He has been with BVB since the U13s, won the German Championship with the U17s and the U19s, and in the first year of his senior career, he is about to be promoted to the 3rd division with the U23s. Twenty-year-old Alaa Bakir's story is a special one.
"Alaa is a very important player at our youth performance centre, not only because he has been there for so long, but also because he has taken on the BVB DNA. Throughout his youth and his time with the U23s, he has undergone a great development, which is certainly not finished yet," said Lars Ricken, director of the academy's youth performance centre, about the attacking midfielder. In the interview, we talk to the Münster native about how he came to BVB, the current Regionalliga season and of course the derby against FC Schalke 04 next weekend.
Many of your teammates haven't been with BVB for too long, whereas you've been with BVB since the U13s. How did you come to BVB back then?
"That's a funny story, because I was never really football-mad. My older brother always took me to the local pitch. But he initially put me in goal so he could practice. Then, at some point, I did that with my friends and realised that I wasn't a bad player. I was born in Münster and then played for a small village club, TSV Handorf. One day, in the U12s, I played for the local district team against the district of Dortmund. There, a scout asked me which club I played for."
What happened next?
"After that, I saw him time and again at our games. In the winter, I had a trial at Preußen Münster, but I was rejected. I came home in a bad mood because I was disappointed, of course. But my brother told me that BVB had invited me for a trial. I didn't believe him at first. The next day, I went to Dortmund. That was a big deal for me and my family. I was allowed to train until the summer and transferred to BVB for the new season with the U13s."
Since then, you have stayed. What makes BVB special as a club?
"BVB have made me the man I am today. I moved in with a family as part of a homestay six months after my move to Dortmund. I found a new home. My heart belongs to BVB. I was supported in all areas. There was always someone there for me and that sense of community is what makes the club special."
Let's look at the current season. For you, it's the first season after your youth contract. Looking back at the start of the season, what were the biggest differences from youth football?
"It's a very different type of football – much more physical and faster. It's different when you aren't just playing against people who are the same age as you anymore. It was a little weird at first, but you get used to it quickly and your teammates and the coaching staff help you make the transition."
In an interview, your coach Enrico Maaßen once referred to you as "someone who can make a difference". What have you been able to learn from him in recent months?
"I'm a player who can decide a game by dribbling, for example. We have been working to make those moments safer. Enno has helped me become much better on the ball so I do not give it away so often."
You're top of the table on 81 points, have only lost one game and have six victories from your last seven games. What makes you stand out as a team?
"We have great morale in the team. We have a lot of great footballers and each of us always gives it our all. We're playing adult football. That has taken us to where we are now."
A well-known BVB song says: "No one can stop you on the way to your goal." There are certain parallels to the current season. Why is it that "no one can stop you"?
"Our strength clearly lies in our attitude and mentality. We have plenty of midweek games and have always been well advised in terms of managing the load. The physios and the whole team are doing excellent work. That is really important. We can go into every game with 100% intensity and that helps, of course."
For you personally, it's going really well too. As of today, you have made 33 appearances, registering 3 goals and 11 assists. Are you satisfied with your first year at senior level?
"The top priority is always the success of the team. But with team success also comes personal success. I'm happy to help the team with assists and goals. In the end, that also helps the team to be successful."
You can build on those statistics in the derby next Saturday. After the reverse fixture, you said the derby is the most important game of the season. Did you enjoy the last derby?
"Definitely. Winning a derby is always nice. We hope to be able to get another derby win at the weekend. For me as a long-time Borussia man, it's the biggest game of the year. We're well prepared and we're looking forward to it."
During your time with BVB, you've already played a few derbies. Can you still remember your first derby as a BVB player?
"Oh yes, that was with the U13s. We won 5-1 and I scored four goals. Of course, we would take that on Saturday too. We will do everything we can to win on Saturday. We all know it's a special game. We're all raring to go."
You have six games left of the season. What is the goal for the run-in?
"We want to win every game. It's all in our own hands. The team is mature enough to know that we must not take anyone lightly. We will keep going and it will be our season at the end of the day."
Interview: Timo Lammert