There are four top-tier-only ties in the second round of this season’s DFB-Pokal. Whilst the pick of these is FC Bayern’s trip to Borussia Mönchengladbach, VfL Bochum will face fellow Bundesliga side FC Augsburg on Wednesday (18:30 CEST). Bochum’s talented young central defender, Armel Bella-Kotchap, who has been an important pillar in the promoted side’s defence for some time, will almost certainly be involved. In an interview with DFB.de, the 19-year-old spoke about the season so far, the upcoming cup tie, and his personal pre-match rituals.
DFB.de: Currently, you’re playing your first Bundesliga season with VfL Bochum. What have you thought of top-tier football so far?
Armel Bella-Kotchap: The Bundesliga’s quality is definitely a level higher than I have ever played at. The game is generally played at a much higher pace and it’s difficult to get your tackles right. Nevertheless, it’s been a great experience for me so far.
DFB.de: You made your debut for the German U21 side back in September and have made four appearances since. Do you think the season’s gone well for you so far; how do you see your own development going?
Bella-Kotchap: I’m just so thankful that I’ve been able to develop myself as a player, no matter whether that’s with the DFB or VfL. I’m very happy to be able to work in such a great sport, and will try to go about my business and continually improve.
DFB.de: Those who has followed VfL or the German U21 squad may have noticed that you have been wearing a bandage on your wrist in the last few months. What’s that for?
Bella-Kotchap: I think it first happened in a Pokal game against Mainz last season. I got a small cut which I kept feeling and affected me a bit. From then on I have worn the bandage – it’s become a kind of ritual for me.
DFB.de: So it’s a ritual that the fans will be able to see again when you line up against fellow Bundesliga club Augsburg on Wednesday night in the DFB-Pokal second round. What goals have you set both individually as a team?
Bella-Kotchap: As a player I always want to win, of course, and I think that I speak for the rest of my teammates when I say the goal against Augsburg is a win.
DFB.de: Last season, you and VfL went on a run to the quarter-final of the Pokal, eventually losing 4-0 in Leipzig. How far do you think your side can go this time round?
Bella-Kotchap: Everything is possible of course, as long as we keep our performances at a high level. It’s impossible to look ahead in the Pokal, as it could all be over after every game, but we want to compete, no matter who we play against.
DFB.de: Does the unpredictability of the DFB-Pokal add anything to it for you?
Bella-Kotchap: Everyone always says that the Pokal has its own rules. As a result, we try to fight as hard as possible to do well in every game. As well as that, a cup generally gives smaller clubs the chance to play against the highest-quality opposition, something that is always really special for the fans.
DFB.de: You’ve already seen this season how difficult it can be to beat lower-league opposition, with your team’s 2-1 extra-time win over Wuppertaler SV in the first round. What’s your assessment of the game, especially with extra time at the end?
Bella-Kotchap: Wuppertal fought really hard. You never want to waste opportunities, but we did a lot of that at the start of the game. It was hard to get going. We had a different challenge in front of us and struggled to get to grips with it for a long time, but we were happy to get through the tie in the end.
DFB.de: Your next tie is against FC Augsburg. What will your plan be against Markus Weinzierl’s side?
Bella-Kotchap: It’s yet another knockout game, so both teams will try hard to win the game, of course. We want to get this one finished off in 90 minutes, something we didn’t do last time out, but you can never tell how long a cup game will last for. We want to win this game for sure – by any means necessary.