have a seat with seat heating and seat cooling (laughs).