Peter Knäbel: The absolute high-point of an indescribable journey
Peter Knäbel didn’t get much kip after the promotion party. When asked how long he had slept that night, he replied: “Two hours! It was an incredible night, one that we will all remember for a long, long time.”
Knäbel’s alarm went off bright and early on Sunday morning and there was a good reason for it. The 55-year-old wouldn’t have missed the final of the U17s German championship for the world, as he wanted to show his support to Schalke’s youngsters. His early start was certainly worth it, as The Royal Blues won their first B-Junior title for 20 years after a dramatic final, which they won 3-2 on penalties against VfB Stuttgart.
Three reasons to be overjoyed
The U17s’ success was the perfect finish to an unforgettable weekend that will be talked about for years to come. On the same day that first team beat St. Pauli to mark their dramatic return to the Bundesliga, the U23s also gave the fans another reason to celebrate. After a thrilling 4-3 victory over KFC Uerdingen, Schalke II guaranteed their safety and their place in the Regionalliga West next season.
The game against St. Pauli just about sums up our entire season
Knäbel admitted that he will probably need a few days to process what happened at the VELTINS-Arena on Saturday night. “This night was the absolute high-point of an indescribable journey that we have been on this season,” said the board member after the stunning comeback. For the 55-year-old, the game was a good metaphor for the ups and downs that Schalke have experienced this season: “The game against St. Pauli just about sums up our entire season.”
When Rodrigo Zalazar scored in the 78th minute to make it 3-2, the dream of the return to the topflight was within reach. Just a quarter of an hour later, it became a reality. “This promotion belongs to everyone associated with Schalke,” exclaimed Knäbel, who hugged and embraced every player and member of the coaching staff after the game. “I have experienced something tonight that I have not experienced before,” said the 55-year-old. He continued: “When you see how many tears of joy have been shed tonight, even by our own players, you know how much this moment means,” he said. “There were so many goose-bump moments for the players, the staff and the fans, who have all suffered so much in recent years. They have earned this promotion together. This united Schalke has rediscovered its meaning and its strength. Our return to the Bundesliga is not just important on a sporting-level. It has given people a reason to feel proud again.”
Thinking back to 28th February 2021
Knäbel was also thinking back to 28th February last year with this statement. This was the day that he agreed to take on the responsibility of steadying the ship and starting the rebuilding process with his colleagues. “I am so grateful for what we have achieved together,” said the 55-year-old. “We found ourselves in the middle of a thrilling promotion race in the second division. And we came out on top.”
I am so grateful for what we have achieved together
Now that The Royal Blues know what division they will be playing in next season, a lot of the planning for 2022/23 has been taken care of. “We are taking the next steps with determination but we will not overdo it,” said Knäbel. According to the 55-year-old, it is important to make some of the big decisions now, including appointing the new coaching team. Mike Büskens, who has been interim coach, will take on the role of co-trainer and Knäbel is delighted to be able to keep him on board: “He lives for Schalke. The club is in his heart. He is of incredible value to our club,” he said.