Bernd Schneider: ‘Schnix’, the ‘white Brazilian’


The ranks of the honorary captains were extended by the addition of Rüdiger Vollborn and Stefan Kießling in the summer of 2019. is using the current period without games to say a big thank you to these Werkself legends every Friday over the next few weeks. The third instalment of the six-part series is about Bernd 'Schnix' Schneider.

For 15 years – from childhood to the first team – Bernd Schneider played football in his home city of Jena with increasing enthusiasm. Then he went out into the wide world of sport. He spent his first season in the Bundesliga at Eintracht Frankfurt where his outstanding talent was clear to see. That was followed by his best ten years at the BayArena. When Schneider moved from Eintracht Frankfurt to Leverkusen in the summer of 1999, Bayer 04 were able to point to 20 years in the Bundesliga, two titles (UEFA Cup winners in 1988 and DFB Cup winners in 1993), exemplary professional structures and a lovely little stadium, the BayArena.

In addition, there were bold plans. With the ambitious coach Christoph Daum at the helm, there was a significant upgrade in the squad. In addition to Schneider, signings included Oliver Neuville, Thomas Brdaric and (from Kaiserslautern) an up-and-coming youngster called Michael Ballack. When Schneider arrived at the BayArena, Bayer 04 were already an established and seriously respected force in the Bundesliga. After promotion to the top-flight, the club advertised themselves and their attitudes with the slogan "Professionals with a heart". That would probably have pleased Schnix. As did the somewhat self-deprecating 'Werkself' campaign. Football with a heart and 100 per cent effort.

A regular starter at Leverkusen from the beginning: Bernd Schneider.

Schneider, the player with the magical number 25, appeared with a hammer drill in an award-winning series of photos. Before the Bayer 04 management and Bernd Schneider finally agreed a deal, FC Kaiserslautern looked to intervene. But the Rhinelanders were not giving anything away. The transfer was possible because, although the player still had two years to go at Eintracht, his contract had a release clause that enabled him to move to a Champions League side (in the event of a two million Deutschmarks transfer fee. That applied to Leverkusen who were investing heavily in their squad with the prospect of income from the Champions League. "I saw the BayArena as the right platform to show what I could do on the European stage," recalled Schneider, "and I think I'm in with a good chance of being called up to the national team again."

Another step taken, another target achieved. A man with a plan. Schnix immediately found a regular spot at Bayer 04 in a star-studded team. From the first day in training, he lived up to the recommendations of his friends in Frankfurt and refused to allow himself to be influenced by anything or anybody as he showed people in Leverkusen what he was capable of. And, as it turned out, that was quite a lot. The coach particularly liked the approach of the newcomer who did also have a bit of luck. Bernd came straight into the side because teammate and competitor Michael Ballack was injured and unavailable for the first three months. Good luck for some is bad luck for others. Sometimes in football as well as in ‘real’ life.

I felt really well treated as a player and on a personal level

The reserved newcomer from Thuringia felt very much at home in the relative calm of the Leverkusen habitat by the A1. "I felt really well treated as a player and on a personal level," said Schneider. His stats reveal 296 Bundesliga appearances. Again and again, he received attractive offers from top clubs in the league but the artist with the ball resisted because he felt at home here and never felt the desire to change.

One or two exceptions from his time at Bayer 04 should definitely not be swept under the carpet as they represent his position in the high society of international football. Let's let Bernd explain: "At the end of our great season at Leverkusen in 2001/02, there was a lucrative offer from the great Barcelona to Bayer 04. That would have been it. Barca exemplified my approach to football, my way of playing football. Unfortunately nothing came of it. A pity as it could have been a great experience. I would have liked to have done it but I don't regret the transfer not taking place. The following year, Klaus Toppmöller wanted to sign me for Barcelona but he didn't get the coach's job. During the 2006 World Cup, Jürgen Klinsmann said I would be the first player he'd sign if he became the coach at Real Madrid tomorrow. Thank you for the compliment."

His fans at Bayer 04 are grateful that Bernd Schneider did not celebrate his ability at the Nou Camp nor the Estadio Bernabeu but instead remained at the BayArena to their evident joy. His nickname Schnix comes from the German verb ‘schnixeln’ and means dribble, trick, whittle away at. "Schnix is the only German player who could immediately line up for the Selecao," was the first class complement from his Leverkusen teammate Juan. He ought to know as he is Brazilian. His former teammate Emerson had already described Schneider as the "white Brazilian" due to his outstanding technique – a tribute that was again and again paid to him after the lost 2002 World Cup final against the Selecao (0-2).


Bernd Schneider's remarkable career is comparable to an emotional roller coaster with memorable high points and disappointments of biblical proportions. He suffered a serious back injury in April 2008 in a Europa League match in St Petersburg. The consequences forced the 35-year-old professional into making a decision in 2009. His last appearance for the Werkself in a competitive match turned into a very special occasion for him: On 16 May 2009, one year after the injury in St Petersburg and a year full of hope and disappointment in the rehab centres in Germany, it was time for his long-awaited comeback. The months of hard work were due to pay off.



