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30.04.2022Bayer 04

Kießling: It binds the team and fans together

Stefan Kießling had already put on a red shirt when we called him up on Friday night as agreed. "We're off to watch the Bayer Giants basketball match in a minute," revealed the Bayer 04 honorary captain. The aforementioned colour will be often be seen in the coming weeks. The reason is the Leverkusen tradition that is part and parcel of the Bundesliga end of season run-in.
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Since the DFB Cup final in 2009, the active fan base has regularly ensured that the Bayer 04 areas at the BayArena and on the road are dominated by the colour red. Whether it's replica shirts, pullovers, T-shirts, shirts or jackets – everybody should be able to recognise straightaway who we are there for: For Bayer 04! For the Werkself! For SVB!

This year, the Finally Red campaign starts on Monday 2 May (kick-off: 20.30 CEST). The Werkself face Eintracht Frankfurt in the penultimate Bundesliga home game and the North Stand will be completely red.

Stefan Kießling is someone who experienced the birth of this fan campaign close up in May 2009. The second most prolific Leverkusen striker of all time after Ulf Kirsten talks to bayer04.de about the emotions and experiences he associates with #FinallyRed.

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Kies, the Bayer 04 fans will again be putting everything on red in this season's run-in. Werkself supporters have been called on to dress in red for the home game against Frankfurt at the BayArena. What images come to mind when you think of Finally Red?

Kießling: A red sea. It's just a brilliant sight when you run onto the pitch, look at the home end and you see it – an incredible feeling! I think this campaign by the fans is great. They’re making a clear statement about their commitment to the team and the club. And there have been unforgettable moments in recent years that I definitely wouldn't want to forget.

You definitely collected some of those at the DFB Cup final against Werder Bremen in 2009. That was the start of Finally Red. What was it like at the Olympic Stadium running on in front of this red Leverkusen wall?

Kießling: Of course, we knew beforehand whose side our fans were on. But when we looked at that end we couldn't believe our eyes. Everything was red. Wherever you looked. Even the neutral spectators at our end put on a red shirt. Obviously a cup final is something special. But the emotions ahead of that game just exceeded everything else.

Eight years later, in the summer of 2017, you had to fight against relegation rather than for a trophy. The run-in ended with a 2-2 draw at home in the derby against FC Köln and a convincing 6-2 away win at Hertha Berlin. How important was the campaign in the run-in?

Kießling: Perhaps it brought us the last bit of strength we needed to save ourselves. It was a very important derby. There was a lot riding on the game. And, above all, the guard of honour on Bismarckstraße when we arrived made it clear to us once again that we weren't alone in this match. A goose bumps moment that gave us all extra resolve. Although we were 2-0 down on the hour mark I always had the impression given the energy in the stadium that we could turn it round. That experience helped to bind the team and fans together.

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After you retired in 2018 you joined the staff of the Bayer 04 first team. A year later, the Werkself qualified for the Champions League on the final matchday after a 1-1 draw at home to Schalke 04 and a brilliant 5-1 win away to Hertha Berlin. Do you think the special support from the fans as part of Finally Red brought the players closer together before the match?

Kießling: Before the home game against Schalke, one or two of the younger players asked me what the atmosphere had been like in the final matchdays in previous seasons. They'd seen one or the other photos and videos. But it absolutely exceeds all expectations when you experience that atmosphere as a player.

You've been at the club for 16 years. How has the relationship between the team and the fans in Leverkusen developed?

Kießling: To be able to get on well it's important to have role models in the team. That was the case with those earlier on and it's the same today. Back then it was people like Simon Rolfes and today it's Lukas Hradecky and Co. who are the backbone of the team seeking contact with the fans.

What can the supporters at the BayArena expect against Frankfurt on Monday night?

Kießling: We will definitely see unforgettable images again this season. I'm really up for the final matches.

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