"We have big objectives together that drive us on," said BVB head coach Enrico Maaßen a few weeks ago, having extended his contract until the summer of 2024. The tactician and his U23 team achieved one of those goals in Wuppertal on Saturday.
The BVB reserves will be playing in the third division next season, provided that the appeals relating to the classification of matches submitted by Rot-Weiß Essen and SV Bergisch Gladbach 09 do not prove to be successful.
Speaking in an interview, Enrico Maaßen shared his thoughts and feelings, reflected upon an eventful season and explained the role that wearing black rubber bands has played in the team's success.
You have finished the season top of the Regionalliga West table with 93 points on the board. What were your first thoughts after the final whistle?
"I was proud of the team. We deserved it. If you only lose one game in 40 rounds, that's an outstanding record. The game against Wuppertal was symbolic of the way the season has gone. We focused on the things that we could influence. We absolutely wanted to win the match. We managed that, and we're delighted about that."
You've often spoken about mental resolve over the past weeks. How much stronger has this attribute made you, especially during a strenuous last few weeks?
"There's an age-old saying: mentality beats quality. I don't always stand by that, but I do believe that the character the team has is a big factor. We've shown that in leaps and bounds since the opening day. We've played an extraordinary season and have lost only one game. We fought to overcome every challenge, especially the corona break. You could see in our last matches how we geared ourselves up time and time again."
And again in Wuppertal on Saturday.
"We're a young team and we were 1-0 down, but we fought back. The second period was wonderful. If we can turn a game around like that, then we deserve to be where we are now. We have achieved a great deal and have developed further both in a personal but also of course in a footballing sense. Thanks to their strong performance, we promoted two players to the first team in Steffen Tigges and Ansgar Knauff. Our promotion is a fantastic feeling."
If you observe the coaching staff and the players off the pitch, there has been a togetherness among the whole group. What has brought about this special bond?
"We worked out our goals for the season at our training camp in Austria. We discussed what the parametres are for us to achieve these objectives. We illustrated this on a piece of card. It's hanging up in the changing room at our training ground and we've taken a copy to each match. That brings us together and that led to black rubber bands with the caption 'We are one'. They serve to remind us what we had pledged to each other. That worked very well."
After playing their final game of the Regionalliga West season at the weekend, the U23s are now on their summer break. Preparations for the new season will begin at the end of July, with the first fixture in the third division scheduled for the weekend of 23-26 July.