Saarbrücken have had a sensational run in the DFB-Pokal so far. Now, the side from the Regionalliga-Südwest will face Bundesliga side Fortuna Düsseldorf in the quarterfinals. In an interview with DFB.de, team captain Manuel Zeitz (29) takes stock of his side’s chances and shares how he used to watch Saarbrücken from the stands at home.
DFB.de: Mr. Zeitz, what went through your mind when you found out the results of the draw on Sunday evening?
Manuel Zeitz: First and foremost, I was happy for my wife, who was born in Düsseldorf. I think that there will be a lot of friends and family in attendance for the match. That’s really the first thing that I thought of.
DFB.de: And what about now, after having a bit more time to think about it?
Zeitz: We’re definitely the underdogs, without a doubt. But, that would have been the case no matter who our opponents are. We know that our chances of making the semifinals are slim. We’ve managed three upsets so far, and now we want to deliver another. But, we’re being realistic: it will be very difficult. Personally, I’m very excited to see what we’re able to do against Düsseldorf.
DFB.de: Isn’t Fortuna Düsseldorf an easier task for you than, say, Bayern München?
Zeitz: At first glance, it might seen as though an underdog would have better chances of advancing than they might have against Bayern, Schalke or Frankfurt. It’s possible. You also can’t forget that there are still three tiers that separate us from them. It goes without saying that we won’t just roll over and hand them a ticket to the semifinals. We will give it everything that we’ve got. We’ll definitely put up a fight. We will have see how long we’re able to hold out. Our goal is to keep the game level for as long as possible, and to then maybe score the deciding goal at the end.
DFB.de: What was the feedback like in the team WhatsApp group?
Zeitz: Of course, there were many different reactions, but nothing too out there. Several wrote that we will once again give it our all. And then we’ll wait and see what happens.
DFB.de: You’re having a pretty good season overall. In addition to advancing to the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal, you’re also in first place in the Regionalliga-Südwest.
Zeitz: Our main goal is to win promotion to the 3. Liga. Everything else is secondary. The DFB-Pokal is a nice bonus. Obviously, we couldn’t have planned that we’d make it through the first round, only to defeat 1. FC Köln in the next round, before then withstanding the drama of penalties against Karlsruher SC in the round of 16. We never even would have dared to dream of it. Now, we have another bonus game ahead of us. But, we have to also get it done in the league. We’re at the top at the moment. We want to defend top spot with everything we have.
DFB.de: Is this the best and most exciting season you’ve ever been a part of?
Zeitz: That’s difficult to say. If it were over now, then that might be the case. But we still have a difficult schedule ahead of us, before we’re able to reach our goal. If we don’t manage to achieve that, then everything else doesn’t matter. If that’s the case, then this was definitely not my best season. I’ve been promoted twice already in my career. In both cases it was a truly great experience – there’s nothing quite like winning promotion. I really want to do it again.
DFB.de: Next up for you is FSV Frankfurt.
Zeitz: Elversberg and Steinbach are breathing down our necks. Four points is not enough of a gap for us to rely on. We need to give it our all. We still have 14 matches to play, and we want to be as successful as possible in order to finish in first.
DFB.de: You played for Saarbrücken in your youth and made the jump to playing professionally there. What does this club mean to you?
Zeitz: The club is very close to my heart. That’s always been the case. I was a fan early on. In my youth days, if we weren’t playing at the same time, then I would be in the stands with the fans at home games. I was also often there for away games. I have a special relationship with 1. FC Saarbrücken. The same is true for several other people in my family, as is with my mother and father. There’s not much else in this region, everyone is Blue and Black.
DFB.de: Is 1. FC Saarbrücken a sleeping giant, in your opinion?
Zeitz: I think it’s too early to make that call. We can’t allow anyone to take top spot in the league from us anymore. If we do manage to be promoted, then we will have another big challenge ahead of us. This is our fourth year that we’re gunning for it, and we’ve yet to achieve it. That tells you just how difficult it is. That’s why it’s too early for me to talk about us from that point of view as we still have a lot to achieve first. If we’re able to make it to the 3. Liga, then we can definitely have this discussion again.