The architect of the modern Schalke

Those of us at Schalke are lost for words about the recent news but are trying very hard to find some. Rudi Assauer has passed away. We are indescribably sad that he is gone, but also incredibly thankful that we got to know him at all.

What is undisputable is that the former manager has earned a place in the club’s history that few others can boast. He is responsible for shaping a large part of what the club is today. The gigantic project of building a stadium required teamwork, something which Assauer knew. He asserted that certain Herculean tasks need to be taken on by individuals who then work together. More examples come in 1993, when he prevented the withdrawal of license, and a year later, when he instituted the new club rules. Without Rudi Assauer, there would be no VELTINS-Arena. That was his life’s work, as he once emphasised. Without him, there would have been no ‘Coach of the Century’, Huub Stevens; without him, there would have been no Eurofighters and no DFB-Pokal double; and yes, without him, there wouldn’t have been a bent trophy.

Our love for him is also partly due to the fact that Rudi was a Royal Blue with a bit of edge. He was a character, something special and something that’s almost completely absent in football nowadays. Whether it be fans, superiors, colleagues, former players or journalists, everyone has their “Assauer moment”. Without wanting to exaggerate the situation, “Assi” really was known as an icon. He was a problem-solver, he was eloquent, powerfully articulate, down-to-earth, an elegant worker and a charming yet macho man. No manager has had so many names: “Stumpen-Rudi”, “Schlotbaron” or “Der Pate” were just a few. For Gerald Asamoah he was “Die Manager”, while Huub Stevens simply called him “Männi”.

For fans, however, he was always just “Rudi”, because he did not speak to them verbally, but through the language that Schalke fans knew. He was a friend. “Without the amazing fans and the support we receive from them, this team would have been finished long ago,” Assauer once said. The worst day of his career came on the 19th of May 2001, when he broke down in tears after a shock result, thereafter losing his faith in any footballing gods. Heaven was likely cursed, badmouthed and scolded many times that day. While we thought that might be the last we saw of Assauer’s emotional side, years later when saying goodbye to Jiri Nemec, the hard old dog cried uncontrollably, visibly sobbing.

He moved us all as well when he made his Alzheimer’s diagnosis public. While his spirit slowly faded, his body lived on. Rudi Assauer shared in a book, as well as in a TV documentary, an authentic look at his later life. The insight was a last autonomous example of him breaking taboos and stigmas. He was a fighter once again, bringing liberation to others and giving people courage, even when not fully fit himself. He unknowingly ignited an initiative named after him, which perfectly aligns with his character: close to the people, without fear and thinking outside the box.

His passing had started long ago, but was finally met yesterday. He died accompanied by his daughter Bettina Michael, passing away in her arms. And despite the knowledge that he is now at peace, the fact that we must say goodbye to a legend has shattered many Schalke fans’ hearts.

Dear Rudi, hopefully, wherever you are, you have a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other. Be good to yourself and take care. We will never forget you or what you’ve done for us. Thanks for everything, boss.

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