Amri: My striking targets

There’s a fine line between joy and despair in football, as Chadli Amri has already discovered on more than one occasion. He netted his maiden Bundesliga goal for Mainz on the last day of the 2006/07 campaign, and that against no less a team than Bayern Munich – but his side lost 5-2 and were relegated to the second division.

The 25-year-old was dealt another blow just a few months ago. After securing a berth in Algeria’s preliminary FIFA World Cup™ squad, coach Rabah Saadane elected not to take him to the global showpiece in South Africa, and the striker’s personal dream of appearing at the finals came to nothing.

After scoring seven goals in 78 Bundesliga appearances for Mainz, Amri has now switched to promoted Kaiserslautern. The forward's aim is to deliver the goods for FCK, as they are known, and play his way back into contention for the Desert Foxes. spoke exclusively to Amri, discussing his near-term goals at club and international level. Mainz and Kaiserslautern are both in Germany’s Palatinate region, so that must have made your summer move a little bit easier. Tell us about the first few weeks at your new club.
Chadli Amri: I’ve settled in very well and I’ve had no problems at all becoming part of the group. There’s a terrific atmosphere, and I’ve been made to feel very welcome. Since arriving in Kaiserslautern, I’ve never once had a bad feeling about the move.

Why did you decide to join a promoted club?
On the one hand, I wanted to take the next step personally, to climb another rung up the ladder. Kaiserslautern are a much bigger club than Mainz, so the potential here is that much greater. The talks I held with [chairman] Stefan Kuntz and [coach] Marco Kurz about their plans for the team were important too. That's what fundamentally led to me choosing FCK as my new club.

What are your personal goals for the new Bundesliga season?
I want to prove myself here at FCK, and I’d obviously be delighted if I can win a regular place in the team. But before that, the important thing is to support the team wherever I can, and I can best do that by playing to my potential.

Back in 1998, Kaiserslautern won the league as a promoted club, but what are the club’s targets for this season?
That was obviously a tremendous achievement! But our priority this time is simply to avoid relegation, and that’s what we all have to work towards.

FCK are well known for their passionate support. Will that play a role in the fight to retain your top-flight status?
The crowd is a vital factor for every club. As people like to say, they’re your 12th man. You really benefit from their support. As we all know, making sure you take points at home can be crucial in avoiding relegation, and your home crowd can be crucially important in cheering you on to victory. As you say, the Kaiserslautern crowd is amazingly passionate.

I’m not particularly focused on the national team for now. My priority is FCK.
Chadli Amri, Kaiserslautern and Algeria forward.

You first played for Algeria in 2006, so why do you not have more than nine caps to date?
I’d spent two years in the national set-up, but then a lot of things all happened at once. I had one injury setback after another, and that meant I was forced to lower my sights generally when it came to football. And in the middle of that, the association appointed a new national coach, so I had to start putting myself forward again from scratch.

You were named in your country’s preliminary squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup but ended up not going to South Africa. How did you deal with the situation?
I was obviously delighted just to be named in the squad in the first place. At the end of the day, it wasn’t to be, but I also had to deal with some personal problems at the time. My father died on 27 May. He’d been ill for a long time, and I wanted to spend his last few weeks at his side. It wasn’t possible to combine that with preparing for the World Cup finals. Some things in life are more important than a football tournament, even the World Cup, and for me, this was one of them.

How do you see your future for Algeria?
The vital thing for me is to be playing for my club and supporting the team. The national team doesn’t play that often, maybe three or four times a season if there’s no major tournament like the World Cup. There are far more matches in the Bundesliga, so that’s my priority for now.

How important are your performances at club level in terms of winning a place in national coach Rabah Saadane’s plans?
Obviously, it’s important for the national coach to be seeing his players in action. I think the Bundesliga is a very good platform, and I also believe the switch to FCK won’t put me at a disadvantage, the opposite in fact. But as I’ve said, I’m not particularly focused on the national team for now. My priority is FCK.

In qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations 2012, Algeria face Morocco, Tanzania and the Central African Republic. How would you assess your rivals?
Every game in Africa is tough. We’re seen as favourites to win our group, because we’re the only one of the teams who made it to the World Cup. But it’s always difficult when you’re favourites, because the expectations are that much higher. Morocco are definitely our most challenging opponents, and it’s the only derby in the group, a bit like FCK against Mainz really. I’d also say that away games in Africa are also a great deal more difficult than playing at home. But we’ll take it as it comes, and see how far we get.