As a spectator, he doesn’t find football all that interesting. “I like it better when I’m playing myself,” says Tobias. But he does watch the decisive games in the Champions League on TV. Especially when Liverpool FC is playing: “I think Luis Díaz is really cool, but unfortunately he’s injured right now.” Sometimes Tobias is also at the stadium in Graz when SK Sturm plays a home game. Most of the time, though, he’s on the road himself with his team at the weekend.
Enthusiasm for football runs in the family. His father was active himself for a long time, even if it wasn’t enough for the big career. “Tobias has always been there on the pitch, so he doesn’t know any different. But hopefully he’s more talented than I am,” he says with a laugh. In any case, Tobias quickly got a feel for the ball when he first trained with SV Feldkirchen at the age of five.
After the family moved to a small town south of Graz, he heard about a new type of training opportunity through a school friend. Not ten minutes away by car at the skills.labin Wundschuh. He still remembers his first training session in the skills.lab Arena well: “I wondered how it all worked. So, that I’m recognized when I’m standing on a circle on the turf or, that exactly the point on the canvas I’m shooting at is recognized. That was fascinating.”
But it didn’t take a long time to get used to it. Tobias quickly became a regular at the skills.lab Arena at least once a week. On the 320-square-meter artificial turf surface, he can always train exactly what he feels like doing at the moment and what he enjoys most: from shooting and passing exercises to dribbling and solving game situations.
During the vacations, he also doesn’t miss out on summer challenges and the youth development program, the skills.lab Academy. Where the 13-year-old has made the most progress? “Definitely in shooting. When it comes to hitting a target hard and with precision. But also turning up after high balls. It doesn’t happen that often in the game or in training on the field. But when it does happen, I can do it now.”
Extra sessions pay off
His skills have not gone unnoticed by others. His coach at JAZ-GU Süd, his second club, became the coach of a youth team of SK Sturm two years ago – and took Tobias with him straight away. Since then, the weeks have been more intense. Training three times a week, games on the weekends, plus afternoon classes at school twice a week. In addition, he continues to work on his technique and overview at the skills.lab Arena in Wundschuh. At Sturm he is used as a right defender, but he would even rather play on the wing. Like Luis Diaz. “But I like it so far. The teammates have accepted me well,” Tobias already sounds like a pro.
And the opponents are also becoming more international. In Turkey, they will be playing against Real Madrid and Juventus in an international tournament, and later on at Lake Garda, they will face AC Milan’s youngsters, among others. In the coming months, Tobias wants to take the next step towards a professional career. Then he will know whether he will be accepted into the SK Sturm Academy selection. He says he can’t tell it yet: “But I already think I’ll make it.”
Before that, however, the fourth grade in middle school still awaits him. But “everything is fine” at school, as he says himself. That leaves enough time for football. The Playstation in his bedroom rarely distracts him from his studies. Even though the virtual pitch is sometimes just like the real thing. One day you win, the next you lose badly. “With FIFA, though, I sometimes get so stressed out that I have to play something else.” He prefers to have the ball at his own foot.