You’ll find it hard to find a nicer compliment from a manager: “Robert is a player, who can transform a game with his words alone,” said U20 coach Frank Wormuth, when speaking about Robert Bauer. “We’ll certainly need his emotionality at the World Cup in New Zealand.” The Ingolstadt man has just one international cap to his name for the German U20 side but has already left a lasting impression.
Where Robert Bauer acquired this mentality from, how he experienced promotion to the top flight with FC Ingolstadt and his excitement for the Bundesliga, were all explained in an interview with DFB editor Peter Scheffler.
DFB.de: Mr Bauer, first of all congratulations on your promotion to the Bundesliga with FC Ingolstadt. The memories must still be fresh.
Robert Bauer: I’ve been promoted to the top flight in my first year of professional football – it’s unbelievable. We went into the season with the goal of performing better than last year. And then we played a truly terrific season, in which we were in top spot since matchday 8. Crazy!
DFB.de: And what kind of team can we look forward to seeing in the Bundesliga?
Bauer: Our key to success is the good team spirit, which runs through the whole club. On the pitch, we press high and try to put the opponent under pressure in their own half. With 53 goals scored, we had the best attack in the league and also one of the best defences. We also have a few good set pieces in our arsenal too.
DFB.de: The good defence is also something down to you. You’ve fought your way into the team during the course of the season and have become a regular.
Bauer: I made my debut on matchday 12 against Düsseldorf. I went onto play in all 12 of the matches following that game. If someone told me it would have gone like this prior to the season, then I wouldn’t have believed them.
DFB.de: Where are you most looking forward to playing next season?
Bauer: Me and my teammates are looking to forward the huge, sold-out Bundesliga stadiums the most. You play in front of 80,000 spectators in Dortmund alone – there’s nothing better than that. It will be a childhood dream come true.
DFB.de: The next highlight comes on Monday, when you finally kick off the U20 World Cup against Finland.
Bauer: That’s obviously the icing on the cake of my season. I was never called up for any of the national sides at youth level. It’s a sign of how much I’m valued and Ingolstadt and I are looking forward to it tremendously. We don’t have too many players to represent Germany at international level.
DFB.de: You were called into the World Cup squad for the U20 World Cup at the last minute.
Bauer: That’s true. I only made my debut in March against Poland. I tore a ligament unfortunately in April and was unable to take part in the final game before the World Cup against Italy. I really put my foot on the gas for rehabilitation and was back in action 20 days later. I then tried to make my case for the national side with my performances for my club. It was a superb feeling when the phonecall from Mr. Wormuth came. You can’t really beat taking part in a World Cup in New Zealand. Everyone around me, friends, parents and teammates are thrilled for me.
DFB.de: Your parents originate from Kazkahstan. You received a call-up for the Kazakhstan senior national side from their football association in February. Was that an option for you?
Bauer: I responded very openly to the Kazakhstan football association. I said when the invitation from DFB comes, that has priority. They accepted that and I’m happy that we don’t have to discuss it any further.
DFB.de: If you look at the team, you wouldn’t think you’ve only come into the side recently. You seem to have settled in well.
Bauer: I already knew a few players from the Bavarian regional team. I played with Kevin Akpoguma, Timon Wellenreuther and Felix Lohkemper for KSC at youth level. We’re a really open and funny bunch, so it’s not too hard to integrate into the team.
DFB.de: From defensive midfield, centre back to full-back, you’ve pretty much played in all positions across the back. Where is your favourite position?
Bauer: That’s true, I’ve already played everywhere across the back apart from keeper. I don’t mind where the manager deploys me. I’ll try to help the team wherever I am.
DFB.de: You’ve now been in New Zealand for four days. What are your first impressions?
Bauer: All the people here are very friendly. You feel very welcome as a guest here. Something that has impressed me, is the mentality of the people here in Christchurch. They had to endure two serious earthquakes here just a few years ago, when 200 people were killed a fair few building were wiped out. Despite that, everyone here is very positive and have a fighting mentality. That comes from the Haka dance, which we learned yesterday from our rugby training session.
DFB.de: Can you identify with it well? U20 manager Frank Wormuth praised your attitude and your emotionality.
Bauer: Definitely. Already as a youth player, I was the player, who marched ahead. I wore the armband for KSC U19s. These kind of experiences help to lead a team. You need a few players on the pitch, who will take command and carry a few others with them. I’m happy that Mr. Wormuth has recognised these characteristics of me.
DFB.de: Your stature compliments that.
Bauer: I’ve done a lot of work in the gym in the past. I acquired the fighting spirit from my father, who was a pretty good boxer. I boxed myself until I was 12, but then decided to play football. You learn how to grind through with boxing. If your heart isn’t in it, then it can soon become painful. It shaped me.
DFB.de: You joined the U20 side straight after your final game of the season and had to miss out on the promotion celebrations in Ingolstadt.
Bauer: That was tough for me of course. When I came to the U20 side in Frankfurt, I watched the celebrations on the Bavaria TV station. The lads had a lot of fun. But if we do everything right with the U20s at the World Cup, then I can make up for the celebrations here (laughs).
DFB.de: You get underway against Finland on Monday. What are your personal goals for the World Cup?
Bauer: I’d like to give a good account of myself as possible and also make my teammates and FCI proud of me. If we can return as World Champions, then that would just be the best.