Recently Mundilev.tk has agreed link exchanges with 2 Chinese discussion forums. Both Dfo.cn and Gerfans.cn (see links on the left side of the blog) have specific sections about Bayer 04 where Chinese and Taiwanese fans discuss and share the latest information about their favourite team.
To get to know more these fans in China and Taiwan, Mundilev.tk decided to host an e-mail interview. After being overwhelmed with responses to a published questionnaire in the two forums, the following participants were chosen for this interview:
–Siyuan: 22 years/male/Shanghai (China)
–Liang: 35 years/male/Shanghai (China)
–Sadaharu: 26 years/male/Rheinland-Pfalz (Germany) and Suzhou (China)
–Xiaofei: 22 years/male/Yantai (China)
–Tina: 19 years/female/Taipei (Taiwan)
–Caelum: 19 years/female/Taipei (Taiwan)
Mundilev.tk: First of all I would like to thank you for participating in this interview. This goes also to the many fans that had to be left out. First question: How did you all become supporters of Bayer Leverkusen?
Siyuan: For me it all began with a Bundesliga game against Schalke 04 that I watched in the season 2001-2002. It ended 3:3 thanks to a free-kick goal by Bernd Schneider in the 90th minute. Since then I am a true fan of the Werkself despite that we have not won anything in these last 9 years.
Liang: My first contact with Bayer Leverkusen dates back to 1993 when Stepanovic was the coach. Players like Schuster, Paulo Sergio and Kirsten impressed me at that time. But I also liked other Bundesliga team such as Dortmund, Bremen and Kaiserslautern. It all changed when Christoph Daum came to Leverkusen. Bayer 04 has given me since then mostly good memories.
Tina: It looks like that I will be the only newbie here. I become fan of the Werkself last season, especially after the World Cup.
Mundilev.tk: Well Tina it’s never too late to become fan of this club! What about you Caelum?
Caelum: Bayer Leverkusen first caught my attention in 2007, especially the handsome and talented René Adler. At that time it was more about René then the team. I got finally infected by the Leverkusen virus in the last two seasons after following most of the games.
Xiaofei: My story is completely different to the others, it may sound ridiculous but I became fan of the Werkself because of a video game. 7-8 years ago we were an excellent choice.
Mundilev.tk: Indeed that is curious way of becoming a fan of a football team 🙂 . Sadaharu you live now in Germany, since when do you follow Leverkusen?
Sadaharu: I am fan of German football since the European Championship of 1996. I admire the development of young players at Bayer 04, that’s why I am also a fan of this team.
Mundilev.tk: So you support also other teams? What about the others?
Sadaharu: Yes, I admire also other teams that follow a similar philosophy.
Tina: I totally support Bayer 04, however I have to admit that I am also fan of other players who do not play for Leverkusen.
Caelum: Me the same! Bayer 04 is my team but I especially like and support for example Marko Marin.
Siyuan: Leverkusen has been my favourite team since 2001. I also appreciate the attractive and offensive football of Arsenal London and AS Rome. In Germany I respect Werder Bremen’s attitude to fight till the end. They quite often beat their opponents in the last minutes.
Xiaofei: Bayer 04 is the only club team I support!
Liang: I don’t follow other teams or leagues.
Mundilev.tk: Has anyone of you visited the BayArena to watch a game or plan to do this in the future?
Caelum: I haven’t been there yet, but it’s possible that in the future I will study in Germany as exchange student. Then I could go and watch my team in the BayArena.
Liang: I will finally realize my dream and attend the match against Bayern Munich in November.
Mundilev.tk: That’s great! Hopefully your effort and long travel will be compensated with a victory of Bayer 04. How about the others?
Tina: Maybe in the future I will have the opportunity!
Siyuan: I have not yet visited Leverkusen but I am sure that I will do this one day. The new BayArena is so beautiful and unique. I would love to join the crowd there and support my team.
Xiaofei: Me too, hopefully I will get the chance one day to visit Leverkusen.
Sadaharu: For me it’s easy as I live in Germany at the moment. So far I have only watched them away, for example last year in the DFB-Pokal in Kaiserslautern where we lost 2:1 with a goal by our current player Sidney Sam.
Mundilev.tk: Yes that was a bitter elimination in the DFB-Pokal. Given the time difference most matches are late in the evening, how often do you follow the games of Bayer 04?
Tina: Only if the time is right and a video stream is available I will watch a match of Leverkusen. I normally chat and comment on it at the same time with my friends.
