Early bloomer Youssoufa Moukoko finally turns 18
Today, 20 November, Youssoufa Moukoko turns 18. The teenager has already experienced a lot during his time at Borussia Dortmund and has been in the public spotlight from a young age. But not everything about the Cameroon native is common knowledge. To mark his 18th birthday, we have compiled 18 facts about the centre-forward – from team-mates accompanying him on the road to rituals, idols and family.
1 "Give me a ball and I'll show you what my life means" – that's Youssoufa Moukoko's favourite saying and personal mantra. He gives everything to achieve his objectives, spending many extra hours on the pitch and in the weights room. While talent is important, he believes that hard work and discipline are as – if not more – important by the time you have reached the professional game.
2 Moukoko wears the No. 18 for the first team. He also wore his new age on the back of his shirt at his former club FC St. Pauli and at some stages in his BVB youth career. During his time in Hamburg, he actually wanted to wear 9 or 10. But with both shirts already allocated, he took the No. 18. "My story in football began with this shirt number," said the Germany international.
3 There are two special rituals that bring "Mouki" – as he is known within BVB circles – luck prior to training sessions and matches. As a practicing Muslim, he always takes a moment in the changing rooms to say a prayer. "That gives me additional strength, I’ve always done that," he said. In addition, he always steps onto the pitch with his right foot first.
4 Youssoufa’s parents live in Hamburg. He often travels to the Hanseatic City on his days off to visit them. But his mother and father frequently come to Dortmund too to keep an eye on things and support their son at home games. "I relax very easily around my parents. It feels like I speak to my mother 1,000 times a day on the phone; she’s very important to me," explained Moukoko.
5 On his journey to becoming a professional footballer, the teenager has been supported by a lot of important people. "Sebastian Geppert has definitely been the closest person to me. I've known him since I arrived in Dortmund," he said, adding: "He was my coach in the U17s and now I work with him in first-team setup too." The list also includes Otto Addo, Lars Ricken and Eddy Boekamp, who is the sporting director of the BVB youth system. "The three of them helped me a lot, especially in my youth. On top of school stuff, they also taught me how to deal with the media." His family and advisors have always been by his side too.
6 Moukoko moved into his first apartment by himself aged 16. Following his transfer from FC St. Pauli to Borussia Dortmund, he spent the first two years in the Ruhr region living with a guest family. Carsten and Tanja Mißner took the youngster in; their son Tobias was also in the BVB youth setup at the time and now plays for SV Elversberg in the 3. Liga. Two years later, he moved into the BVB Youth Centre at the Brackel training ground. The move to his own apartment also coincided with the corona pandemic. As a member of the senior squad, every possible contact needed to be avoided, which made the move a logical step.
7 The Borusse successfully completed his secondary school qualifications. In addition to sport, he was especially interested in history. “I still am now. I really like reading about history and learning how things have developed in the past." Maths was not one of his biggest strengths – but he got the hang of that too.
8 There was only one major goal remaining for Moukoko when he joined Borussia Dortmund: become a professional footballer! He never considered other professions at length. However, there’s one job that he could have envisaged doing. "As an alternative, I would've liked to work with children. Whether as a sports teacher or as an educator at a nursery," Moukoko revealed. "Working with children would be fun for me." His own background – and the fact that he experienced a lot of support at a young age in order to make his dreams a reality now – plays an important role in this regard.
9 While other players have special routines in order to motivate themselves, Youssoufa Moukoko said: "Every time we have a game, I’m really up for it. I don’t need to do anything special to really motivate myself. I listen to a bit of music and always speak to my mother on the phone. That suffices and does me good."
10 Having made his Bundesliga debut for BVB in November 2020 at the age of 16 years and one day, the teenager’s phone started going off as soon as the final whistle sounded. "When I came into the changing rooms, I already had numerous messages and missed calls from my mother on my phone. She called constantly and was then the first person that I spoke to on the phone in the changing room." Alongside many other messages, there was also a special video from his homeland of Cameroon in which his friends were celebrating and congratulating him.
11 Though he was almost never injured in the BVB youth setup, Moukoko has already experienced several layoffs within the first team. One Borusse was especially important for him during that time: Marcel Schmelzer. "I completed my rehab alongside Schmelle. He kept me motivated and made a lot of time for me. That helped me on my way – mentally too," explained the striker. The BVB legend noticed that it wasn’t easy for Youssoufa and knew how to help the forward deal with the situation.
12 Last year, the soon-to-be adult returned to his homeland of Cameroon for the first time since 2014 – and saw in the New Year there. He has many friends and family members living there. The trip was also very significant for Youssoufa for another reason. "It was really lovely to come back. I'll keep doing that so that I don’t forget where I come from. It’s different there compared to Germany. I appreciate that."
13 The wall of the football ground that the striker kicked a ball against every day in his hometown in Africa is adorned with a huge mural showing him in a BVB shirt. When he saw the artwork on his last visit home, he could barely believe it and spent a long time discussing the idea and implementation with the artist. Incidentally, Moukoko never played club football up until he joined FC St. Pauli. In Cameroon, he only played on the street – one neighbourhood against another.
