Benjamin Stambouli: It was a magical moment!
After almost eleven months without an appearance in the Bundesliga, Benjamin Stambouli could make his return to competitive action on Friday (18/9). The Frenchman discusses an unusual weekend in the DFB-Pokal, starting the season in Munich and a fan chant in an interview with schalke04.de.
Benji, you actually should have played against 1. FC Schweinfurt 05 last Sunday in the DFB-Pokal, but the match was cancelled with just 48 hours notice after an appeal from Türkgücü München. How did you learn of the decision?
The coach was told in training on Friday afternoon that we might not be playing. He pulled us all together on the pitch and told us about the situation. Everything was still touch and go at that stage, but later we were told that the game was cancelled.
What was your first reaction?
It’s no secret that I was a little upset. I was really looking forward to the game; after an eleven-month break it would’ve been a really special occasion for me. But we have to accept the decision and we hope to find out soon who our opponent will be in the DFB-Pokal – and when the game can take place.
You had an intra-squad friendly in the VELTINS-Arena instead of the cup game. Looking at the positives from the cancellation: was this match good for the squad, as all of the players could get minutes in their legs?
I would’ve preferred a cup game every day of the week, but we made the best of the situation. The training game was a good alternative as we could all get some more match practice. An eleven-a-side game is the best for that.
It will be an honour for me to finally wear the Schalke shirt in a Bundesliga game again.
You’ve already mentioned it – your last competitive game was almost eleven months ago. Does that mean that you’re more excited for the start of the Bundesliga season than in other years?
I look forward to every game, but this time it’s special for me and my excitement is even greater. It will be an honour for me to finally wear the Schalke shirt in a Bundesliga game again. It’s hard when you’re injured and you can’t help the team on the pitch. I’m glad that that period is finally over.
Does your foot injury still cause you any pain in tackles or perhaps with headers?
No, not at all! I feel good, I trust my body and I feel in top shape after a long period of preparation, both physical and mental. The injury is in the past and it doesn’t matter to me anymore.
You start the new Bundesliga season with the biggest challenge in German football: Bayern Munich. What was your first reaction when the fixtures were released?
We can’t change it, so I haven’t really thought about it. Yes, Bayern are the top side in Germany, a really strong team. But we’ll give it our best shot and believe in ourselves!
Bayern won the Champions League just a few weeks ago. How did you follow the match against your old club Paris Saint-Germain?
The final took place while we were at our training camp in Längenfeld. We stayed in the dining room after dinner and watched the match together on a big screen. It was an interesting game that was tense right until the final whistle.
There are six French players in the Bayern squad: Kingsley Coman, Corentin Tolisso, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, Mickael Cuisance and new signing Tanguy Nianzou. Do you know any of them personally?
Our paths have crossed a lot already, but I only really know Benjamin Pavard. We played together in Stuttgart for two years. We stayed in touch after our time together came to an end – we get on really well. He’s a good lad and a top player.
The relationship between players and fans is really special here at Schalke. They’re so passionate!
After last season’s restart, matches were played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fans will soon be able to return to stadiums, with at least a few thousand spectators to be allowed at matches.
That will do us a lot of good as a team. We all the miss the fans and I think that they can spur us on to be successful. The relationship between players and fans is really special here at Schalke. They’re so passionate! In football, it’s rare to find fans as great as ours.
Which fan song do you miss the most?
That one’s easy, isn’t it? It’s obviously ‘Asoziale Schalker!’ (laughs) It’s definitely my favourite song to sing myself, and the one that I miss the most right now.
Can you imagine what it would be like to stand in front of the fans and sing ‘Asozialer Schalke’ after the first match back at a sold-out VELTINS-Arena, preferably after a win?
I don’t want to answer that, because it’s not something that you can plan. Everything that happens after a match is the result of pure emotion. The moments after you win a game are simply indescribable – I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I’m repeating myself, but our fans really are special. They stick with us through good and bad, going to great lengths to support the team. Right now, I’m picturing the match in Leipzig last season. After winning the match, we stood in front of the away fans, linked arms and sang ‘Asoziale Schalke’ together with the fans. That was such a magical moment!