Caelum: Me the same. I watch most games that kick-off before midnight. If they are later than it will depend on whether I have go get up early. Fans in Taiwan have to fully rely on video streams as the Bundesliga is not shown on TV. Most video streams are blocked or removed before the games end but I still enjoy every minute of Bayer 04 that I can follow this way.
Mundilev.tk: What a pity that you can’t watch Leverkusen on TV in Taiwan and have to rely on unstable video streams. In China this is not a problem as CCTV broadcasts regularly the Bundesliga…
Siyuan: Yes that’s correct. We have a lot of options available. If not on CCTV we have reliable video streams available of TV Channels in Hong Kong that broadcast the Bundesliga. Sky is also an option sometimes but the streams are of low quality.
Liang: If absolutely nothing is available on a particular matchday we can also follow a live ticker.
Xiaofei: In High School I watched most of the games, now this is not possible for me. However I can download the matches afterwards and watch them at more friendlier times.
Mundilev.tk: No doubt, it’s a tough job to be a Bayer 04 fan in Asia! Who are your favourite players of the Werkself?
Siyuan: At the beginning Ramelow was my favourite Leverkusen player. He always gave the best on the pitch and was very loyal to the club. He had also an eye for our younger players and guided them, even in times when Michael Skibbe did not include him in the team. Once he retired, I very much liked Bernd Schneider. Unfortunately as we all know an injury put an end to his career. After that I just generally like the whole team with no special preference for a player.
Xiaofei: Franca of course! His dribbling and technique was outstanding when he was at Bayer.
Sadaharu: Stefan Kießling because of his enormous running, loyalty and the amount of goals he has scored for Leverkusen. He is also a true team player.
Liang: From the current squad Kiessling is also my favourite player. But he still has room for improvement. Ulf Kirsten is my all-time favourite player.
Mundilev.tk: Ramelow, Schneider, Franca, Kiessling, Kirsten quite a display of names. Tina and Caelum who are your favourite players?
Tina: Eren Derdiyok, his current performance has been awesome! Apart from scoring important goals, he has also shown great technical skills during our games.
Caelum: I will always love René Adler. But currently I also highly appreciate Eren Derdiyok for his performance at the beginning of this season.
Mundilev.tk: Yes Derdiyok has been a vital player in the last weeks. I am also quite impressed about his progress since he has arrived at Bayer 04. What are your expectations this season in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Europa League? Are we actually gonna win something finally?
Sadaharu: We should at least qualify again for the Europa League. Reaching semifinals in the international competitions would be excellent. The DFB-Pokal plays no role for me. Winning a title is a difficult prediction which I am not going to make.
Tina: I hope we perform better than last season. Our team should become more and more mature over the next years and could really hit it off one season. I don’t know when this will be.
Liang: I am crossing my fingers that we make at least the third place to play the Champions League. In the DFB-Pokal and Europa League everything is possible!
Siyuan: Bundesliga champions would be great but with our weak defense it will be hard to accomplish this season. Sami Hyypiä’s slowness is a risk and Manuel Friedrich’s performances are not consistent. A Champions League spot is a more realistic objective. The DFB-Pokal is not important to me; it should be the stage for our youngsters such as L.Bender and Sam. In the Europa League reaching semifinals would be great, but it’s difficult when you have teams like Liverpool and Manchester City in the competition.
Caelum: Of course we all wish that Bayer 04 finally wins the Bundesliga title this year. But back in reality, we should at least hold the fourth place from last season. Reaching the Champions League would be a huge success. In the Europa League I would be satisfied with reaching quarterfinals.
Xiaofei: Making it into the Champions League and beating Bayern with a high score that would great. But it doesn’t matter if we fail at the end, as long as we can share the disappointment with other Werkself Fans. That gives me the same feeling as winning.
Mundilev.tk: That’s right Xiaofei! It’s not always about winning! But our management is determined to do so, that’s why a lot of effort has been put into the return of Michael Ballack. How do you all feel about it? Was it a good idea?
Tina: His return was positive news for the club but his injury has cooled down the optimistic vibe we had at the beginning of the season. I hope he recovers soon so that he can help our young team.
Liang: His return has an important emotional component and reflects that our club is more than some people say. But Ballack’s best time was when he was under the coach Toppmöller. I am not expecting an extraordinary level of football from him in his last 2 seasons. It would be good if he could give the team the same spirit they had before when he was here.
