It is just a massive club - Mitch Langerak Interview Part I
It has been a long time since the days of Ned Zelic, the only Australian ever to wear a Borussia Dortmund jersey. This was back in the early 90s. Out of nowhere in May 2010 Borussia signed the young Australian goalkeeper Mitch Langerak from Melbourne Victory until 2014. An unusal signing for the club, who had relied on older second keepers in the past. With Marc Ziegler off to Stuttgart, Mitch Langerak at an age of 22 is now the man behind Roman Weidenfeller.
schwatzgelb.com sat down with Mitch before the match against Bayern Munich to find out about his career in Australia, how he copes with driving on the right side of the road and of course about his ambitions in Dortmund. Here is the first part of our interview.
sg.com: Nice to meet you, Mitch!
Mitch: Nice to meet you, too.
sg.com: What are your first impressions of Dortmund? What have you seen from the city so far?
Mitch: I live up in Kirchhörde, that´s a nice rural area and some of my team mates live there, too. I go into the city every now and then and have a wander around the shops at Westenhellweg. So it´s a nice city with lots of things to see, but it´s phenomenal how many Borussia Dortmund fans are out there. Everywhere you go you see cars with BVB stickers on them and you see people wearing our jersey. That´s amazing and made me realise that this club is something special.
sg.com: What did you know about Dortmund and BVB before you signed here?
Mitch: When I got to know that BVB was interested in signing me I just could not believe it. Obviously, being a footballer in Australia, I knew about Borussia Dortmund, all footballers do. But I did not know the complete history of the club. But now I found out about it, that´s just phenomenal. And the stadium and the supporter base are so big, that´s amazing. It´s just a massive club.
sg.com: Did you speak to Ned Zelic before your move to Dortmund?
Mitch: No, I did not speak to him. I know he was the first Australian to play at BVB and he had a spectacular career. He is very well known in Australia.
sg.com: Did you speak to anybody else from Australia about Bundesliga and Borussia before coming here?
Mitch: Yes, I spoke to some Australian players that I played with, who moved to play abroad. Like Dario Vidosic, who plays for Nuremberg and Matthew Spiranovic, who also played for Nuremberg, but moved on to Japan by now. I had some words with Australians who played in Bundesliga but also to others that played in the Dutch League, which is not quite like the Bundesliga but it is a similar experience for Australians who come over. Obviously everybody encouraged me to go to Dortmund. They said it´s the best you can do and you should go as quick as you can.
sg.com: Have you ever been to Europe before moving to Dortmund?
Mitch: No I haven´t. I came here once to sign the contract and then went back to Australia to sort my stuff out and prepare for the move. Then I came back here a week before pre-season to get my apartment and my car. So when pre-season training started I was ready to go and did not have to live in a hotel anymore to make the transition a bit easier.
sg.com: Do you have a German driver´s license?
Mitch: Actually, I am not quite sure what I am using at the moment. (laughs) I think there is something in Australia, where you can take the Australian driver´s license and transcript it to a European license.
sg.com: Did you have any problems adjusting to driving on the right side of the road?
Mitch: Oh, I did. I had basic problems driving on the right hand side of the road, so I am probably still the worst driver in the team.
sg.com: How did you get to know that Borussia was interested in signing you?
Mitch: Through my Australian agent. He has partners in Germany and Holland. So I spoke to my agent and he told me Borussia was interested. It still took a while for it to go down the line, but I am obviously glad that it finally happened and I can be here.
sg.com: Did you know beforehand that Borussia was scouting you?
Mitch: I knew a little bit through my agent before the official word came through that it could happen. But I put it to the back of my mind because I had to focus on playing in Melbourne. We were in the middle of a Champions League-like campaign and were about to play semi final and possibly grand final of the league. So that was an important part of the season back home. I tried to put it to the side a bit and not think too much about it. But when the official offer came through, I was pushing as hard as I could to come here. Everybody told me that I should feel privileged and I should do everything to make it happen, so that´s what I did.
sg.com: When did you first speak to Jürgen Klopp?
Mitch: It was when I came over here to sign the contract. I had a meeting with him and the assistant coaches and Teddy de Beer, the goalkeeper’s coach. There was something they told me that stood out. They said: "We don´t mind if you make mistakes. Whatever happens on the pitch, if you train at 100% and always work as hard as you can, you will never have a problem with us." And to see them pitch the boys to 100% in training and then in the games the boys go flat out, that´s phenomenal.
sg.com: What perspective did Borussia present to you? Obviously you´ve been a regular starter in Australia and now you´ve switched that for a place on the bench in Dortmund.
