Thomas Ouwejan: Go into every game with the desire to win
New signing Thomas Ouwejan has been up and down the left wing throughout pre-season for FC Schalke 04. The Dutch wide player spoke to schalke04.de about how S04 are thought of in his home country, his first few weeks with the Royal Blues, his crossing qualities and Friday’s friendly against Vitesse Arnhem at the Parkstadion (16/7, 18:00 CEST).
Thomas, we are coming to the end of pre-season. How has it been for you?
We have trained really well during the camp and also since we’ve returned. A lot of sessions were hard work, but that’s what we need for a good season. You have to lay the foundations during pre-season.
You are one of many new players auf Schalke. Have you managed to integrate?
The lads and the coaching team have made it very easy for me to do so. I’ve been welcomed with open arms. The lads have great character and attitudes.
There have been a number of other players from the Netherlands to play for Schalke in the past, including Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Youri Mulder, Johan de Kock or our coach of the century, Huub Stevens. These guys all left their mark on the club – why do Dutch people have so much success at Schalke?
That’s a good question. Maybe it’s because Schalke are very popular in the Netherlands. A lot of football fans that I know support S04, so I can imagine that Dutch players enjoy playing for Schalke and give their all to help the club be successful. That also applies to me – I want to have a positive impact here.
I want to have a positive impact here.
Do you know any of those guys personally?
Not personally, no. I’ve played against Klaas-Jan Huntelaar several times when he was at Ajax. We did speak briefly.
You’re 24, you’ve played over 100 competitive games for AZ Alkmaar in the league and Europe, and spent last season at Udinese in Serie A. Why did you decide to move to FC Schalke 04?
On paper it might seem like a step down because of the division, but I see it completely differently. Schalke is still a huge, ambitious club and the fans have always excited me when I’ve watched games on TV. As soon as the club got in touch, I was certain that I wanted to become a Schalker. I can’t wait for my first game at the VELTINS-Arena.
Have you ever been to a game at the VELTINS-Arena?
Unfortunately, no. I’ve watched loads of videos though, so I can imagine how playing at this amazing stadium will feel like.
What are your goals for this season?
I want to play my part in us having a successful season. As a footballer, you want to win every game. I’m aware that that won’t always be possible, however my aim is to go into every game with the desire to win and give 100% from the first to the last minute.
You’ve been getting up and down the left wing in the friendlies so far. Your crosses have been particularly impressive and they’ve resulted in several goals. Do the strikers tell you beforehand what they want from you?
We speak about it. Simon Terodde especially comes to me and says what kind of deliveries he prefers. As a wide player, it’s important that you have a connection with the people in the middle. I really enjoy contributing to the team scoring a goal.
Your competitor for that spot down the left-hand side is Kerim Calhanoglu. What’s your relationship like with him?
Kerim is a nice guy. He’s really young, but has a lot of talent. We speak a lot to each other. He’s got bags of potential.
New signings traditionally have to sing a song when they join the club. Did you do so in Mittersill?
Of course. I sang ‘I want it that way’ by the Backstreet Boys. I don’t think it went that bad – all the lads were clapping along by the end!
I can’t wait for my first game at the VELTINS-Arena.
How is your German? Do you understand everything in training and off the pitch?
I can speak a little bit and it’s improving every day. Looking back, I regret not learning it at school. Back then, I chose to study French instead. I can understand the most important things on the pitch already and if there are any problems, we can just communicate in English.
Our final pre-season friendly before the first game against Hamburger SV is versus Vitesse Arnhem, who you know well from your time with AZ Alkmaar. What should we expect from them?
Vitesse are a good side, who finished fourth last season. They did well throughout the whole of 2020/21, even sitting top at some stages. It will be a good test for us ahead of the HSV game.
You’ve got a good record against Vitesse. Can you remember it?
Not off the top of my head. But thinking about it, I don’t remember losing to them in the Eredivisie.
Correct. In six clashes, you’ve won four times and drawn twice.
That’s not bad! I can remember that these games were hard fought. Nothing will come easy for us.