Exclusive: Jurgen Klopp's arrival reignited the bond between BVB players and fans- Patrick Owomoyela
Written by: Neelav Chakravarti
The former German international has two Bundesliga titles in a career spanning 14 years.
Since its inception, football has always been unpredictable. From Uruguay edging past Brazil in 1950 FIFA World Cup final at the Maracana, to Leicester City winning the 2015-16 Premier League title; the sport has experienced it all. Talking about such cases, one never ceases to miss out Borussia Dortmund.
On questioning a modern-day football fan about the German club, you will get an answer revolving around the side being a European heavyweight! But little do we millennials know that it wasn’t always like this for the Bundesliga giants. From winning the 1997 UEFA Champions League final, to being driven to the brink of bankruptcy, the club has come a long way!
Khel Now caught up with former German international and Borussia Dortmund cult hero Patrick Owomoyela in an exclusive interview during his visit to India, to talk about BVB and football in general.
Watch: Khel Now TV's exclusive interview with Patrick Owomoyela
The former Die Mannschaft player who was in India for the Des Klassiker screening, on behalf of Borussia Dortmund and Bundesliga, started off by expressing his excitement on being in the country, and its immense culture.
Primarily as a right-back during his playing days, the 39-year-old was always in the midst of intense competition in whichever club he plied his trade in. In Werder Bremen (2005-08), at the beginning, he was the starting right-back and helped the side to a second-place finish. But the arrival of Clemens Fritz, coupled with injuries and average displays led him losing his place in the starting lineup. Then in Dortmund (2008-13) too, he began with impressive displays, becoming a club legend, and cult hero. But then once again, the arrival of Lukasz Piszczek coupled with injuries and average displays led to him losing his place in Jurgen Klopp’s impressive side.
“I am quite happy with the way things have worked out for me in my career. That’s life. I don’t regret anything. Sometimes, I ask myself, how would it have been, if I would have done some things differently. But on the other hand, I got really lucky in my career and life. So, I am really happy,” said the former Luneburger SK man.
Like most of the European professionals, Owomoyela too was enrolled into a football club at the age of four by his mother. He cites his elder brother and father as his source of motivation.
The Dortmund right-back was a part of the club's renaissance after the arrival of Klopp
The position of a wing-back has changed in world football. Originally made for defensive duties, the position has enhanced over the years, playing a bigger role in a team’s attacking duties; prime examples being Dani Alves, and the retired Philipp Lahm. On being questioned about how the position has changed, he stated that offensive duties weren't implemented earlier, as there were midfielders for that.
Over the years, the position changed leading to covering the full length of the pitch. So when the tactics changed and a wing-back had to attack more, it was good news for the former Dortmund man, as he had started his career as a striker.
The former Arminia Bielefeld player’s arrival in Dortmund was when the club was finally beginning to come back to their glory days of the past, primarily due to the appointment of Jurgen Klopp as head coach. The club began to compete with the stronger teams in the German top-tier, and slowly kicked Bayern Munich off their perch, winning the 2010-11, 2011-12 Bundesliga titles.
Owomoyela went on to state that the success surprised everybody, as the club was almost bankrupt four to five years before that. Before 2008, the club was shaky, but Klopp's arrival bought in a new energy.
Dortmund and financial problems have had many relationships in the club’s history. Back in 1929, the outfit found itself in a puddle. The club had signed some paid professionals, who failed, and put the team in debt. It was only a local supporter who saved the club through his own pocket. In 2003, rivals Bayern Munich had loaned approximately £1.72m to the club for several months to manage their payroll. Also, in 2005, BVB’s shares dropped by 80% on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Due to this, players’ pay received a 20% cut. Meanwhile, the Westfalenstadion was renamed “Signal Iduna Park” after a local insurance company.
He further added, “The bonding between fans and the club began to reignite. They were carrying us, and we were trying to do our best to carry them."
Klopp led The Black And Yellows to the 2010-11 Bundesliga title, which was last won by the club in 2002. It was in his third season, that Bayern were kicked off their perch. Owomoyela quipped, "The parade afterwards was crazy, with the excitement in the people involved.”