Xiaofei: I was very excited when the news came out but he has not played as I expected. I hope that after the winter he will show a different performance.
Siyuan: He is an expensive signing but he has the qualities we need to change the character of our team. In the last two seasons, I was very disappointed to see always a drop in performance in the final fixtures. I hope Ballack can change this. Barnetta and Castro should learn from him, they always fail to deliver at the end. Perhaps in these moments they are already thinking about their holidays.
Sadaharu: Ballack is a top player, but with his injury he has so far not made an impact in the team. I also think that we have too many defensive midfielders.
Caelum: Despite his poor performance in first three fixture of the Bundesliga, I still have a positive feeling about his return. If he remains healthy, I believe he will show his passion on the football field again and become the leader of the Werkself that every Bayer 04 fan wishes.
Mundilev.tk: In general are you happy with our management and the transfers that have been made in the last 2-3 years?
Xiaofei: I am satisfied; the only shortcoming we have to solve soon is the situation in central defense.
Sadaharu: I agree, we need better centre-backs. We should also keep in touch with Toni Kroos, if he does not succeed at Bayern we have to be the first to knock on his door.
Liang: I am not happy with our management, two years without Europa League is not acceptable. Not making it into the Champions League this year was also a blow, despite having played for most of the season wonderful football.
Tina: I have started following Bayer 04 this season, so I can’t say much about the past. However it’s obvious that we need to improve our defense.
Siyuan: Arturo Vidal, Helmes, Renato Augusto and Sami Hyypiä have all been good transfers and are widely admired in China. I am big fan of Toni Kroos and agree with Sadaharu that we have to do everything to bring him back if he does not succeed at Bayern.
Caelum: To the list of Siyuan I would also add Eren Derdiyok, if he continues like this all the big clubs will chase him. As previously said, we got to improve our central defense with an experienced player.
Mundilev.tk: Your opinions do not differ much with German fans. It is widely agreed that we need to sign another centre-back and if possible do everything to bring Toni Kroos back. What about the coach Jupp Heynckes? Should he renew his contract? In case he decides to retire, who would you like to see at the sideline?
Caelum: Yes he should renew. If he decides to retire I would like to see Thomas Tuchel at the sideline. He has a lot of energy I am sure that he can pass that on to our team.
Sadaharu: Yes if Heynckes does not renew, Tuchel would a good coach for Bayer 04!
Tina: It would great if Heynckes could continue. But if he decides otherwise the coach should be someone experienced with an offensive philosophy.
Liang: I hope that we reach the Champions League so he can lead us in this competition next year. Sammer or Tuchel are for me bad options. I have always hoped that Daum would return but that seems to be off the table. Slomka and especially Magath would be a good choice. I just want to see Bayer 04 once champion! I think Magath has the gene for this.
Siyuan: I am not a Heynckes fan, he is too conservative. We lose a lot of points because we prefer to secure a draw than to go for a winning goal. I think Pellegrini could be a good candidate to succeed him. He is free now and has done great work at previous teams: Real Madrid and especially Villareal. We should sign him!
Mundilev.tk: I am impressed Siyuan that’s actually a name I did not have in my mind. He would be indeed in my eyes a good successor for Heynckes. He stands for offensive football and had great success at Villareal (Champions League semifinal) and Real Madrid (League point record). On top he speaks 5 languages and would surely get on well with Arturo Vidal who has not yet decided whether he will continue. How about you Xiaofei?
Xiaofei: Heynckes made a good job last year but I think a young couch like Tuchel would fit our team well.
Mundilev.tk: Well we will have to wait until winter to find out who will steer our team in the next season. The next question is for the Leverkusen Fans based in China: As you all know Bayer 04 visited your country this summer. Did you go and see them by any chance? How did your friends who are not Werkself fans rate this visit?
Xiaofei: I went to watch Bayer 04 in Jianyin against our national team. It was not a good experience as we lost 0:3 and my friends reminded me of this defeat for several weeks.
Liang: I was looking forward to meet the team when they were in Shanghai but it was impossible to find out which school they were going to visit. The match against the national team should have also been hosted in a bigger city. I watched it on TV and it was surely not good publicity for the Werkself.
Siyuan: I was looking forward to Leverkusen’s visit to China and to the match in Jiangyin. However once the squad for this visit was announced I was deeply disillusioned. I know that it had also to do with the World Cup, but it was basically the second team that Chinese fans got to see. The performance in this last match was also a disaster.
