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Hollywood glamor like a Swiss documentary film about cheese

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Hollywood glamor like a Swiss documentary film about cheese

Harald Gärtner, the representative of Los Angeles FC, spreads warm words and does not name any goals – except: not to be relegated. Is this compatible with the owners’ plans?

In front of the inflated Heugümper: GC sports director Bernt Haas (l.) and Harald Gärtner, head of Europe at Los Angeles FC.

Ennio Leanza / Keystone

Harald Gärtner enters the media room on the GC campus with brisk steps and belts out a loud “Grüezi mitenand” to everyone around. Just like the Germans do when they want to signal that they have arrived. Arrived in Niederhasli with the Swiss football record champions, sent by the new GC owners in Los Angeles.

The sports director Bernt Haas and the coach Bruno Berner sit next to Gärtner. After the end of the transfer phase, they want to give information together about the first period of cooperation: “very good”, “intensive”, “pleasant”, say the protagonists announce. It’s not a bad time to spew wordy non-committal statements.

Since Los Angeles FC (LAFC) took over the Grasshoppers from the Chinese Fosun Group at the start of the second half of the season, they have scored 7 points in 6 games. There were defeats against FCZ, YB and Winterthur, wins against FC Basel and FCZ and a draw in Lugano. That’s a record that exudes as much Hollywood glamor as a Swiss documentary film about cheese making. Solid but boring.

Same distance as a year ago with coach Giorgio Contini: 24 games, 28 points

The demands are different. During the takeover, representatives of the new owners repeatedly emphasized that they wanted to bring GC into European competitions. Maybe not exactly on the direct path to the Champions League, but you can’t rule out the premier class in Hollywood either. “You have to win, always, there is no alternative,” said LAFC sports director John Thorrington in the NZZ. Gärtner says: “We want to stay as far away from Barrage Square as possible.” The well-known GC language formula for this is “stabilize”.

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Stabilizing is the opposite of change or departure, it means standing still. This fits GC. A year ago, the club with coach Giorgio Contini had exactly the same number of points after 24 games with 28 points as they do now. GC defend well, but score few goals. As was the case last season, a win is now followed by one or two defeats until another game win increases the distance to the Barrage pitch to a bearable level. Coach Berner calls the team’s sporting path “volatile”. Contini said the same thing a year ago.

Build and stabilize: those responsible for GC about their goals.

After all, neither Bernese nor gardeners need to worry about the last year or the recent past. Gärtner speaks of “getting to know each other” and “partnership”; we have to “talk to each other and not about each other in order to find good solutions”. In his remarks, the 55-year-old former defender comes across as a charming mentor who “assists with action and advice”. And not like the representative of owners who invest money in expanding their club network with branches in Innsbruck, Montevideo and Zurich as well as with collaborations such as the Red&Gold partnership with FC Bayern Munich.

Keep the ball flat, don’t promise anything, remain non-binding: Gardener laughs a lot and is in a good mood. He doesn’t see any urgency as to who will be in charge of the business as CEO in the future; one must “first find out what the appropriate organizational structure will look like.” Gärtner also doesn’t say much about the three new players who came to Niederhasli during the winter break. It was quickly agreed that the offensive needed reinforcements. To do this, like the sports director and the coach, he “used relationships and activated the network”.

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New players who want to “burn” for the GC body

Oliver Batista Meier is one of the professionals that Gärtner brought in. The 23-year-old came on loan from Verl, 3rd division in Germany, with a season record of 9 goals and 10 assists. Batista Meier completed his training at FC Bayern and was even briefly on the pitch for the German record champions against Fortuna Düsseldorf. He was then sent to the Netherlands, sold to Dynamo Dresden, from where he was loaned out first to Verl and now to GC. It is the typical path of a talent who has so far been denied development at the highest professional level.

Coach Berner says about Batista Meier: “I immediately felt that he really wanted to come and burn for the GC jersey.” The same applies to Dijon Kameri, the 19-year-old is on loan from Red Bull Salzburg until the end of the season. The attacking midfielder is coming back from injury and has only played 194 minutes for the Austrian champions this season. Instead of Salzburg, Kameri now wants to “burn” for the Grasshoppers. Maybe not exactly like the striker Asumah Abubakar, who came from FC Luzern and only needed 12 minutes against FCZ to fly off the pitch after an attack.

“The development is right, I see progress,” says Gärtner. Maybe we’ll find out what he means by that on Saturday evening in the match against FC Luzern.

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