Interview – Norbert Meier

Fortuna Düsseldorf’s coach is approaching the new season with a lot of optimism.

You may remember Norbert Meier as the coach who headbuttet Albert Streit before he himself went to the ground faking an injury. Seven years later he is back in the Bundesliga. Norbert Meier talked to Sport1.de about Fortuna’s upcoming season. Here is our translation of sport1.de’s interview with Meier.

Sport1.de: Herr Meier, the next season is the 50th in Bundesliga history, a jubilee. You have gone down in the history books with a Bundesliga record. Are you aware of the record you are holding?

Norbert Meier: No, I wouldn’t know to be honest.

Sport1.de: You have, like Mehmet Scholl and Ulf Kirsten, been taken off the pitch a total of 111 times. You are the king in that department.

Norbert Meier: That just goes to show how little time I was given to score all those goals.(Meier scored a total of 84 goals in 331 Bundesliga matches during his days as a Werder Bremen and Borussia Mönchengladbach player.)

Sport1.de: You and manager Werner Wolf have established new record for the history books as well, bringing 16 new players into the team.

Norbert Meier: We are first and foremost really excited about the fact that we are part of the jubilee season. We got promoted at the right time, to be part of the 50th Bundesliga season is quite a good fit for us. It is usually out of the ordinary that a team has to make so many changes after getting promoted. But, getting promoted wasn’t part of our plans. The possibility to get promoted was there, however, and we grabbed it with both hands.

Sport1.de: With all due respect: How on earth are you going to form a team that can compete against the other sides with a team that has so many new players in its line up and just 8 weeks time to prepare?

Norbert Meier: This is the challenge we are currently facing. We have to do our very best, to use this extended summer break to put together a team which can compete.

Sport1.de: Three out of your four top scorers; Maximilian Beister, Sascha Rösler and Thomas Bröker; have left the club. How difficult is replacing those three players going to be?

Norbert Meier: They suited us perfectly while they were at the club. We are going to put our trust into the new players who have arrived, however. We have been able to replace players adequately in the past, as the examples of Bamba Anderson, Maxi Beister and Martin Harnik show. Sure, this won’t work out every time, but we have given our strategy a lot of thought.

Sport1.de: What goals do you want your players to achieve, beside avoiding relegation?

Norbert Meier: Well, you said it all.(laughs) There is nothing else to it. It is all about how success is defined. Success is something entirely different to us than Borussia Dortmund or Bayern München.

Sport1.de: Axel Bellinghausen is a former Fortuna player who has re-joined you from Augsburg. Is he the sort of player who can influence the rest of the team, given his fighting mentality and the fact that the fans identify themselves with him?

Norbert Meier: He has to. I’m not putting any sort of pressure on him. We benefitted from his past at Fortuna when we brought him in. The people love him, because he is always stepping it up on the pitch, and the fans in Düsseldorf appreciate it. Additionally, he showed his commitment to the club even when he wasn’t playing for the team. He remained a member of the club while he was away.

Sport1.de: Another member of the club is Andreas Lambartz, the first player who has managed to move up from the fourth tier of German football into the Bundesliga with the same team. Why is he such phenomenon?

Norbert Meier: He doesn’t give a damn about certain things. He doesn’t over think things, he just plays a fresh, believing, happy and free kind of football. You have to get used to certain things when it comes to ”Lumpi”(Lambartz’s nickname). Coaches elsewhere would age at a tremendous speed if he played for them. His determination is exemplary. He makes choices nobody on the pitch is expecting. The inhabitants of Düsseldorf are proud that he still is part of the team after all those years.

Sport1.de: After the relegation play off match against Hertha a fan handed him a bengal light. He is now suspended for the first two matches of the season. How are your feelings towards the DFB at the moment?

Norbert Meier: It isn’t my task to comment these procedure. There are other officials at the club who are responsible for that sort of thing.

Sport1.de: There was certainly an after taste concerning your promotion. The outcome of the game between Fortuna and Hertha was decided in a court room. How did you manage to get rid of that after taste within your group of players?

Norbert Meier: I couldn’t do anything about it. We just continued our practice sessions at the time. Getting promoted usually causes a euphoria which lasts for several days, and one has to experience this euphoria to understand the implications of getting promoted. All that was lost at the end of the season. It really is a pity, especially if you consider all those years Fortuna has spent outside of the Bundesliga in recent times.

Sport1.de: Fortuna’s first home match of the season against Gladbach might take place in an empty stadium, because of the pitch invasion. Is Fortuna’s protest going to succeed?

Norbert Meier: I couldn’t tell. It is just sad that the Lower Rhine derby, which has always inspired the rivalry between the two sets of fans, might occur in an empty stadium. The fans have been waiting for this match for over 15 years.

Sport1.de: Despite all that the club has broken its record for season tickets sold. Over 25,000 season tickets have been sold. What are the implications of Fortuna’s return to the Bundesliga for the club and the city?

Norbert Meier: We have many fans who have followed us in the past, even when I wasn’t there. They are proud of the development and about being able to once again watch Bundesliga football. There are special moments which the fans of clubs with a lot of tradition cherish. The European Cup Winner Cup final against Barcelona in 1979 is something many people remember fondly. The fans still expect their team to do well for historic reasons. But, we are still far away from reaching those heights. But, Fortuna is once again on the radar of Germany’s football fans, and even of footballs from abroad. Our fans can go into work knowing that their team is once again on the big stage. At least they’ll get asked ”what is your team doing these days” now!

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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