Falko, congratulations on your 58th birthday! What does your big day look like in the time of coronavirus?
Of course, my day is different compared with previous years due to the current situation. But I’ve really never gone over the top but rather mostly kept it small. The congratulations have come via the phone or on social media.
Since the summer of 2019, you’ve been looking after talented youngsters at Bayer 04 in the transition from the youth teams to the first team squad. How many players does that involve and what does the work look like?
One the one hand, I follow the players who are on loan at other clubs (Jan Boller, Tin Jedvaj, Joel Pohjanpalo, ed.). On the other hand, my main focus is watching the domestic and international market in youth players – that includes the U19 and U17 Bundesliga leagues in the west but also youth leagues in neighbouring countries.
Your work probably makes direct and personal contact unavoidable. How can you compensate for that in the times of coronavirus?
We’re currently working on areas where there isn’t enough time in the season. We’re busy with one or other fringe markets, looking at youth players working at home with the help of video material. Although the fixtures have been suspended, and other things are more important now, planning for next season – both for the first team and the youth teams – still play a role in our day-to-day work.
Born in Saxony, a player in Berlin, Istanbul and Saarbrücken; coach in Munich, Kiel and Vietnam. Where do you feel at home? What does the Rhineland mean to you?
I moved away from Saxony when I was young. In terms of mentality, I’m a Berliner, that’s my hometown. Now I’ve ended up in the Bergisches Land. And I’m very happy about that. I’ve lots of social contacts here, close friends. I’m glad my job at Bayer 04 allows me to combine the private and professional. I’ve never lost contact with the club regardless of where I’ve lived and worked. And I had a great and successful time here as a player.
The team under head coach Peter Bosz are on the verge of making the quarter-finals of the Europa League after the 3-1 win in Glasgow. It was a surprise when you helped bring back the UEFA Cup to Leverkusen in 1988. What parallels do you think there are there between today’s Werkself and the team of 1988?
Back then, we moved on from being a yo-yo club. We had a lot of quality in attack and solid defence built around our keeper Rudi Vollborn. I think, the biggest parallel to the current team is the balance in the squad. There’s a good mix of experienced and young players with good prospects and incredible tempo.
What can the current team learn fro the 1988 heroes and how far can the Werkself go this season - once coronavirus has been overcome?
It was a completely different time with a different philosophy. The current team was definitely on course at home and in Europe when the season was suspended. They went through a positive development and were in shape for the crucial weeks ahead. Of course, I hope the team can maintain as much confidence as possible and we can win a thing or two after this current period. But health comes first now.
The Werkself host Paderborn in the DFB-Pokal round of 16 today, Wednesday 6 December (18:00 CET) at the BayArena. Here’s all the latest information ahead of the cup clash with the Bundesliga 2 club.Show more
The Bundesliga has announced its nominees for November’s Player of the Month, with two Werkself players up for the award in Alejandro Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong. Fans can now vote for who they want to win.Show more
Next year marks Bayer 04’s 120th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, we would like to take the opportunity, today and in the next few months, to regularly look at football under the Cross on bayer04.de and primarily delve into the question of: How have we become the club we are today? Part two of our series looks at our fans. Werkself supporters are enjoying this season like never before, providing incredible support both home and away.Show more
The Bundesliga has named the three nominees for November’s Rookie of the Month award. Werkself striker Victor Boniface, who has won the trophy in August, September and October, is once again up for the award. Fans have the chance to pick the winner by casting their votes online.Show more