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Jennifer Gutiérrez briskly walks the short distance from the car park to the media building in the drizzling rain. She grimaces. Rain. Yet again. What's this all about? She's come to Borussia Dortmund's Brackel training ground for a double interview with Mateu Morey. Two Spaniards at BVB. And what does Mateu say when he joins them just a minute later? "¡Qué frío hoy!" Translation: "It's cold today!" The German winter will be a talking point over the next half-hour, which both have set aside for a chat in their mother tongue.
This is your first interview together. And you've never met before either, is that right?
Mateu: "I didn't even know there was a Spanish woman playing for BVB. It's always nice to have people from your own country around you. And when that happens at Borussia, even better!" Jennifer: "I was absolutely delighted to hear there was a Spanish footballer in the BVB first team. It means I'm not the only one from Spain in Black & Yellow."
Jenni, you were born in Switzerland. Your family returned to Spain when you were six years old. Did you retain any words from those few years in Switzerland that are helping you now in Germany?
Jennifer: "I believe that the experience is now helping me to get to grips with the German language more quickly. My parents moved to Switzerland back then for professional reasons. Today I can hardly remember the words I picked up back then. But the German language does not sound too unfamiliar to me. That's helping me out now."
The 25-year-old, whose full name is Jennifer María Gutiérrez Bermejo, arrived at BVB in the summer of 2020 as a vice world champion and the MVP – the most valuable player – in the Spanish top flight. She plays on the left wing and does not give the slightest air of a person struggling to adapt to her new team, new surroundings and new league.
Are the instructions in training in German? And do you understand everything?
Jennifer: "Yes, German is spoken almost exclusively in training. The coach gives all the instructions in German. I quickly learned all the necessary terms and that helped me to settle quickly into the group."
But could you already – let's say, for example – go to the bakery and order bread in German?
Jennifer: "Yes, of course! Things like ordering a coffee were what I learned first. Things for everyday life."
You have eight team-mates from the Netherlands in your team. Is Dutch spoken over German in the changing rooms?
Jennifer: "I don't know whether it's due to the fact that both countries border each other, but they all speak brilliant German. Sometimes they speak Dutch among themselves. But most of the time we speak German or English so that everyone has the chance to join in the conversation."
BVB is the first club you have played for overseas. When you speak with friends or family members about your life here – the food, the people or the city of Dortmund – what do you tell them?
Mateu: "I have only good things to say about my team-mates and the people here in general. I've now been here a year and a half and I really cannot complain. Although the weather does get to me. It's pretty cold here. It's a real challenge getting used to this weather."
Jenni, you're chuckling…
Jennifer: "I share that sentiment. I like the city; it has everything I need. I'm really satisfied with my environment, with my team and with the club. If there is one thing that I do miss, then it's probably being able to speak Spanish with somebody over a cup of coffee on a regular basis. And recently the weather has been an issue too. He comes from Mallorca; I'm from Andalusia. We miss the sun a lot."
Understandable. What has surprised you the most about everyday life here?
Mateu: "I think it's the punctuality. Germans divide their time well across the day. And there's a feeling of mutual respect. That's something I'd like to adopt for myself."
Jennifer: "Yes, this German correctness in all areas of society, the fact everything has its own rules that are followed; that amazes me. And that's something other countries could learn or take ideas from."
Mateu: "Yes, we Spaniards can learn something from this."
Both of them are grinning at Mateu's last answer. There certainly seems to be a relaxed atmosphere. Lots of smiling and laughing. Although the wider situation offers few reasons to feel relaxed at present. Jennifer and Mateu must maintain a safe distance from each other, as must editor and cameraman. For months now, the sport that they know and live for is not the same: the fans aren't there. Neither is the noise, the support, the warmth, the contact. And yet neither of them has lost their positivity. Perhaps "we" can also learn something from this...
Mateu, you came from Barcelona's Mediterranean coast to Dortmund in the Ruhr region and could hardly speak a word of German. How big was the culture shock for you?
Mateu: "I must say that everything did feel slightly strange back then. I arrived here and understood nothing. I was lucky because at the time I had a few team-mates who spoke Spanish: Sergio (Gómez), Leo (Balerdi), Achraf (Hakimi) and Paco (Alcácer). In addition, Axel (Witsel) and Mats (Hummels) can also speak a bit of Spanish. They made everything easier. Then I started my German lessons. Nowadays I can already understand quite a lot and can speak a bit of German too."
