'It will be a tough challenge for both teams'

In 1999, Bastian Oczipka joined the youth section at Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the age of 11 from SSG Bergisch Gladbach. The now 28-year-old progressed through all the youth teams by 2008 before gaining playing experience for the first teams at FC Hansa Rostock (42 second division appearances) and FC St. Pauli (16 second and 20 first division appearances). In 2011 the left back returned to Bayer 04 where he played nine games for the Werkself in the Bundesliga plus three in the Champions League. A year later, the player born in Bergisch Gladbach, joined league rivals Eintracht Frankfurt before moving on to FC Schalke 04 in the summer. We caught up with Bastian ahead of the match against the team where he learned his trade...

Bastian, on Friday you will line up for FC Schalke 04 against the team you played for as a youngster. How does that make you feel?
Bastian Oczipka: "Games against Leverkusen are always something special for me as I've spent half my life at Bayer 04. I played for all the junior teams from the U11s upwards and then I went on to play for the first team. You don't forget things like that. I definitely still feel a certain connection to the club."

What's that connection like?
Oczipka: "Even though I'm not at all close to it I still somehow get to know about what's happening at the club. And if I've got time then I always find it interesting to follow the games."

Do you still have contact with Bayer 04 players or coaches?
Oczipka: "No,  at least not with any of the players in the current team. I do still have occasional contact with my former youth coach Jörg Bittner."

What was your best moment in a Werkself shirt?
Oczipka: "I still remember winning the U19 Championship title in 2007. We played the FC Bayern U19s in the final and won 2-1 on a great stage in front of a full house at the BayArena. I even managed to score a goal – I scored the equaliser  with my right foot (he laughs)."

Let's move on to your new club. What's your assessment of FC Schalke's start to the season?
Oczipka: We made a decent start but then we lost to two strong opponents. Nevertheless, I think we're very much on track after the difficulties of last season. Like Bayer 04, there's been a new start here and I see clear parallels…"

What do you mean?
Oczipka: "Both clubs failed to live up to expectations last season.  A number of things changed in the summer including  the arrival of a new coach. It takes time for players to adapt to the new way of playing and new philosophy, and then take it all in. If we keep working well and learn from our mistakes, and put them right, then I'm sure we'll be able to pick up points again soon. For that you need patience and calm. In that respect I think the club is on the right track."

What sort of game are you expecting at the Veltins Arena on Friday?
Oczipka: "It will be a tough challenge for both teams. I've watched several Bayer 04 games this season. Leverkusen have a very strong team and they've just played very well against HSV. But we are at home and in spite of all my sympathy for my former club I hope that we win at the end of the day."


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