15.11.2020Bayer 04

The Jansens – more than a host family

For the Bayer 04 U17 team there should have been a real highlight this weekend with a Bundesliga clash at Borussia Mönchengladbach – but the coronavirus pandemic has again led to the suspension of youth football. are using this break to showcase different elements of youth development. Today we look at host families who regularly provide accommodation for talented youngsters from far afield.

When Sadik Fofana from Aachen comes ‘home’ after a long day of school and training with the Bayer 04 U19 squad then the door bell nameplate at the detached house is Jansen rather than his family name. In the Leverkusen neighbourhood of Bergisch Neukirchen, Marc Jansen with his wife and two young sons are one of the seven host families for male and female Werkself players.

Anyone who stays with the Jansens, not only receives a warm, friendly and committed new domestic environment but also no less than one hundred per cent Bayer 04. The Werkself have been part and parcel of the family man Marc Jansen’s life for over 30 years. But it all started so innocently.

Start with Vollborn, Cha and Co.

Jansen went to his first home game when he was eleven years old. The home ground back then was the Ulrich Haberland Stadium and in 1987 Rüdiger Vollborn, Falko Götz, Bum-Kun Cha and Co. were not yet the UEFA Cup heroes of 1988 but players from a ‘normal’ Bundesliga side. And yet the Leverkusen-born fan was committed straight away.

“I didn’t have much to do with football back then. But the atmosphere gripped me at once,” recalls the the now 44-year-old in explaining his early days as a supporter. He had a season ticket from 1990 and Bayer 04 quickly became the focus of his life. Around the millennium and in his twenties, Jansen achieved the feat of watching all 34 Werkself Bundesliga games home and away for three seasons in succession.


Sandwiches with ‘Calli’

He then became the chair of the ‘Rheinmacht Hoppaz’ fan club and a member of the fan advisory committee. With sandwiches and meat balls, there were discussions about issues affecting Leverkusen fans with fan liaison officer Andreas ‘Paffi’ Paffrath and general manager Reiner Calmund. “Back then, there were no thoughts of working for Bayer 04,” Jansen explained.

The start was a mini-job working on the fan trailer. Then, in 2007, the trained industrial management assistant had the opportunity to join the Club and membership department. Today he is the head of the department with six full-time members of staff plus more than a dozen other employees. But that wasn’t the end of it with Bayer 04.

New house, new idea

When plans for owning a house came to fruition in 2012, the thought soon arose of joining the Performance Centre host family programme. “My wife and I were excited by the idea,” recalls Jansen.

And the first youngster to move in with the Jansens in 2013 was a teenager from Norderstedt near Hamburg. Levin Öztunali, grandson of Uwe Seeler and a great talent at Hamburg at the time: “That was a special situation. But it worked well.”

A steak and lots of shirts

When Öztunali made his Bundesliga debut in August 2013 in a home game against SC Freiburg, he invited his hosts to a meal in a steak house after a 3-0 win in his first appearance. “I’d already eaten at the BayArena," said Jansen with a broad smile. While he was talking, he was sitting next to shirts worn by Öztunali. Leverkusen, Bremen, Mainz – at least one from each club.

“He gave his first match shirt to his father. The one from second game is here.” The football room in the cellar of the Jansen house is the essence of a special Bayer 04 life. “It’s like a museum now,” Jansen said himself.

The underground museum

In addition to all the Werkself shirts since 1987, there is also a Bundesliga table made of shirts, match tickets from over three decades of following football, goalkeeper gloves from Jörg Schmadtke, René Adler and Bernd Leno, a ‘Ground hopping European map’ plus countless photos on the walls relating to Bayer 04.


For example, also from the bachelor’s farewell tour of Dominik Kohr to Las Vegas with Jansen on board. Kohr – now an established player at Eintracht Frankfurt – was helped by Jansen during his time training to be a sports and fitness sales executive at Bayer 04. A genuine friendship was formed that has lasted till now. Kohr is a godfather to Jansen’s younger son.

Still in contact

There is still contact with players like Öztunali or Pauline Wimmer from the Leverkusener Women’s team. “Pauline comes to see us from time to time,” reported Jansen. And there is always a reunion with Öztunali at the BayArena when Mainz 05 are the visitors. “Then, for a change, I have split loyalties,” admitted Jansen.

Sadik Fofana has been part of the unique Bayer 04 world of Marc Jansen and his family since the summer. And perhaps one day, there will be one of his first shirts as a professional footballer in the home ‘museum. “We’ve got a really good record there,” said Jansen with a grin, “but the important thing is that they feel at home with us and we can help them find their way.”And, of course, give a lot to Bayer 04.

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