Another topic. Did you eat your 12 grapes to mark the New Year?
Mateu: "Absolutely. You can't not do it. Every year."
Jennifer: "Of course."
Hardly anyone in Germany is aware of this Spanish tradition. We tend to see in the New Year with fireworks and bangers. You do things rather differently. Almost all of Spain sits in front of the television at midnight and watches a live broadcast from Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Explain to us what goes on there.
Mateu: "Everything was slightly different this year due to corona. But normally the whole square is full of people celebrating the New Year. Almost every Spanish TV channel is broadcasting it live: for the 12 clock bell strikes in the square."
And the whole country joins in and eats a grape with every clock bell strike?
Jennifer: "Yes, I think that every Spaniard takes part. I have no idea how long this tradition has been around. But I've been doing it my whole life – every year, on New Year's Eve. You eat 12 grapes and make a wish for yourself for the next 12 months."
You can make a wish for every grape you eat. Have either of you ever wished to be healthy and injury-free?
Mateu: "Yes, at a time like the one we are now living in, good health for yourself and your loved ones is the first thing you think of. And of course for a successful year on the pitch with BVB."
And who has wished specifically to win a title?
Jennifer: "I have, of course. We want to win the Bundesliga! And that will be followed by some more great games in Europe."
Mateu: "I think that at Borussia Dortmund, we start every season with the hope of winning a title. And this year once again, we'll do everything in our power to ensure that happens."
The two of them not only share a nationality and a mother tongue, but they also play their respective sports in a wide position: Jennifer on the left side of the court, while Mateu occupies the right side of the pitch.
What attributes do you need to be able to play your position at a top level in your respective sports?
Mateu: "You need to be quick, of course. You need to be good on the ball and always need to remain level with the play. Your passes and your crosses need to reach their target. Because your job is to play in your team-mates."
Jennifer: "For the most part, that applies to my position in handball too. Speed is an extremely important factor. And finishing clinically. Especially in the areas I occupy. I am required in fast counter-attacks but for defensive duties too."
How important is it for you to be able to enjoy the sport too?
Mateu: "Super important! If you can enjoy it, you can be successful too. And that helps the team as well. I believe that enjoying things is the basis for everything we do in life."
Jennifer: "Absolutely. We're living away from our families and have left so many things behind because we ultimately enjoy what we do. Should that no longer be the case at some point, then I'm certain that we will pursue a different path in life. For sure."
Both players have taken rather different routes to get to Dortmund. Following several major injury setbacks, Mateu Jaume Morey Bauza has established himself as a firm fixture within the BVB first-team squad. The 20-year-old has made nine appearance and played 481 minutes (as of 22 January) in all competitions this season. By way of comparison, he only played 195 minutes for the first team in the entirety of the previous campaign.
Jenni has scored 32 times for BVB in nine handball matches. Mateu, could it be that she's more dangerous in front of goal than you? (both laugh)
Mateu: "Oh yes. It looks that way. I've only scored once. That was on my debut for BVB in a friendly match. (Editor's note: Versus Schweinsberg in July 2019). So for that reason I'm sure she's more clinical in front of goal than me."
To round off the interview, we have to talk once again about your favourite topic: the weather. According to weather reports, it's currently slightly cloudy with temperatures of 10 degrees in Mallorca. In Andalusia, where Jenni's from, it's 14 degrees. You know what the weather is like outside here. What goes through your heads when you leave the house in the morning? (both laugh)
Mateu: "My good mood goes out of the window. No, seriously: when there's good weather, I'm totally delighted about it. It's so unusual for the sun to shine here. The days are often grey. But we stay in a good mood nonetheless."
Jennifer: "Yes, what he says is true. When you see that it's another overcast day with rainfall, maybe you put some music on and just take it in your stride. And it's not as though the sun will never shine here. I was already here back in the summer. And back then the sun was shining and it was hot. That helps."
The two of them are certainly helping at BVB. With their ability, but also their demeanour and warm disposition. By the summertime at the latest, once the sun is shining over Dortmund again, Jennifer and Mateu will know whether the wishes they made with their grapes on New Year's Eve have come true. Good luck to you both: "¡Mucha suerte!"