The former Servettian is the lust of Urawa Red, who has already scored three goals in the Asian Champions League. We called him.
At a time when Servette dries up when he pushes the ball into the back of the net, Alex Schalk, ex-Grenat since the end of March, is a bull’s eye. Three goals in three of six Champions League matches with his new club, Urawa Reds. We called him to tell us all about it.
Alex, how was your arrival in Japan, a little over a month ago now?
It was stressful in the preparations. Leave Servette, Geneva, return to the Netherlands and fly from there to Tokyo. When I got there, I had to observe a three-day quarantine. In the hotel, where I still live. After that I could go outside, train with my new team. And the following weekend I played my first minutes in the league.
Yes, nine minutes. But after the transfer, the journey and only three days of training, it was normal.
Then there was the Asian Champions League. But not in Japan?
No, the whole group was moved to Thailand, to Buriram. For reasons related to Covid. There we played the six group matches, in three weeks. In fact, I didn’t get home until Monday. And we all had to observe a three-day quarantine on our return last Monday. So since drawing in Japan, I’ve been spending more time in Thailand…
But for a good cause, the Champions League. And with three goals for you!
Yes, it’s fantastic. The most important are the wins. We finished second in our group, we qualified for the round of 16. It’s great. On a personal level it is extraordinary. In the Champions League, the rule here is that three foreign players are on the match sheet. And we are four strangers. So there was a twist. Out of six games I played two, twice about an hour and half of the third. And I scored three goals, despite a little lack of rhythm. No, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better start.
Since then you must love Thailand, right?
Yes of course. We were actually in a bubble. Hotel, training, competitions, hotel. But for me it was ideal. For my integration into the group, being with my new teammates 24 hours a day for three weeks was perfect. I was able to adapt, build relationships, with the players, also with the coaching staff.
What will change compared to Europe?
It’s different, everything is based on the idea of high intensity. And respect for hierarchy. And then, on the field, in training, we don’t talk much. Me, I’m kind of used to yelling so I can get the ball, or encouraging someone to get it back when they just lost it. This is not done too much here, limitation is frowned upon. But everything is going very well. Unless I make a mistake…
There are different behaviors. You just have to know it and adapt to it. The first day with the team I took a shower with my shlaps, my tap shoes, what. Ouch! It doesn’t happen here at all. Everyone looked at me strangely. Ditto when I went to the physio room: you have to take off your shoes before entering. That’s how it is. No problem now.
And for the diet?
After training we eat together. There are chefs from the club who prepare lunches for us. I told them I was a diet vegan. It surprised them. I can understand. I am in Japan, where there are undoubtedly the best fish preparations and where the beef is of exceptional quality. But I don’t eat it. That said, don’t worry, they prepare things especially for me, everything is going well.
And the night? Now you will have to organize yourself, since you come back from Thailand, right?
Yes, sometimes shopping is complicated when everything is written in Japanese. But I’m still at the hotel. And I can eat there. The club did a good job: they informed the chef of the hotel who knows exactly what to prepare to respect my diet.
You are alone for the time being: will your partner and child be with you soon?
First I have to find an apartment or a house, but then we will be reunited.
And Japanese: are you learning it?
I’ve already started taking lessons, yes. I admit: I don’t think I’ll learn it as quickly as French. It’s a bit complicated. But first of all I want to know the politeness formulas and some basic sentences. We’ll see after.
Alex: do you still have time to check the results of Servette?
But of course! I can’t watch the matches live anymore because of the time difference. But I consult the highlights every time. I still have regular contact with a number of players.
So you see Servette’s current difficulties in scoring goals. But you’re not here anymore…
Yes, this is all unfortunate. I think I had the qualities to continue playing at Servette. I know I was appreciated. Knowing afterwards why they didn’t want me anymore… Maybe the club thought they could have it better than me and that’s their right. But that’s football.