Exclusive Interview with Dortmund’s Legend Lars Ricken
Scoring a goal in an UEFA Champions League Final has always been a dream for many top footballers in Europe and certainly not an easy task, let alone scoring the fastest goal after coming on
Scoring a goal in an UEFA Champions League Final has always been a dream for many top footballers in Europe and certainly not an easy task, let alone scoring the fastest goal after coming on as a substitute. The footballer who did just that was in town recently!
Former German International & Borussia Dortmund’s Legend, Lars Ricken was in Singapore and Junpiter Futbol managed to catch up with the 3 times German Bundesliga winner at Home United Youth Academy (HYFA) at Mattar Road, as he spoke about his UEFA Champions League goal which he scored in 16 seconds after coming on as a substitute against Juventus in the Final! The Midfielder also shared about his rise to stardom in the German Bundesliga when he was just 17yrs old and Germany’s World Cup triumph in Brazil.
JPF: You have played for Borussia Dortmund during your entire 15 years of professional career, clocking an amazing 301 appearances and 49 goals, what was the motivation behind that One-Club Man?
LR: I was born and grew up in Dortmund. My first Christmas gift was a Borussia Dortmund jersey so I grew up supporting Borussia Dortmund since I was young. Naturally, that was the only club I wanted to play for. Think about it, I’m just glad that I am able to achieve so much with my favorite club.
JPF: You have won 3 German Bundesliga titles, UEFA Champions League, Intercontinental Cup (currently known as FIFA Club World Cup) and even participated in the FIFA World Cup in Japan/Korea 2002, which has to be your greatest football moment?
LR: My best football moment was scoring against our biggest rival, Schalke 04 but of course the greatest moment has to be scoring that goal in the UEFA Champions League Final in 1997 against Juventus after coming on as a substitute. Although that was about 17 years ago, haha… the memory is still going strong.
JPF: Breaking into Borussia Dortmund’s first team at the age of just 17yrs old, you were considered as one of the most talented and promising youngsters. How did you cope with the pressure of the sudden rise to stardom at the club?
LR: It was catchy for sure. When I was between the age of 17 to 19, I had to juggle between professional football and study, therefore I did not think too much about the pressure of being a professional footballer. The studying part took away a fair bit of my pressure as I was constantly rushing from school to training or game, and then back to school. It was good though as I became very independent. And at the club, there were also many great International players such as Andreas Moller, Jürgen Kohler and Stefan Reuter, who were willing to impart their knowledge and experiences with young player like me.
JPF: Germany won the World Cup in style this year. In your opinion, what are the factors contributing to Germany’s World Cup success?
LR: I think we have got the best youth football development system. Besides doing well at the World Cup level, our U19 and U17 are constantly doing very well in the European Championship. Another good point is, we have many young players playing in the German Bundesliga unlike for example England, it is very hard for young English players to get into a professional team. We are very focus in this aspect in getting our young and talented players to expose to great professional football at home. With that system in place, our league improved too.
JPF: Currently, you are working very closely with the young players at Borussia Dortmund as a Youth Coordinator, share with us how different are the young players now as compared to your time?
LR: Being a young player in this era is tough. They are more stressful as they need to cope with the tedious training and study concurrently. Basically, the current young players have 2 jobs – one is a professional footballer, the other is a good student. For example, they will have to wake up at 6.30am for school, school ends at 3pm, then they will have to rush to the training complex for training by 6pm, and finally back home at 9pm. Such schedule repeats 5 times a week. And during the weekend, they have to play a lot of matches. Not only the youth Bundesliga league, there are also some other youth leagues, youth Champions League matches, Association’s matches and the National Youth matches. The young players are made to mature at a very young age.
JPF: As a former German International, which was your most memorable game for your country?
LR: I have only made 16 appearances for my country but my most memorable game has to be my debut game against Azerbaijan. I nearly put my name on the score-sheet with my first touch after being substituted in! Well, I didn’t score in that game but I did assist Jürgen Klinsmann with a goal!
JPF: Any advice for young players who inspired to be like you?
LR: Haha… I think any action (from the players) should be placed on a principle of enjoying the game. I think you should not overly focus on quickness, technical or tactical skills, so just have fun, enjoy the game and play as many games as you can. A professional footballer is a tough job, but don’t forget playing football is a lot of fun.
Special thanks to Borussia Dortmund Singapore & Puma Singapore.