Mundilev.tk: It was the first visit, I am sure that next time it will be even better organized. How would you rank Bayer Leverkusen between German Soccer Fans in your country? What club is the most followed? Who would come in front of us, who behind?
Tina: In Taiwan I would rank us in fourth place. Bayern Munich is of course the most followed. Werder Bremen and FC Schalke 04 are in front of us while VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund are behind us or at the same level.
Caelum: I agree, but it’s not easy to say as most fans do not have an exclusive passion for a particular club.
Mundilev.tk: What is it like in China?
Sadaharu: Similar, I would also say 4th or 5th. 1st Bayern, 2nd and 3rd: Bremen and Dortmund and after that a group of teams with a similar level of fans: Bayer 04, Schalke, Hamburg and Stuttgart.
Liang: Bayern Munich is as big as Manchester United or FC Barcelona in China. Chinese fans mostly choose their favourite team according to team success. They need their team to always win and win. But Leverkusen is getting more and more known for their attractive football.
Siyuan: When it comes to national teams, Germany is the No.1 in China. There a lot of supporters of the Nationalmannschaft. Bayer Leverkusen has a small share of fans that follow German football. However, there is a lot of potential. The Werkself should buy a Chinese player to win more supporters. Schalke for example has profited from the Hao transfer. Hanchao Yu would be a good purchase. He scored 2 goals for the national team against Leverkusen. Bayern have the most fans in my country. Bremen and Schalke come after that. We would rank behind these teams together with Dortmund.
“Hanchao Yu vs Leverkusen (nr.16, midfielder) – Video uploaded by third party”
Mundilev.tk: Cha Bum-Kun from South Korea was a very successful player with Bayer 04 in the past but he played first in Frankfurt and Darmstadt and then made the jump to Leverkusen. Apart from Hanchao Yu does anyone have more suggestions for our scouts?
Sadaharu: Yes I would recommend the offensive midfielder Zhuoxiang Deng of FC Shandong. The best Chinese youth player of 2009 is technically gifted and is great at shooting free-kicks but he needs to become physically stronger to compete in the Bundesliga.
“Zhuoxiang Deng (nr.8, midfielder) – Video uploaded by third party”
Liang: Shao from Cottbus, he has already adapted to German football. He is far better than Hao from Schalke.
“Jiayi Shao (midfielder) – Video uploaded by third party”
Mundilev.tk: Last but not least! What can our club improve to reach more Fans in China and Taiwan? Do you already receive enough information or would Bayer04.de & Bayer04-TV in Mandarin make a huge difference?
Caelum: I think it would help to have more players in the Nationalmannschaft. As for what the club could do, I would recommend Bayer 04 to establish an official fan club for Asia and lowering the membership fee for fans outside of Germany, just like Werder Bremen did. It is also too expensive to spend 40 Euro for delivering Bayer 04 fan merchandise from Germany to Asia, especially for a student. An official fan shop in Asia or Adidas stores offering more Bayer 04 gear would help.
Siyuan: I hope my club will pay more attention to their Chinese fans in the future. Manchester United is the example to follow in Europe. Bayer should come more often to China and try to improve the communication with their fans. During Leverkusen’s visit one fan of our discussion board wanted to have a fan interview with some of the players. This was requested by phone (the two numbers obtained did not exist) and Email (no reply received) with no success. It would be good if Leverkusen could have a contact person for Chinese/International fans. Bayer04-TV is a great service for fans but few watch it in China because the video stream is slow. I have to wait sometimes one hour till it loads. Often the video stops loading in the middle of it. This is why we hardly use this service.
Sadaharu: As previously suggested signing a Chinese player would bring immediate attention from my country to Bayer 04. But that’s very difficult because he will have to play and our squad quality is very high. An official website in Mandarin would help as most people in China do not speak the current languages that are offered (German & English).
Tina: Yes it would great to have Bayer04.de also in Mandarin!
Liang: I agree that would be a great step forward.
Xiaofei: At the end it all comes down to whether the information is up-to date. The English edition is slow in updating. If you have a Chinese edition it would be the same, therefore the club should concentrate in improving the English edition.
Mundilev.tk: Thank you very much for this interesting and long interview. It has been a great exchange of ideas and views!
If you ever have any questions about our team, feel free to comment or send me an email. This blog is all about offering foreign fans a better perspective on Bayer 04!