10.11.2020Bayer 04

Tapsoba: ‘A dream come true’

A few days ago, Edmond Tapsoba was in a good mood when he came to the ‘Heimspiel’ Bayer 04 executive box after training. The BayArena has been the big stage for the 21 year-old since January and the place where he was quickly able to establish a regular place in the Werkself. The defender, who joined Leverkusen from Vitoria Guimaraes, is a key part of head coach Peter Bosz’ defence. In an interview with the Werks11 Magazine – the latest edition was recently sent out to members – Tapsoba discusses his incredible development at Bayer 04, provides insights into his unusual career path and talks about his home country of Burkina Faso.

Edmond, you’ve been at Bayer 04 since January. How have you settled in?
I really like it here. I’ve not regretted coming to Leverkusen for a second, although I was really settled at Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal and I felt at home there. But the sporting challenge is much bigger for me here. That’s what I was looking for. It feels great to be part of Bayer 04.

What’s it like for you playing alongside famous, older players like Lars and Sven Bender who have already achieved a lot?
It’s a bit of a funny story as Lars and Sven were players I used to choose for the FIFA game on PlayStation. Wow! and now I’m playing with them in the same team. That’s actually incredible. The two brothers have so much experience, which I can really benefit from.

What was it like for you meeting the twins in the flesh in January?
It was great. As soon as I arrived, they talked to me a lot and explained a lot of things. In games they help me with their experience and help me find my bearings. I can only emphasise that their support is very valuable to me.

You’ve very quickly become a regular first choice at Bayer 04 in spite of stiff competition in the defensive positions, the demanding system of play and the tactical demands of coach Peter Bosz. How have you managed that?
Adapting didn’t cause me any big problems. That’s probably down to the fact the style of play is similar at Guimaraes and Bayer 04. At Vitoria, the attacks were built from the back, the opponents were pressed and we looked to quickly get up front. But if necessary, we were then patient in looking for the best situation to have an effort on goal. So I didn’t need to change much.

Edmond Tapsoba in discussion with head coach Peter Bosz, who later said he “conveys a lot of confidence.”

What do you say about the Victoria coach Ivo Vieira praising you so much when you left and saying you had an outstandingly good understanding of the game?
I don’t know what I should say. It’s great praise. I’m proud of that statement. Coaches see things that you don’t see yourself. Actually, I always just played and did what the coach said. And that’s my attitude at Bayer 04 as well: It’s always my job to tactically achieve what the coach has told us. To be honest, I don’t see myself as a player who has an extraordinary understanding of the game.

Do you have the same attitude implementing the system of Peter Bosz and his tactical requirements?
I have to admit that I can’t always understand to the smallest detail what’s being said when Peter Bosz talks to us. But I understand what most things mean and I always get what I have to do. That’s definitely the most important thing. But I’m working on improving my German. The first things you learn unfortunately are swear words from your teammates. (he laughs)

If you look at your, as yet, short professional career then it stands out you are very good at taking penalties. At Vitoria Guimaraes you were allowed to take penalties as a young player and scored a total of nine goals in the season. Are you basically a cool character or do you go ballistic sometimes?
I’m basically always very calm and don’t talk much. And I have my emotions under control in critical situations. I only used to get excited quickly when I was small. If I really don’t like something then I prefer to withdraw. If I’m annoyed I prefer to be quiet. For me it’s better to discuss problems after the event.

Are you quiet on the pitch even in situations that could blow up?
Yes, that’s exactly right. I always want to stay calm on the pitch. I never actually get overexcited or wound up.

How do you prefer to spend your free time when you’re not training, playing for Bayer 04 or away with your national team?
I spend a lot of time at home in my flat in Cologne-Weiden. Sometimes I get a visit from my mate Manuel Dass, an Ivorian, who plays in the third division in Portugal.

Which players are you in contact with during your free time?
I can really say that I get on with everybody. The ones I spend most time with are Jona (Tah; ed.), Moussa (Diaby) and Leon (Bailey) and sometimes Wendell too. I spend a lot of my free time with them.


Let’s turn to the subject of home. You come from Burkina Faso. The name means: “Country of the genuine people.” What do you think? Is that a correct description?
In Africa, Burkina Faso is actually known for the people being very hospitable. You can definitely accept the term country of genuine people as a characteristic of my home country. And it’s also right that the Burkinians are very friendly overall. But it’s also clear there are limitations to such a statement. I can’t honestly say that everybody in my home country is genuine and friendly. That’s not possible anywhere, including in Burkina Faso.

