The controversy surrounding Alexander Nübel’s gloves

Eagle-eyed Bundesliga viewers could see it straight away. Schalke keeper Alexander Nübel was suddenly wearing new Adidas goalkeeping gloves during the away match against Borussia Mönchengladbach. In the past, the 22-year-old had been equipped by POPE’s, which is a small company that specialises in high-end football gloves.

The switch to a bigger and financially more powerful brand might seem like the natural consequence of Nübel progressing up the career ladder, of course. However, POPE’s founder Christoph Nowak found some choice words on Facebook after it became clear that the Schalke captain had abandoned Nowak’s brand.

Nowak: “He lacks the social competence to be Schalke captain”

After the match against Gladbach, Nowak wrote that Nübel lacked “the social competence to captain a team like Schalke 04”, as the keeper wasn’t “embodying the club’s values”. In a subsequent interview with 11 Freunde, Nowak explained why he’d reacted in such a manner:

“Alex did in fact order gloves for the new season during the spring. They were supposed to be white and feature the Schalke logo. Ahead of the start of training we were in touch again, talking about the new model specially made for him.

“One or two days before he started training with Schalke, I received a succinct WhatsApp text reading: ‘I’m probably going to join Adidas.’”

In the interview, Nowak admitted that the Facebook post could seem harsh, but he also stated that things would have turned out differently if Nübel had been more straightforward about his intentions to join Adidas. Nowak told 11 Freunde:

“I wasn’t insulted, but I was disappointed. For me this is simply about the manner in which it happened. What I don’t like about the football business are those watered-down press releases. ‘Both parties have decided to go into different directions’, things like that. All of that isn’t honest.

“My way and the way of my company is that we are being honest. We have had several people asking us: ‘Why is Nübel playing with Adidas gloves?’ At some point, one has to say how things are. Why should I lie to my customers? If there had been more empathy from Alex’s side, I would have conducted myself differently.”

Quality, instead of money

Nowak’s company can nonetheless boast about the fact that its gloves were used in 40 Bundesliga matches last season. Alexander Nübel was responsible for 18 of those games, however. So given the keeper’s decision to leave the firm, POPE’s is perhaps unlikely to achieve the same amount of exposure this season.

Right now, the company can still count Ramazan Özcan of Bayer Leverkusen and Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Michael Rensing among its clients in the league.

Nowak says that his firm can offer clients the best materials and exceptional service, but that it can’t give them especially lucrative contracts.

Alexander Nübel’s agent Stefan Backs subsequently told Sport1 that he understood Nowak’s frustration, but added that Nowak can’t expect goalkeepers not to jump at better offers:

“I was surprised by the harshness of the tone that Herr Nowak used when expressing himself publicly, but I wasn’t surprised by the fact that he did this. Herr Nowak is disappointed.

“I rate him highly, because he has put a lot of heart into his business, travelling alongside goalkeepers. But he has to realize that one goalkeeper wanted to go another way.”

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-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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