A very special person with a very special story
Rudi Assauer touched the lives of many people. Some of his former colleagues gave personal anecdotes ahead of his funeral on Friday (15th February), stories they will always remember about the Royal Blues’ former manager.
Board Chairman Clemens Tönnies and CFO Peter Peters remember the time they spent together with Assauer, such as the ‘Eurofighters’ era. Former ‘Eurofighters’ also shared their stories about Rudi – Coach Huub Stevens, captain Olaf Thon, and players Andreas Müller, Youri Mulder and Mike Büskens.
We’ve lost a Schalke legend and it has affected us all. I’m happy – as happy as you could be in this kind of situation – that the ‘Eurofighters’ were here today, that German football turned its eyes towards Gelsenkirchen and many condolences were shared. That affected me a lot. One nice anecdote that I also told in the church is that Rudi took great pleasure in shoving a microphone into my hands and catching me completely off-guard while I was talking to fans or VIPs. He’d say something like: “Clemens, sing something!” – his only real incentive was that, after I had sung a song or two, we would both then sing “Blauer Vogel” together – that was his favourite song. He was a man from the Ruhr, he loved the Ruhr and the people here. There were some great moments that I got to experience with him.
His best move was definitely when he signed Andreas Möller. I remember that very well. At the time we did the transfer from my flat. We closed the curtains and Rudi asked, “If he’s coming now what do we offer him?” Then I told him the sum. And I told him that he would also sign that amount and that was the deal. Then Andreas Möller arrived, my wife gave us some biscuits and Rudi puffed that cigar of his until the whole flat was smoky. We went into the next room and named the price we wanted to offer Möller and hey presto, the contract was signed. Rudi then said to me that we shouldn’t tell anyone. We went to Billerbeck in the evening and had a board meeting. The meeting was actually already over and everyone just wanted to drink beer. Rudi almost forgot that we had something to mention and just about remembered to bring it up. Then the name Andreas Möller resonated around the room and naturally all the members of the board had their jaws on the floor. As you know, the transfer was approved, of course.
From the start, Rudi and I always had a special relationship. He was crazy, in a good way, and immediately introduced me to the Schalke way of thinking. I called Rudi “Assi”, and he called me “old” because he thought he looked younger and hotter. That was Rudi. He was more than just a manager or a doer. He gave the team spirit, and had a knack for picking the right players. He brought love and trust into his environment, and gave it to his employees and fans. He was a personality in his own way, especially with his famous cigar. Assi was a person who was straightforward and honest. You can’t forget the Schalke songs that we sang together with the players after winning the title, as well as the tears that fell when we had the league ripped away from us in the last few seconds of the season. We would have loved to give Assi that title in 2001. For Assi, there was no trip too far and no mountain too high when it came to Schalke. He transferred his will, passion and fighting spirit to the team. He was proud of the VELTINS-Arena. “Either I manage Schalke or Schalke manages me,” he said. Unfortunately, his illness overcame him. We will all miss him.
Rudi shaped FC Schalke 04 from the 80s onwards like no other. In German football, he was one of the true greats for a number of decades. I have a lot, a real lot, to thank him for. Without Rudi, I probably wouldn’t have been able to have had such a successful career. He discovered me at the age of 16, and had given me my first contract by 17. He looked after me a lot during the first few years of my career. It was an honour for me to have been able to work together with him. We were brought together not only by our experiences out on the pitch. His birthday is the 30th April, mine the 1st May. We celebrated together plenty of times, such as on my 18th birthday, when Rudi tapped the beer for my guests. It would have pleased him to know that we’re drinking a Pils in his memory today.
Rudi was a truly special man. You can see that from this memorial service – so many of his former companions have travelled here today from all areas of German football. I myself am eternally grateful to Rudi. We ‘Eurofighters’ have a lot to thank him for. Without his effort and his engagement, we wouldn’t have been able to lift the UEFA Cup in 1997. That brought us together forever. After my career as a player, I had the honour of being able to work with Rudi again. I played under him for six years, before working as his assistant for a further six years. After that, I always joked that I saw Rudi more than my wife. Rudi put a lot of value in my opinion. Car journeys with him were always legendary. I was constantly stuck in traffic with him, but Rudi always picked the radio station, only tuning in to WDR 4. At the time, I always tried to change it, but when I think about it, I’ve got to chuckle now – I listen to WDR 4 myself nowadays.
When I came to Schalke back then, I thought that this man could do everything. He led the club with his eyes closed, and had everyone, including the players, under his authority. He also took on those who were friends and family of the players, and always made them feel right at home as well. My brother came with me to away matches. Rudi invited him into the team hotel and they had a beer together. When I snapped my ACL, I always had Rudi’s full support. He showed the same compassion my father would have given me, and knew that I was going through a tough spell. He did everything for me to get well again. Getting this sort of attention as a player is very important, and was really nice at the time. You had the feeling that whenever he said something to you, he really meant it.
Today was a dignified farewell for Rudi. He was an outstanding personality, who played a decisive role in shaping FC Schalke 04. Rudi was honest and straightforward. That should really be the norm, but unfortunately these traits are becoming rarer and rarer in society nowadays. Rudi always kept his word, and a handshake was sacred for him. But he could also be resolute. If an individual player or whole team didn’t play their best, he’d make it known to them. We all knew though that we could approach him at any time. Rudi was more than a normal boss. He didn’t just see you as a shirt number – the person within was important to him. That’s exactly why his passing has affected so many people.