When I’m in Dortmund, it’s the first thing people say to me.
“Oli, I’ll never forget your game” – and that’s cool.
Match of my life
It’s half-time in the friendly between the SV Westfalia Soest and Arminia Bielefeld U19s.
Coach Oli Kirch is preparing his boys for the new U19 Bundesliga West season.
The contrast between this and the match of his life could hardly be more stark.
Champions League quarter-final 2014: Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid.
BVB had been crushed 3-0 in the Bernabeu,
making the second leg look like a hopeless task.
Or so everyone thought.
Kloppo is unique, because he can make everyone feel that they can do something special.
He really makes you believe.
The Black & Yellows had one small advantage:
Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo would miss the second leg with knee problems.
On the other hand, Di María and Bale were playing, so it wasn’t that bad for them.
And they had Benzema up front, so it was still an enormous challenge,
but I think it didn’t make a big difference to us who were on the pitch – we focused on ourselves.
Going into the game, many people thought it would be difficult to pull it off,
but that day we all believed something special could happen.
That belief was seriously tested after 17 minutes.
That was a real blow.
I still get goosebumps,
and I can still hear how loud it was when he saved that penalty in front of the Yellow Wall.
And from then on absolutely everyone in the stadium believed that something special could happen.
Everyone apart from Spain’s record title winners, perhaps.
I think Real Madrid were pretty confident.
Real tried to control the game, and that really played into our hands.
They wanted to play possession football, and we were prepared for that:
we would press high and try to win the ball off them.
As the sole defensive central midfielder, my job was to keep applying pressure and closing down space,
to force them into making mistakes.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Just a few minutes after Weidenfeller’s heroics, Marco Reus made it 1-0.
The flicker of hope now became a wildfire.
And when Marco Reus made it 2-0 on 37 minutes,
more fuel was added to the fire.
You could tell at that stage that even they thought we could do it.
2-0 was the perfect half-time score:
we’d more or less baked the cake, and we just needed to put the icing and the cherry on top.
We had the psychological advantage, 100%.
Our plan was working – all we needed to do was score that third goal, and we had 45 minutes to do it.
The Black & Yellow assault continued,
and then came the 65th minute.
“Put it in!” – I remember clearly that we already had our arms in the air.
You aren’t going to get a better chance to score than that, unfortunately.
I think Micki still beats himself up about it – he was so down after the game.
It made you think “What else do we have to do?!”
It would have been a huge blow for Real Madrid, and they might not have recovered,
because we were full of belief, and I think we would have seen the job through.
Good chances kept coming to make it 3-0, but the goal didn’t come.
It was like having a carrot dangling in front of us, and then being snatched away.
It was absolutely devastating.
Afterwards people were saying that in time you’ll understand what you achieved:
OK, that's right, but that didn’t help us at the time! That was the stupid thing.
BVB were out, but that wasn’t the whole story.
The team’s outstanding performance, and Oli Kirch’s in particular, wouldn’t be forgotten.
Aki Watzke and Zorc came into the dressing room immediately afterwards
and asked if I’d signed a contract anywhere else.
So that made clear that I was able to stay in Dortmund.
It brought me more attention and increased my standing with the fans.
Dortmund was and is my club, so I hit the jackpot.
As I said yesterday, I was impressed with Oli Kirch.
It’s the biggest development I’ve ever seen from a player in his 30s.
He’s 31 now, and it’s taken a while, but it’s impressive.
Last night he put in a top-class performance, and I don’t know if even he thought he could do it.
People always talk to me about it – when I’m in Dortmund, it’s the first thing people say to me.
“Oli, I’ll never forget your game” – and that’s cool, and really nice to hear.
But that’s not the only reason why he’ll always remember that wonderful evening in April 2014.
Last summer I sorted and cleared out all my shirts,
as they were all just lying around in drawers and my wardrobe.
That was cool – it was like I was reliving all my stories, and there have been some great times.
And I found Isco's shirt too.
Most of his players now only know about their coach’s outstanding performance that night from stories.
They know about it, and because of my career they have a basic level of respect.
But I won’t live off that.
I avoid telling personal anecdotes, because you can take them too far.
They can help every now and then,
when it’s clear that your experiences apply to the situation you’re in now,
and that the boys can see how they’re connected and can use them in their situation.
But often – and I’ve experienced this myself – I think coaches use them for their own purposes.
“I was a good player – go on, look me up on Google.”
I don’t want that!
Oli Kirch is still in the very early stages of his coaching career,
and we have no doubt that, like his playing career,
there will be some magical moments along the way.