Like many other football players, the former German international tried his hand in another sport too. Before becoming a full-time professional football player, the former Hamburger SV II player played basketball in the German Regional League. Then he chose football over basketball, as the latter required a small fee, while the former involved a salary. The decision was due to a lack of money. He chuckled and replied, "I went the lucrative way, and chose football over basketball.”
He added, “But after that, I kept on playing, and chose the game over money.”
Since the beginning of this decade, Bundesliga and its top clubs boast a strong fan base in the South Asian country. The rise in popularity is largely due to the strong social media presence of the league, and also the presence of some exciting outfits other than Bayern Munich. The two-time Bundesliga winner credits the beautiful stadiums, high attendances, and exciting scorelines as the reason for the rise.
With Dortmund, Owomoyela won two Bundesliga titles
Located in North Rhine-Westphalia, The Black and Yellows were experiencing a brilliant season; Marco Reus was back to his brilliant best, Jadon Sancho proved his critics wrong, and Paco Alcacer donned the super-sub role. Everything seemed easy, until the 4-0 aggregate loss to Tottenham Hotspur in Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Since losing to their Bavarian rivals in the 2012-13 UCL finals, the German outfit has never really challenged for the continental title. Also, Lucien Favre’s side are currently in nervy waters, after losing to Bayern recently.
The former Die Mannschaft defender feels that the BVB squad is young and inexperienced except for a few older players. He further added that the current season has been better than last season, the team needs time, and will be better next campaign.
Spanning a 14-year career in professional football, Owomoyela has had a lot of moments, including representing Germany eleven times. When asked about his favourite moment as a Dortmund player, he predictably replied, “Obviously winning the Bundesliga title in 2011 was a big moment."
"Every game in the Signal Iduna Park is exciting. When you come out of the tunnel and see the yellow wall (consisting of fans), its something special. It still gives me goosebumps,” said Owomoyela.
According to Owomoyela, he learned a lot from Klopp although he was a seasoned professional by then
Current Liverpool gaffer Klopp came under the limelight during his tenure in Dortmund. With the German outfit, he won two Bundesliga titles, one DFB-Pokal cup, two DFL-Supercups, and also reached the finals of the 2012-13 Champions League. The former Mainz 05 head coach made a lot of players popular during his stay with BVB, including Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, and Shinji Kagawa.
Regarding Klopp, the former Bremen defender said, “He was overall a good coach. He knew it wasn’t just about teaching players about how to play. It is about forming a team, and getting them to bond very well.”
The German coach is currently in an exciting title race with Premier League rivals Manchester City. Although, the Anfield-based side are leading in the table after having played an extra game than Pep Guardiola’s side, Patrick knows that City have the advantage right now, although Liverpool could still win the title.
Over the years, Germany have been producing some excellent world-class football players of the likes of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Franz Beckenbauer, Philipp Lahm, Oliver Kahn. Currently, the European nation have a lot of exciting players in their ranks, who can get into the starting XI of any top team. When asked about the current crop of players, Owomoyela feels that Marco Reus and Max Kruse are a notch higher than the rest.
For the upcoming season, Dortmund have quite a job ahead. The departure of Christian Pulisic to Chelsea after this season, has created a void in the offensive side of the team, but Owomoyela feels that the team don't need any signings.
Best of BVB legend Patrick Owomoyela
In the 21st century, the footballing fraternity have been hypnotized by the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. So we couldn't resist the temptation to ask a player who has played against the Barcelona man in the past, about who is the better player amongst the two.
Voicing his opinion in G.O.A.T debate, Patrick stated that Ronaldo is a great player, but Messi is better than him. Regarding the better player amongst the two, he continued, "Messi is just something different. Ronaldo is a scoring machine. He loves to score goals, and scores more than creating. Messi is a scoring machine also. He delivers more goals than most players in LaLiga. I wouldn't say he is more versatile. Messi is a bigger package, and overall he is much more worth to the team he is playing for."
On a concluding note, we decided to ask him about his fantasy world football XI, to which he chuckled and replied, "I would go with Marc-André ter Stegen, Messi, Raphaël Guerreiro, Jadon Sancho, and Eden Hazard."
For the version of the interview, where he spoke about Indian Football, click here.
Published: Fri May 03, 2019 04:35 PM IST