Mateu Morey is moved as he looks at the phone handed to him by BVB TV editor Christoph Bökamp. You can see and hear the moment immediately after he came on in Friday evening's match against Sportclub Freiburg. The Spaniard is struggling with his emotions.
"88th minute, substitution for Borussia Dortmund," said stadium announcer Norbert Dickel. "What can I tell you? There's a player on the pitch who has been with us four and a half years. And today he's playing in front of a crowd at the world's most beautiful stadium for the first time. We're delighted. Coming on with the No. 2, Mateu...". In response, the fans roared "Morey!" three times.
"Wow," said the man of the moment: "This day will always stay in my heart. I've worked so hard for this moment. I'd never been lucky enough to play at Signal Iduna Park in front of all these people. It was the best moment of my career so far."
His 19th Bundesliga appearance and his 30th competitive appearance in Black & Yellow was actually his first in front of (more than 300) fans. On 28 September 2019, the then 19-year-old Spaniard was in the squad for the first time. It took eight months until he made his first appearance. When he came on in the final minutes of the 6-1 win in Paderborn on 31 May 2020, the league had somewhat extricated itself from the pandemic's grip and gotten back on track, but the games were all played behind closed doors.
On 1 May 2021, Borussia Dortmund took on Holstein Kiel for a place in the cup final. Also in front of an empty stadium. Sixty-two minutes had been played in that semi-final and the score was 5-0 when Mateu Morey came on for Lukasz Piszczek. Within a short space of time, the Spaniard stretched for the ball mid-sprint, got his leg stuck in the turf and tore all the ligaments in his knee. A horror injury. After two operations, a seemingly endless rehab and several setbacks – he played one half for the U23s against Rot-Weiss Essen in the third division in August 2022 – his 1,015-day spell on the sidelines is (hopefully!) now over.
"Mateu is our secret hero," Edin Terzic said on Friday evening. "It was a very special moment for him and for his family. It was an extremely long journey from the hospital back onto the pitch. I'm incredibly proud to have such a character in my team." Sebastian Kehl admitted: "The coach was waiting the whole time to give him a few minutes. He deserves it, he works incredibly hard, he's incredibly popular in the team. If you've been an athlete yourself, you can only empathise with what he's been through in recent months and years. He has had to go through many crises. To see him sitting in the dressing room today with a big smile on his face is wonderful. The whole team celebrated with him."
When Edin Terzic accompanied his player to the touchline in the 88th minute of the game and the board displayed the red No. 22 (Ian Maatsen was to come off the pitch) and the green No. 2 (Mateu Morey was set to come on), he had a brief word of advice for him: "Enjoy it." – "For two and a half years I went to bed thinking that this moment would come," said Morey, adding: "I'm going to make an album with all the photos from this day. He mentions fans, coaches, fellow players, physiotherapists and team doctor Dr Markus Braun. "There are not enough words in the world to thank them for what they have done for me."