14 The 18-year-old’s big idol is Lionel Messi. Borussia’s No. 18 regards the Argentinian as the best footballer of all time. Moukoko believes the seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or award can do things with a ball that nobody else is capable of. But he also identifies with Cristiano Ronaldo. "I like his hard work and his absolute desire to score a goal. But Messi is just Messi, he’s different."
15 Regarding Messi: on his 15th birthday, the Borusse was sent a box – the contents of which he and his friends at the BVB youth academy spent a long time puzzling over. To everyone's surprise, it was a signed jersey from his idol with the No. 10 on the back – an extraordinary gift.
16 Nowadays, he sends the fans in the South Stand into raptures – but back in November 2018, he stood among them. Moukoko got a taste of the atmosphere in Europe’s biggest stand during a UEFA Champions League group game against Club Brugge. "It was crazy and was a real lot of fun. Everyone there is engrossed, and it was super for me, because I know what BVB means to the people here," he said in praise of the Black & Yellow faithful.
17 Positive vibes and always smiling – that’s Youssoufa Moukoko. It’s one reason why he is very popular in the BVB changing rooms, where Youssoufa sits alongside new signing Salih Özcan. The place to his other side is currently free, having previously been occupied by Manuel Akanji. "Salih is a super guy. He always has a funny line to say and likes to tease me from time to time."
18 Once he is 18, Moukoko can finally drive on his own – he already has the necessary licence to do so. While he only had a short walk to the training ground as an academy player, the journey to training has been slightly more complicated since moving into his own flat. When he first started with the senior team, the striker was driven to Brackel by former neighbour Erling Haaland. When the latter left, it was goalkeeper Roman Bürki who picked the forward up from his home. It was during this period that Youssoufa took driving lessons and cautiously asked Bürki whether there might be a chance he would be his accompanying adult on the road. "Roman immediately agreed. I then registered him as an accompanying driver. He usually always drove to training and then I was allowed to drive his car back," he recalled. Following Bürki’s departure, various players have taken turns to bring him to training. The BVB player will soon be able to drive himself and has already purchased himself a small Mini Cooper.
09 Moukoko milestones
Transfer to BVB in 2016
Youssoufa Moukoko moved to Germany at the age of nine. Having made a name for himself within the FC St. Pauli youth setup, he decided to move to Borussia Dortmund two years later. There were many offers on the table, but he ultimately opted to join the Black & Yellows. "A precise plan was presented to me in Dortmund which outlined my path upwards in different steps. In addition to visits to the stadium, it was this approach that convinced me the most," he explained.
First year in the U15s
During his first year with the Borussia Dortmund U15s, Moukoko scored 33 goals in 21 Regionalliga appearances. He was then promoted to the U17s, with whom he started to feature in the B-Junior Bundesliga West, at 12 years of age.
German U17 champion
Under the tutelage of Sebastian Geppert, Moukoko became a champion in his first year with the U17s and finished the campaign as top scorer with 40 goals across 28 appearances. The then 13-year-old scored a late winning goal in a 3-2 victory over FC Bayern Munich in the final.
The following year saw Moukoko and the U17s narrowly miss out on defending their title, losing to 1. FC Cologne in the final. Youssoufa again finished the season as the top-scorer, setting a new record by notching 50 goals across 28 games. By now 14, he subsequently moved up to the U19s and scored 34 goals in 20 Bundesliga matches before the season was cancelled on account of the corona pandemic. The following campaign was also called off after four rounds – by which point Moukoko had scored 10 goals.
First training session with the seniors
In the summer of 2020, the striker trained with the BVB senior team for the first time aged 15. An enormous step-up, as he acknowledged after his first session. "The tempo was extremely fast, and I wasn’t used to it at all. At junior level, you have much more time with the ball at your feet. At the end of the day, I got into bed feeling totally dead and couldn’t do anything anymore."
Bundesliga debut in Berlin
On his 16th birthday, he was part of the BVB squad that travelled away to Hertha BSC. A day later, he came on as a substitute for Erling Haaland in the 85th minute and became the youngest player ever to appear in the Bundesliga. "I’d always dreamt of that at the academy," enthused Moukoko. "When I heard my name and came onto the pitch, I felt that all the hard work had paid off."
First Bundesliga goal
Youssoufa Moukoko also became the youngest Bundesliga goalscorer in Berlin. The match against Union ultimately ended in a 2-1 defeat, but the forward had earlier netted his first Bundesliga goal – a powerful left-footed shot following a pass from Raphael Guerreiro – in the 60th minute to level the scores at 1-1.
Another big moment in Berlin: Moukoko won his first title with the BVB first team in the capital on 13 May 2021. However, he had to watch on from the stands with an injury as Leipzig were overcome in the DFB-Pokal final at the Olympiastadion.
Moukoko became the youngest-ever BVB goalscorer in a Ruhr derby on Matchday 7 of the current campaign. The 17-year-old headed home the winning goal 78 minutes into the 1-0 triumph against Schalke 04. "I’ll never forget that, because I know what that game means to the people in Dortmund. I had a good feeling all day long that I would score and then it actually happened – indescribable."
Author: Julian Bente
Photos: Alexandre Simoes
This article was published in members’ magazine BORUSSIA. BVB members receive BORUSSIA free of charge every month. Click here to become a member.