The Philipp brothers: Same but different

Brothers Luca and Tim Philipp are both highly talented goalkeepers – and both play for TSG Hoffenheim. Luca, 21, is the first team's reserve shot-stopper and regularly keeps goal for the U23s in the Regionalliga. Tim, 16, moved up to the TSG U19s this season and has already made appearances in the A-Junior Bundesliga, despite his young age. One family – two highly promising goalkeeping careers.

The two siblings are the last line of defence on the pitch. But when Luca and Tim Philipp are not between the sticks, they like to go on the attack – especially if there's a chance to tease the other. Words and casual insults are traded between them, skillfully deflected and countered with a grin. It quickly becomes clear that the saying "teasing is a sign of affection" applies to the Philipp family, and that the relationship between the two brothers could hardly be better.

One of the reasons for this is TSG Hoffenheim, which reunited the brothers in the summer of 2020 and laid the foundations for two success stories – which are full of parallels but in no way identical.

Luca, 21 – the older of the two brothers by five years and also the taller at 1.92m – has been a TSG player since 2013, is in the senior squad and plays regularly in the Regionalliga. Little brother Tim, who at 1.88m is also very tall, followed in his footsteps in summer 2020 and is in the U19 squad. A welcome but surprising reunion for the brothers, as Luca explained: "It's cool that my younger brother has taken the same path. It is of course extraordinary for two brothers to play competitively in the same position in the same sport. The fact that we both play for TSG Hoffenheim on top of that makes it even nicer."

Tim's transfer to TSG means that not only are the two brothers reunited; the parents have relocated to Sinsheim to be with their sons too. A ritual has established itself in the Philipp household over recent weeks: the family eats together in the evenings. "I moved away from home at the age of 12. For me, it's now super to see my family on a daily basis and not only once a week like it used to be," said Luca.

The family, who hail from Stuttgart, have been brought even closer together by Tim's transfer. Whenever possible, the parents will go along to see their boys in action, while the brothers also watch each other play – provided their own schedule allows for it. As you can imagine, football is frequently the topic of conversation in the Philipp household. "There's no getting around it in our family. Our parents don't exactly have it easy with us. You have to be a bit crazy to be a goalkeeper, and they have two of them," said Tim with a smile, adding: "Our parents are unbelievably proud of us and support us in all areas of life. We're incredibly thankful to them for that."

The fact that both Philipps keep goal and on top of that are among Germany's best goalies in their age group could not have been predicted several years ago. In their youth, the duo both played as strikers for a long time and enjoyed scoring goals significantly more than keeping them out. But they both took a different route to goalkeeping. At D-Youth level, my coach said to me that I was no longer good enough to play up front. I then gave it a go in goal and it worked out very well," said Tim, who was promptly teased by Luca. "It was similar for me; not in the sense that I was too bad to be a striker, but rather that we needed a goalkeeper for an indoor tournament, and I must have done a good job," the older brother said with a laugh and mischievous look.

The light teasing is a sign of their mutual appreciation and familiarity. They spend a lot of time with each other, know each other inside out and know they can have fun at the other's expense without endangering the family peace in the long run. Tim in particular looks up to Luca and cites his brother, who is five years older than him, as a role model. "I can learn a lot from him. Luca always give me tips and helps me with his experience. He has already been through a lot of situations that I now need to face and can give me advice. I benefit enormously from that."

With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that the Philipp brothers have a very similar style on the pitch. The brothers are known for being loud and emotional in both training and matches. And they resemble each other as goalkeepers too. "I frequently had the same goalkeeping coaches as Luca at youth level. There were times when I was compared to Luca. We were both relatively late growers but have always been able to compensate for that with a good jump," said Tim.

Despite all their similarities, both TSG goalkeepers are keen to emphasise that there are some differences too. "Luca is a little clumsier than me in everyday life, but he's probably a more relaxed person overall," said Tim, adding: "But it's also a good thing that we're different. Each wants to take their own path and support the other on their path as best they can."

The five-year age difference means that they have rarely been on the same pitch together at youth level. When Luca left the family home, Tim was only seven years old. Luca became better and better as he progressed through the age categories at TSG's youth training centre, while Tim made the move to a big club at a significantly later stage. The now 16-year-old spent a long time playing for SGV Freiberg and FC Esslingen, where he impressed TSG whenever he faced them.

After a year with the U16s and U17s respectively, Tim is aiming to be Hoffenheim's permanent No. 1 shot-stopper in the A-Junior Bundesliga next season and keep developing with every passing season like his brother has. The Stuttgart native has already made four competitive appearances this term. However, the 16-year-old was dealt a setback in mid-October when he sustained an injury in a collision that left him sidelined. Nonetheless, he is looking forward; his brother's experience has borne fruit in that sense. "My brother is a prime example that it doesn't have to mean anything if you're not always first-choice. He spent a long time only as the substitute goalkeeper and is now in the matchday squad of a Bundesliga club on a weekly basis. That gives me belief. Perhaps I can take a similar path."

Another parallel between the brothers emerged at almost the same time, as Luca got injured too. The goalkeeper suffered a broken finger and has spent time from watching from the stands. But that has not changed the ambitious goals of the No. 37 in the Bundesliga squad. Almost a year ago, he was promoted to the No. 2 shot-stopper in the TSG squad and is now dreaming of representing the Germany U21 national team in the European Championships next year. The custodian has already played for his country at youth level eight times but was not called up for the last set of international fixtures. A setback – but no reason for negative thoughts. "I'm in good contact with our U21 goalkeeping coach Klaus Thomforde and confident I'll be involved if I perform as I can." In addition, a competitive debut for the TSG Hoffenheim first team is on his personal wish list for this season.

Tim still has a long way to go to reach that level, but he wants to follow in his older brother's footsteps. After all, signing a professional contract with a Bundesliga club and working alongside the stars on a daily basis is already a huge success. Despite all their differences, the Philipps are ultimately united by one dream: becoming a Bundesliga goalkeeper.

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