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The former Werkself skipper was named honorary captain a few minutes before kick-off with CEO Fernando Carro and sporting manager director Simon Rolfes presenting him with the official pennant. At the same time, Bayer 04 fans paid their tribute to Bender with an impressive choreography of red and white flags, and banners across the whole of the North Stand.
"It's really great to be back and experience the atmosphere here a few minutes before kick-off. I was normally in the dressing room at this time," said the 33-year-old in describing his first impressions of his return to Leverkusen.
In response to the question of what he missed most, the 33-year-old provided a quick response: "The people," and he continued: "You can play football anywhere. But the fans, the club staff, the players and the time we spent together – that's what I've missed most. I really enjoy thinking of my time at Leverkusen," said the former Germany international in describing his mood.
The Bavarian joined Bayer 04 from 1860 Munich in 2009. The midfielder made 342 appearances for the Black and Reds in his twelve years under the Bayer Cross and he also made debuts on the European stage in the UEFA Champions and Europa League competitions. The 33-year-old ended his playing career with his brother Sven Bender on 22 May of last year in the away game at Borussia Dortmund (1-3).
The duo received a celebratory and emotional farewell at the BayArena the week before in the final home game of the 2020/21 season against Union Berlin (1-1). The nomination was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and now comes the official inclusion in the group of honorary captains in front of 30,210 spectators at a sold-out BayArena.
Following on from the club legends Ulf Kirsten (2004), Carsten Ramelow (2008), Bernd Schneider (2010), Simon Rolfes (2015), Stefan Kießling and Rüdiger Vollborn (2019), Lars Bender is the seventh player who meets the "appointment criteria" to enter this honoured group. That specifically includes: At least ten years at the club and a minimum of 300 appearances – coupled with an outstanding personality. Bender has now received this honour. "Of course, I'm very proud of my 342 games. I played here for ages and I had a really wonderful time here."
Monster Energy has been a partner in the Sponsors Club at Bayer 04 Leverkusen since the start of the 2023/24 season. Monster Energy has shown their products at Werkself home games on the LED advertising hoardings at the BayArena. Monster Energy activated the next stage of the partnership with the current Bundesliga league leaders for Bayer 04’s home game against Union Berlin in the middle of November. Monster Energy will continue to present themselves as a reliable and ambitious partner to Leverkusen fans through similar promotional events as at the game against Union Berlin.Show more
Bayer 04 involvement with the ‘Kältegang Leverkusen’ project continues this winter. The current Bundesliga league leaders and their fans again presented financial and in-kind donations to the homeless charity at home game against Borussia Dortmund (1-1).Show more
For the 17th time, Bayer 04 Sportförderung gGmbH has awarded the Volunteers Award for outstanding commitment to football in Leverkusen and the surrounding region. The three outstanding clubs in 2023 are BSV Roleber 1919, TuS 05 Oberpleis and SV 1924 Glehn. They will each receive prize money of €5,000.Show more
Bundesliga leaders Bayer 04 host Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 13 today, Sunday 3 December (17:30 CET), with a capacity crowd expected at the BayArena. Here’s all the latest information ahead of the clash with BVB.Show more
Two Bayer 04 players are on the shortlist for November 2023’s Goal of the Month on broadcaster ARD’s ‘Sportschau’. Fans have until midday CET on 20 December to vote for Alejandro Grimaldo’s opening goal in the Bundesliga game against Union Berlin or for Verena Wieder’s equaliser against RB Leipzig in the Google Pixel Women’s Bundesliga.Show more