With many senior players making a late return to the team after being on international duty with their countries, 10 players from the U19s and U23s were invited to take part in Borussia Dortmund’s pre-season training camp in Bad Ragaz. Here’s what the BVB youngsters made of their experiences with the first team.
“They’re doing well, the lads are doing well,” shouted BVB coach Marco Rose in the background as Colin Kleine-Bekel, 18, talked about training with the first team. “That’s great to hear, of course,” said the U19 central defender, who – along with five team-mates – was invited to join the training camp. “It’s unbelievably fun to be playing here. You soak everything up.” Tom Rothe, 16, concurred: “It’s special to be here. The level is high and you have to be 100% on it.”
Every day, the talented youngsters take to the pitch with the pros, getting stuck into challenges with Mo Dahoud or defending against Erling Haaland. Or they’ll play a round of football tennis with the coaching staff. While most of the players only completed a session in the athletics tent on Saturday, assistant coach Alexander Zickler set up barriers on the training ground as a make-shift net and challenged the youngsters to a game of football tennis with head coach Rose and second assistant Rene Maric.
But for three of the young players, the first highlight of the training camp came a day earlier when they featured in the friendly against Bologna. Göktan Gürpüz, 18, has already spent the entirety of pre-season with the senior team and was named in the starting XI for the first friendly in Giessen and the second one against Bologna in Switzerland. “It’s a nice experience to be involved here. The pace is relatively high, but it’s fun and you take it all in.”
Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, 16, who unfortunately sustained an injury, Noah Mrosek, 17, and Dennis Lütke-Frie, 18, came on as substitutes against Bologna and had their first taste of senior team action – albeit in a friendly. “It was an indescribable feeling to be on the pitch and play in front of so many people,” Mrosek said.
Lennard Maloney, 21, Antonios Papadopoulos, 21, Albin Thaqi, 19, and Marco Pasalic, 20, from the U23 squad already have a little more experience, which Maloney and Papadopoulos in particular have been able to put to good use during pre-season. With no central defenders available within the senior squad, the pair have formed the central defensive partnership in three friendlies. And they impressed with their slide tackles and intense challenges, all while loudly marshalling the defence and and spurring on their team-mates. Maloney even scored his first professional goal with a header against Bologna. “It’s cool. I try to take a lot from it and learn from the guys,” Papadopoulos said.
Maloney was part of the reserve team promoted to the 3. Liga last season, while Papadopolous arrived from Halleschen this summer. Both missed the U23s’ first game of the season to attend the training camp. While BVB’s second team played in Zwickau, the seniors took on Bilbao in a friendly. “I followed the live ticker for the U23s the whole way to the stadium and afterwards I was delighted to find out that they had won,” explained Maloney, who said of the training camp: “Of course, the work is different because of the players who are here, but at the end of the day it’s still football and that’s why it’s just as much fun as with the U23s.”
“It’s a completely different feeling than in the U19s,” said the younger Dennis Lütke-Frie. “The tempo and the match intensity are higher. One has to adapt to that, but I think that everyone has done so well.” BVB boss Marco Rose certainly concurs.
Photo: Papadopoulos, Thaqi, Rothe, Kleine-Bekel, Maloney (top row, left to right), Pasalic, Lütke-Frie, Gürpüz, Mrosek (bottom row, left to right)