A little later than originally planned, fifth-tier side Bremer SV’s dream cup tie will finally become a reality. On Wednesday, BSV will host record champions FC Bayern Munich at the Weserstadion. Centre back Daniel Kunkel spoke to DFB.de about contracting Covid-19 and a dream that’s coming to fruition in a round-about way.
DFB.de: The first round DFB-Pokal tie against FC Bayern Munich is around the corner. How great is the anticipation that the game is finally taking place at the Weserstadion?
Daniel Kunkel: The anticipation for the game is rocketing. There was a moment where we feared that the game was going to be completely cancelled and we wouldn’t have the opportunity to face FC Bayern. We had almost talked ourselves into the believing that we were facing the prospect of disqualification from the Pokal due to a possible violation of the Corona hygiene regulations. But now everything is back on track. We’re looking forward to the game.
DFB.de: Almost three weeks ago, the game couldn’t go ahead as planned because several Bremer SV players had contracted Coronavirus, including you. Did you overcome the infection well?
Kunkel: I’m doing really well again. Luckily, I wasn’t affected very badly. I was in bed with a fever for two or three days, but I’ve been back in training for around a week now. What was more difficult than the infection itself was the moment when I was called by the head coach Benjamin Eta, letting me know that I’d tested positive. At that point, I was the first person to test positive in the team. It was like a part of my world had fallen apart. I had to come to terms with it.
DFB.de: How did your teammates react?
Kunkel: Football quickly became a low priority. Nobody was interested in whether the Bayern game would be called off or not. My teammates were messaging me to ask about my condition or if I needed any help from them. That highlights the togetherness within this team.
DFB.de: You didn’t play in the first league game of the season. Did you fear that you were going to miss out on the biggest game of your career because of your lengthy spell out of the side?
Kunkel: At the moment, I’m not really thinking about it too much. I ended up being not the only player who had to quarantine. A big part of the team couldn’t take part in training. At the end of the day, our coach Benjamin Eta will send the best eleven players out there. I’m confident that I’ll get my chance, though.
DFB.de: You can be used in several positions along a back four. You may potentially come up directly against Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry or Leroy Sané. Which would you look forward to the most?
Kunkel: Probably Robert Lewandowski. I’m excited to see whether the difference in class really is so noticeable or not. I’m looking forward to going into challenges against the current best player in the world.
DFB.de: How closely have you watched Bayern’s games so far?
Kunkel: Among others, I’ve seen their pre-season game against Napoli as well as their two Bundesliga games, against Monchengladbach and Cologne. I particularly paid attention to how the players act both in and out of possession. What stood out to me was the pace of their play. It’s rare for a player to have the ball for longer than two or three seconds, so you don’t often have an opportunity to go into a one-on-one challenge.
DFB.de: Bayern had a tough pre-season. The Super Cup win against Borussia Dortmund and the win over Cologne were the first victories under new head coach Julian Nagelsmann. It seems like the team haven’t reached their peak yet. Can that increase your chances?
Kunkel: Of course we’re all dreaming of beating the great FC Bayern in the Pokal. However, it also has to be said that they’re getting more into the swing of things recently. I think the original date would have played more into our hands. At that point, Bayern were still looking for their form and were also missing some of their players after the European Championship.
DFB.de: Honestly: Do you have to pinch yourself every now and then when you watch Bayern on TV, thinking that it’ll soon be you that they’re taking on?
Kunkel: Very much so right after the draw. People that I work with and friends called me asking for tickets and wishing me good luck. There were also the usual “go and knock out Bayern” too. (laughs) Over time, you realise the kind of opposition you’re preparing for. But the high amount of media attention is completely different to what we’re used to every day.
DFB.de: You played in the youth side of SV Werder Bremen between 2009 and 2015. What does it mean to you to now be able to play at the Weserstadion against FC Bayern?
Kunkel: Every young player that comes through a club’s youth system dreams of running out at the stadium where the first team play. Finally, in a round and about way, I’m able to fulfill that dream. It is definitely a really special thing, because my family and friends will be there in the ground to support me.
DFB.de: You’re about to experience what’s likels the biggest game of your career so far at 21 years of age. What could top this game?
Kunkel: Reaching the second round. (laughs) A win against FC Bayern would definitely beat anything I’ve experienced so far. But we’re all well aware that this game is absolutely a bonus match for us. We want to enjoy it from the first minute to the last. Our focus is on the league title. We want to gain promotion to the Regionalliga Nord. That’s our aim.
DFB.de: But if you had to decide between winning the league this season and beating Bayern in the cup, which would it be?
Kunkel: If I had to decide right now, I’d probably pick the victory over Bayern. We’d write history if we reached the second round. We can win the league any time. (laughs)