Where did you grow up? Can you say something about your family?
I come from the capital Ouagadougou. I lived there with my family until moving to Portugal when I was 18. I have four brothers and sisters, that is two older sisters and two younger brothers who all still live in Ouagadougou. My father is a chauffeur with the mayor’s office. My mother has a small business at our family home. I fly home as often as possible to be together with my family.

It’s said a lot of languages are spoken in Burkina Faso with over 60 dialects. What languages do you speak?
At home with the family, with friends and acquaintances we all speak our national language Mòoré. We learn French at school as it’s the official language of our country. When I went to Portugal, I learned English, Portuguese and a bit of Spanish. I’ve spoken English with a mate from South Africa over the years. I didn’t find Portuguese hard to learn nor Spanish because the two languages are related. Now I need to do more to learn German.

Does your name mean anything? Can you translate Tapsoba?
It’s a very old name with a great tradition that my predecessors carried. It means the “arrow.”

That fits in well as you’re a really fast player. When did you start playing football?
When I was a small boy, I spent the whole time playing football. Football was absolutely the most important thing. I always looked for a ball and played a lot in our part of town. It interested me. About the age of 12, I started doing more and training more and then I had the chance – you could also say was lucky – to be taken on at Salitas FC. I went into the club’s boarding school and received a systematic football education.

Salitas FC play in the second Burkinian league. What role does your former club play at a national level? How long did you play for them?
It’s the biggest and best training centre in the country. A lot of players who went abroad learned the basics there. I’m just one of many. Salitas has a talented sporting director with very good contacts to Europe. I played for the club for six years when I was older, first in the third division, then in the second division where we just missed promotion to the Premier League by one point before I moved on to Portugal.

Where you determined at an early age to be a professional player?
I was at a secondary school but did not finish as it was too difficult to do both things at the same time. But I believe I had a good basic education. At the age of 15, I had the courage to decide to play football. I had to earn a bit of money and alongside football I worked as a mechanic in a workshop. And during the holidays, I was asked to play in tournaments for other clubs and I got paid for it. I was able to help my family out with the money.

A very special game: Edmond Tapsoba (centre) with the Werkself meets up with star striker Romelu Lukaku (r.) playing for Inter Milan in last season’s Europa League campaign.

You played your first international for Burkina Faso when you were 17. Shortly after that you went to Portugal. How did the transfer go?
The director of Salitas has a friend in Portugal who came to Burkina Faso to watch players. He recommended me to Portuguese clubs. But then I was supposed to go to Belgium. I had a visa, I was already in Belgium, I was supposed to train and play with Genk. I was there for a week but then it was said the team was full. I was happy that the Portuguese club Leixoes SC then made me an offer to play for the U19s. Then I went to Portugal which was better for me.

By now, Deco, the former Portuguese world-class player, was your agent. After six months at Leixoes, the big Portuguese club Guimaraes came along and your career took off.
But first I played for the reserve team while often training with the senior side. Then it all went quite quickly because the coach Ivo Vieria had a lot of confidence in me and picked me for the first team where I played in all the matches in the first division and eleven games in the Europa League. I have to say I’ve always been lucky with my coaches. Here in Leverkusen as well with Peter Bosz who was given me a lot of confidence. He supports me just like Vieria at Guimaraes did. That trust went so far that he even let me take penalties. It was down to him that I’m here now.

Were you a rising star in Burkina Faso? Did you think you would be so successful in Europe?
I was just a normal player. Everybody at the academy at Salitas was talented but I was the captain and my team. I thought it would take a few years until perhaps I was 24 or 25 to get so far. However, I was always very confident and I believed I would make it. But I was at Guimaraes for a few months before I became a professional. And just six months later I moved on to Bayer 04, a big club I knew from the Champions League. It all went a lot quicker than expected. It’s like a dream come true.

And what did it feel like for you privately moving from Portugal to Germany?
Well, I can only say, it’s different in Germany from Portugal. There I sometimes arrived late. I love sleeping a lot and for a long time. (He laughs) If you sleep a lot then it could happen that you miss things. Recently, when I arrived late for training, I set the alarm clock for another 10 minutes after the alarm went off but then woke up much later at 9.05. Oh my god! When I got to training, Peter Bosz said to me: “It has to stop, the Germans don’t like it, they are always on time.” Since then, I always set the alarm clock for 7.40. Then I still have five minutes to doze.

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