After experiences the disappointment of relegation last season, Kaiserslautern are fighting to get back into the Bundesliga and currently sit in third in the second division. The Bundesliga Fanatic spoke with the club’s General Manager, Stefan Kuntz, to discuss what went wrong last season and what the club is doing different to try and get back into the Bundesliga.
Bundesliga Fanatic: One of the problems last year was FCK’s lack of success in the transfer market, both on the player acquisition and player performance side. Halfway through the season, your initial 2012/13 transfers have yielded fantastic results with players like Bunjaku and Mo Idrissou. What has changed in your transfer strategy from years past and what role has incoming coach Franco Foda played?
Stefan Kuntz: Upfront, we analysed last seasons bad results thoroughly and we think the reason for the lack of success was not only a wrongful player acquisition. A lot of things didn’t work out right. As a consequence we professionalized our scouting department and changed many operational sequences.
BF: In an interview with Kicker last year, you stressed the need to better integrate new FCK players including mandating German language lessons. Have you changed your integration approach since last year? Could you please elaborate on this policy?
Stefan Kuntz: It is one of many different things. You always need to look at the big picture and need to see every player as an individual. In order to feel at home in a different country you need to open up, learn the basic language and integrate as much as possible.
BF: Franco Foda has a reputation for cultivating young players and getting the most out their potential and furthering their talent. This strategy seems to be working with young-stars like Fortounis and Zuck. Why do you think Foda is successful in this regard and which other up and coming FCK youth players should we be watching for?
Stefan Kuntz: On the one hand you need to have a lot of confidence to but your trust in such young players and try to further their talent. On the other hand it is very important not to forget, that second league is a totally different competition. It is much easier to integrate young and inexperienced players in this league, than it would be in the Bundesliga. But Franco Foda works well with young people, he allows them to make mistakes and cultivates not only their play but also their personality. With him we are determined to bounce straight back to the Bundesliga.
BF: Kaiserslautern are one of the most storied clubs in German football history. Of all the great FCK player of the past, who do you wish you could have on the pitch right now?
Stefan Kuntz: (laughs) The team of 1991. We won the championship that year, but to be honest – soccer is a totally different game today and I’m not sure, we would be able to keep up with the current players…
BF: As General Manager and long term FCK supporter yourself, how much do you value the unwavering support of the Kaiserslautern fans? How do you cultivate this FCK Herzblut attitude within the team?
Stefan Kuntz: You know: Nowhere is soccer lived with more passion than at FCK. Nowhere the people have as deep roots in their club as in our region, an entire region identifies with our club, the Red Devils from the Betzenberg. We are very proud of our varied, creative, socially committed and definitely unique fan scene and we try to attend to all our supporters in the best possible way to provide them with all they need.
BF: FCK are currently sitting in a good position to return to the Bundesliga. What do you think the team needs to do for the remainder of the season to achieve promotion again?
Stefan Kuntz: We need to keep working hard and do everything in our power to finish first or second. And if not, then we’ll fight not to slip a notch…
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