Mitch: Every player wants to be playing. But I am not silly. I´ve come to a massive club in the Bundesliga and I am not going to come from Australia and walk into this with crazy ambitions. But I´ve come here to work hard and train as hard as I can with Roman. And if -god forbid- anything happens to him then I´ll be ready to step in and take my chance. At the moment Roman came through for now. But to be involved in a Bundesliga side for me is a big step and I knew it would be difficult to walk straight into a starting position.
sg.com: But do you see yourself as a competitor now or do you think your first year in Dortmund will be more of an academic year?
Mitch: I like to think I am competing. Obviously it will be hard to play, because Roman is doing so well at the moment. But I am not only here to get to know the club, the language or the country. It´s about going out to the pitch each training day to work hard and I am trying to bring that and develop as much as I can.
sg.com: Is it different to work with Roman Weidenfeller and Teddy de Beer compared to other keepers and coaches you´ve worked with like Michael Theoklitos?
Mitch: No, it’s pretty similar working with Teddy to how we worked back home. A lot of things we do will be things that you encounter in a game. So we train a lot of match situations. You train them during the week, so when they occur in a match on the weekend you got to deal with them. Especially working with Roman is great, he helps me out a lot as well.
sg.com: And you speak English during training?
Mitch: Yes, Roman speaks English and Teddy de Beer speaks perfect English, of course. I am trying to learn German though.
sg.com: And do you have a translator for the team meetings?
Mitch: No I don´t. If something concerns me, Teddy will translate that for me afterwards. But other than that I´m just trying to figure out for myself, what they are talking about. But I don´t get really much of it. (laughs)
sg.com: Does anybody help you with your personal affairs?
Mitch: My agent lives in Venlo in Holland. That´s not far away. So he comes over all the time to help me out. When I first got here I had a pile of mail I could not read. So he came by to sort out my mail. And that´s when I first thought it´s so difficult if you´re not speaking the language.
sg.com: So you did not bring any of your family or friends over here?
Mitch: No, I´m all alone here. That makes it a bit harder, but I use the telephone or skype a lot to speak to family and friends.
sg.com: Maybe it makes things a bit harder for you but it also helps to adept to the new situation...
Mitch: Yes, I think so, too. It´s definitely important to show respect to the country you’re living in and for that, you have to learn the language. That´s really difficult for me but I am trying as hard as I can. I am trying to speak some German at work with Teddy and Roman as well. And I am trying to embrace the style and the feeling at this club.
sg.com: So you´ve got a German teacher, how often do you take lessons?
Mitch: Yes, he comes around here, usually a couple of times per week. Whenever there is time after training, I arrange to meet him.
sg.com: It´s probably hard to find time for that with the kind of schedule you have been on lately.
Mitch: Yes, at the moment, it´s phenomenal. All these games with the Europa League and the Bundesliga. But that´s what football is all about. And I enjoy travelling so much and to get the chance to see all those cities. But yes, it is hard to find time for my German lessons.
sg.com: What have been your biggest surprises so far since arriving in Dortmund?
Mitch: Obviously the training. We train so much compared to Australia. I think back home we trained 3-4 times a week. Well it is still all professional there but it just wasn´t full on. And then you come here and we train, train, train... Another surprise was how well supported the club is. The fans are just ridiculous. When I walk into the stadium and look up the terrace there´s just a plenty... a plenty.
sg.com: What were your first thoughts when you walked into the our stadium and saw the Südtribüne?
Mitch: The first time was against Man City. Well I have played some big crowds back in Melbourne but that´s obviously nothing compared to here. I think against Man City was not even the biggest crowd, but for me, it was still pretty big. It was great to have my first game at Dortmund but I am really looking forward to the home game against Schalke to see what the fans will do.
sg.com: You´ve just been to your first derby and after the win, the fans gave you a big reception, when the bus returned to Dortmund.
Mitch: Yes, that was fun! That was incredible. That was crazy, when we came back from the Schalke game. I remember the bus turned around and I did not know what was going on. All the boys just turned around and everybody was staring out the back window and when I looked, there were people with flares everywhere. It was unbelieveable and I was thinking: "This is just for a regular game. What will they do if we win the championship?"
sg.com: And it was only the 4th match of the season...
Mitch: Yes, you could have thought we´ve already won the whole thing. That was phenomenal. Since I´ve been here, everybody told me it was all about the game against Schalke. I can´t wait for the home game.
sg.com: Against Bayern Munich next weekend, you are going to see your first sold out match in our stadium.
Mitch: Yes, I am looking forward to that as well. I have one of my friends coming over for that match.
Sg.com: Is Bayern the only German team that’s being recognized over in Australia, then?
Mitch: For Australians, speaking about the general public in Australia that might be true, but for footballers or people into football, they know other teams as well. Football is pretty big in Australia even if you got a lot of other sports competing, football is still a big sport and all of the fans of course know about the Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund.
In our second part we will find out about Mitch's career in Australia and his ambitions in the national team.