Benjamin Stambouli: It wasn’t easy without the ball at my feet
After convincing performances last season and cutting an approachable figure off the pitch, Benjamin Stambouli won over the fans. In an interview with schalke04.de, the Frenchman discussed the summer break, the team’s tour to Barcelona, his supporters by the training pitch, his Instafame as well as his home country’s World Cup campaign.
Benjamin, after almost six weeks, off you’re a week into training now. When did you begin to get the urge to start playing again?
At the beginning of the holidays, I had a few five-a-side kick-arounds with my friends. After three games, I said to myself that I was on holiday and needed to take a step back from the game. So I had ten days of absolutely no football. It’s wasn’t so easy (laughs). But it was important to disconnect for a bit.
Can you tell us where you went on holiday?
Of course! At first I was in Montpellier, where I spent a few days with friends and family. It was just lovely to have all the important people in my life around me again, having not seen them for ages. Then I flew to Formentera with my family. It’s one of the Spanish islands and is simply stunning. We really enjoyed our time there. I spent the last few days of the holidays back in the south of France.
How did you stay fit during the off-season?
Every player was given a personalized training programme. Mine began on 14th July. The mainstay was running and calisthenics. But it certainly paid off, I felt good when we started training.
Before your holiday started, you went on tour with the whole team to Barcelona. Did that kind of thing happen at your former clubs too?
When I was playing at Tottenham, we all travelled to Malaysia and Australia for a certain sponsor. So it wasn’t a classic tour, but still a good experience. With Schalke, it was a proper team trip, which we planned and organised ourselves. Not one person dropped out. After a fantastic year, it was great to reminisce about the season together and celebrate the fact that we were runners-up.
It was a terrific season not only for the team but for you personally as well. You have established yourself in a new position and given consistently strong performances. Are you set to play in defence once again during the coming season?
I enjoyed it a lot. At the end of the day, it’s the coach who has the final say. I’m ready to serve the team in any position. Wherever I play, I’ll always give 100 percent!
It’s a great feeling when your performances are appreciated and the fans like you.
More and more fans seem to be present at training sessions with the number 17 and your name on the back of their shirts. What’s more, there are even T-shirts bearing the slogan, “you haven’t got a chance, you’re playing against Benjamin Stambouli”! How proud are you to have such loyal and adoring support from the Royal Blue fans?
Very proud. It’s a great feeling when your performances are appreciated and the fans like you. I have indeed seen the T-shirts, on Instagram too. I immediately sent these fans a message and thanked them. When I see them at training, I always go and say hello. Their support motivates me considerably. My goal is to pay them back for their encouragement with my performances on the pitch.
You’re currently preparing for the new season in China. What impressions have you got so far?
Because I love to travel in my spare time and explore new places in the world, I am very happy that we’re in China at the moment. Everywhere we go, we’re welcomed so warmly. The people are really nice. However, the weather needs a bit of adjusting to. It’s often very hot and the humidity is through the roof. Nevertheless, I think it will help us a lot when we’re back in Germany.
Whilst you’ve been in the Far East, the World Cup has been going on in Russia. Did you get to watch France’s quarter final against Uruguay?
I can’t tear myself away from it. Being in China, we’re six hours ahead of German time, but the whole team watched the match in the hotel. I’m delighted that France have made it through to the semi finals and I hope that my homeland can lift the trophy when all’s said and done. When France won in 1998, I was eight years old. I still have a lot of memories of that summer. That team with Zinedine Zidane was magical. It was just a pleasure to watch them play.
France’s semi final opponent is Belgium…
… and our Team Manager Jan-Pieter Martens is Belgian, which means I have been goading him for the last few days. I think that the loser will have to grin and bear the winner’s celebrations after the game. I hope that the latter is me, so I can wind up Jan-Pieter a bit (laughs).
There are also some big games on the horizon for Schalke. At the end of August, the Champions League groups will be drawn. Do you have an ideal opponent in mind?
When I look at the list of teams in the competition, there are no dull matches. At Paris Saint-Germain, I played against Real Madrid. I would love to take them on again. I’m also aware that Schalke played their last Champions League game in the Bernabeu. That 4-3 result was just incredible, even though we still didn’t progress because of it.