Fin Bartels spent six years playing Bundesliga football for SV Werder Bremen before returning to his boyhood club, Holstein Kiel in summer 2020. Now, he comes up against Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals on Saturday (20:30 CEST). In an interview with DFB.de, the 34-year-old spoke with editor Oliver Jensen about BVB, being in quarantine and his future.
DFB.de: Mr. Bartels, your side have a packed end to the season coming up in Bundesliga 2. How important are the DFB-Pokal semi-finals in comparison?
Fin Bartels: Even if you always say that the league is the most important thing, being in the semi-finals is the absolute highlight for us. That’s exactly how we’re approaching the game as well.
DFB.de: Holstein Kiel will only have three days off between the league game against 1. FC Nürnberg yesterday and the Pokal match. Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, will have had an entire week to prepare for the game. Does this put you at a significant disadvantage?
Bartels: We don’t need to spend any time thinking about whether it’s a disadvantage or not. If we do, then we would have to go even further. We were in quarantine twice in quick succession and were only able to train individually. The most important thing is that we deliver a strong performance in Dortmund. We need to push ourselves to the limit, both physically and in terms of our game. That’s the only way we’ll be able to cause Dortmund issues.
DFB.de: How likely are you to win?
Bartels: Of course the odds are slim. However, that was also the case against FC Bayern. We want to play with courage and cause them issues, in order to better our chances of serving for surprise.
DFB.de: You already knocked out FC Bayern München in the second round. What experiences from that game are you able to take with you into the semi-finals?
Bartels: Your goal in games like that should be to play to their level and to not just sit back and defend for the full 90 minutes. If you’re just parked in the back and chasing after the ball, then it’s just a matter of time until you concede. You have to play with courage and have your own phases of possession.
DFB.de: You yourself have faced Borussia Dortmund on 10 occasions, winning three times and scoring three goals. What’s your favourite memory from facing Dortmund?
Bartels: I remember having an important home game with Werder Bremen in 2014/15. We were locked in a relegation battle, but managed to win 2-1 and leapfrogged Dortmund in the table, who then fell to 17th. There have definitely been some fiery battles so far. Winning three of 10 games against a top team like that is a decent return. It would be nice, however, to improve on that record.
DFB.de: You already touched upon it, the fact that Holstein Kiel have been in quarantine twice recently. What was the day-to-day routine like for you?
Bartels: It’s important to have a routine to follow. Of course there’s your daily sessions on the bike or weightlifting sessions. Those aren’t easy, because you’re training on your own, even if you’re on video chat with the fitness coach. You have a lot of time and can’t just be sitting around, otherwise it gets tough. I took advantage of that time to deal with some things that I’d been putting off for months. We’re currently building a house, so there was lots to do there.
DFB.de: Did you train at all with the ball in your garden or was that not really worth it?
Bartels: The problem was that our lawn had just been seeded, and no one was allowed to set foot on it (laughs). I had isolated myself from my family, so that they could keep their daily routine. I basically just had the balcony for myself, so it wasn’t possible for me to do much more other than fitness or weight training. Unfortunately, playing football demands more from your body, and can’t really be replicated by training at home.
DFB.de: How difficult is it to get back to full fitness after quarantine?
Bartels: Your fitness level drops after being in quarantine, compared to the other teams. Your tactical connection also suffers due to the break. That’s why it’s even more important that we play as a team. The one positive is that we don’t really have anything to lose, given that we’re the underdogs.
DFB.de: Let’s change the subject: you were born in Kiel, moved up through the club’s academy and later made your debut for the first team in the Regionalliga. You then joined Hansa Rostock in 2007 and made your Bundesliga debut. What was that rapid rise like for you at the time?
Bartels:: It was a big step for me back then. In my youth, I’d made the decision to stay at home in Kiel with my family and friends. Moving to Rostock meant leaving that all behind for the first time. It was also a huge step up in terms of the football. We had just been relegated from the Regionalliga with Holstein Kiel at the time. I trained with the first team in Rostock for six months while playing for the reserves, before I was ready to play in the Bundesliga.
DFB.de: You’ve exclusively played for clubs from the north of Germany in Bremen, Rostock, St. Pauli and Kiel. Did you never want to leave home?
Bartels: I’m very happy to have always gotten the right offer at the right time to stay in the north. I didn’t really wait for any offers from elsewhere.
DFB.de: You left Holstein Kiel after they were relegated from the Regionalliga and returned last summer, with the club having established themselves in the second division. Was the club the same as it was when you left?
Bartels: The stadium is pretty much the same, even with the addition of the new stand. Especially the dressing rooms, those are the same (laughs). But of course it was impressive to see how the club has grown. Holstein Kiel are on the right path to establishing themselves as a professional side.
DFB.de: In the past, Kiel was known as being a handball city. Is it a football city now?
Bartels: It’s possible to be both. Having THW Kiel, the record champions in the Handball Bundesliga, as your local side makes it difficult to overtake them. But, we can be happy that Kiel can count two sides as being their own. I also enjoy watching handball and am a bit of a THW fan.
DFB.de: You will be 35 years old when your contract ends in summer 2022. Do you already have an idea of what you want to do after your career is over?
Bartels: Not yet. I want to take some time away from football after my career comes to an end, whenever that may be. You have to sacrifice a lot as a professional footballer, and have to turn down basically every invitation to birthday parties or weddings because you never have time. There are several things that interest me outside of football, such as property. Football will always remain one of my passions. We’ll have to see what happens.