The way our fans supported and cheered me was one of the most moving moments of my life

In the home game against Borussia Mönchengladbach in Düsseldorf, where the Werkself are playing due to the rebuilding of the BayArena, Bernd came on for the last 13 minutes. The memory is still vivid today: "Not all the neurosurgeons believed it was possible. I can't put in words what I experience there. Only to say: It was great, it was unique, it was fantastic. A shiver went down my back when I went onto the pitch. The way our fans supported and cheered me was one of the most moving moments of my life. I'll never forget it."


Final game against Gladbach: In the 5-0 victory over Borussia, Schnix set up the fourth goal for Michal Kadlec shortly after he came on to a standing ovation.

And just as little as he will forget 10 May 2010 when he celebrated a breathtaking football fest at his own ground. 20,000 friends of his footballing ability came to pay their honour at his testimonial. Goose bumps extraordinaire. Schnix summed it up in typical fashion as he is not the friend of big words or gestures: "I became happy at Leverkusen. The fans showed their appreciation and affection all the way through. That's important to me as I know what they want pretty well. I know exactly what makes them tick. At the end of the day, I went to away games for years and was always proud when I heard them chant hello as a thank you."

That wonderful night was almost ten years ago but for many Bayer 04 fans it still feels like yesterday. The name Schneider represents great football under the Bayer Cross. The matches against Manchester United, Liverpool, Galatasaray, Deportivo, Lyon, Barcelona and the final in Glasgow against Real Madrid: Valuable memories that every real supporter immediately has to hand. And the names of the protagonists who set Europe alight as they competed with the establishment of superstars from all the big countries: Ballack, Zé Roberto, Bastürk, Placente, Lucio, Ramelow, Kirsten, Neuville – and, in the thick of it, Schnix Schneider, the boy from Jena in the form of his life. We were the Gallic village - with Cali as Obelix", he once said in an interview with Kicker. That's right, the Gallic village. New images and comparisons keep coming up for matches like that.

Back then, after the magical farewell party at Leverkusen, he felt a bit downhearted. No wonder with all the appreciation. The biggest compliment was undoubtedly paid by Marcel Reif in a contribution for the BayArena Magazine produced for the occasion: "He gave us pleasure with the way he played football and the way he led without big gestures or airs and graces. That's how we’d like to see our sons on the pitch. Bernd Schneider, I really liked you. All the best."

That's how we’d like to see our sons on the pitch

Bernd moved back to Jena long time ago. His home. With the mother of his two children. Relatively early on, he planned to move back home one day. This is where the families, friends, mates from the youth teams live. A family home immersed in sport. He has a special relationship with Jena, a place known for its science and technology. Schnix and his people can call themselves 'Jenenser'. In contrast to 'Jenaern', who live there, they are born in Jena. He is happy here. A Jenenser by birth and soul. He's not a football star here. He feels at home here in a settled community. Jena is hip. The city appears young and always full of ideas. "We live in a beautiful, blooming city. You can't compare our mountains with the Alps but they do complete the landscape," he said. And there are relatively low numbers of unemployed. That's very close to his heart.



Football continues to keep him on his toes and fit. He works for agents looking after youth players where he can pas on one or two good ideas from his extensive repertoire: "It's about helping the lads take the next step that should be the right one too."

His back is holding up, his physical condition has not got worse. He can regularly do sporting activity. The important thing! Of course, he’s happy to carry on playing football. At least twice a week. In addition, he plays in different veterans teams, primarily for good causes. When he can, he plays for the Bayer 04 Veterans or in a Uwe Seeler veterans team full of star names. And he regularly plays badminton: "You really have to get moving to compete." The versatile athlete Schneider is often to be seen on his bicycle and, in this time of coronavirus, he plays a lot of table tennis at home with his two children.

Schnix discovered golf five years ago. A challenge for him playing on his own rather than as a member of the team: "in football you can blame it on the boots or the weather if the pass isn't right. He can't do that here. I'm amazed how much it gives me. If I'd have known that then I would have started much earlier on." It's not too late. He now has a decent handicap of 13. And he's only 46 years old.


Personal stats:

Date and place of birth:
17 November 1973 in Jena

Carl Zeiss Jena, Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer 04

Bundesliga appearances:
296 (263 for Bayer 04, 33 for Eintracht Frankfurt)

Bundesliga goals:
39 (35 for Bayer 04, 4 for Eintracht Frankfurt)

81 international caps for Germany, World Cup runner-up 2002, World Cup third-place 2006, Champions League runner-up 2002, DFB Cup runner-up 2002 and 2009, Bundesliga runner-up 2000 and 2002.