Fourth-tier SC Verl served for surprise after advancing to the DFB-Pokal round of 16. In the Regionalliga West, Verl are amongst the favourites to win the league. One key to their success is goalscorer Aygün Yildirim, who leads his team with ten goals and six assists. In an interview with DFB.de, the 24-year-old talks about the upcoming Pokal clash against 1. FC Union Berlin.
DFB.de: You’re through to the round of 16 in the DFB-Pokal and are a contender for the title in the Regionalliga West. Be honest: would you have ever expected to find yourself in this position after the first half of the season?
Aygün Yildirim: The fact that we’re in the round of 16 is definitely impressive, and not at all to be expected. However, I’m not necessarily surprised by our success in the league. We knew that we have the potential to challenge for the title. That said, having lost just one game out of 17 is still something special.
DFB.de: In the Pokal, SC Verl knocked out Bundesliga side FC Augsburg with a 2-1 win and then Bundesliga 2 side Holstein Kiel with an 8-7 win on penalties. What are the grounds for your success in this competition so far?
Yildirim: In the DFB-Pokal, every game is all or nothing. You give it everything you have and play to win. That’s exactly what we did. As a Regionalliga side, you really don’t feel that much pressure. You have nothing to lose and can only end up looking good. We managed to play our game and defeat our opponents with our strong offence along with plenty of self-belief and 100 per cent motivation. We deservedly won against both Augsburg and Kiel.
DFB.de: The second-round match against Kiel could not have been any more exciting. It took 18 rounds in the shootout to determine a winner. What memories do you have from that game?
Yildirim: It was an absolute thriller of a match. I only realised later, when I had to be subbed off due to cramps during extra time, just how much effort we’d been putting into the game. I then crossed my fingers and cheered the team on from the bench.
DFB.de: There was no holding you guys back after the final whistle went, right?
Yildirim: You cannot put into words what happened that night. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry out of sheer joy. I was just so happy that we’d moved on.
DFB.de: Was there a big party later on?
Yildirim: We went out to eat as a team that night. Then we went and celebrated in our club house. It was a crazy day for all of us.
DFB.de: So, you guys didn’t train the next day?
Yildirim: Yes, we trained like we planned. Several people were still feeling the effects of the party. But, we were diligent (laughs).
DFB.de: How far can Verl advance in the DFB-Pokal?
Yildirim: That comes down to what opponents we face. Against top teams like Bayern München or Borussia Dortmund, we’d have very slim chances of advancing. Other top-flight teams such as FC Augsburg or our upcoming round of 16 opponents 1. FC Union Berlin are beatable, if you have a perfect day and have luck on your side as well.
DFB.de: What needs to happen in order for the next upset to occur against Union Berlin on 5th February?
Yildirim: Basically everything has to go well for us, and Union Berlin have to have an off day. An early goal could be important. Then we could use that momentum and it would be easier for us to sit back and wait for our opponents to come to us, and to then get them on the counter-attack. If everyone pushes themselves to their limit and we build on our previous performances in the DFB-Pokal, then it’ll be possible for us to advance to the quarterfinals.
DFB.de: What impression do you have of the ‘Iron Union’?
Yildirim: Union Berlin are in the midst of a strong debut Bundesliga season and play a very appealing brand of attacking football. I’ve watched a few of their matches, including the 3-1 win at home against BVB. We’re up against a very determined side that fights hard for every inch.
DFB.de: You’re Verl’s top scorer with ten goals and six assists. However, you’ve yet to score in the DFB-Pokal. That’s something you’re looking to change against Union Berlin, right?
Yildirim: I hope so. I would be very happy to score a goal that helps my team win.
DFB.de: Be honest, what would you rather: win the DFB-Pokal or win promotion to the 3. Liga?
Yildirim: That’s hard. Probably being promoted to the 3. Liga, because that would be an important success for the team in the long-term. In comparison, winning the DFB-Pokal would serve for a lot of publicity and bring a lot of money to the team in the short-term. Naturally, I’d love it if we managed to do both (laughs). As of right now, that’s still possible.