With six goals and five assists since the turn of the year, Karim Adeyemi is making a telling contribution to Borussia Dortmund's push for top honours. bundesliga.com caught up with the 21-year-old Germany international, who has two games left to make his 2022/23 Bundesliga title dream a reality...
bundesliga.com: What was it like a year ago when you signed for Dortmund?
Karim Adeyemi: "I actually signed here in this building, one year ago. I arrived here as a shy boy, and I was really happy that everything worked out. My dream was always to come here and looking back a year later, I'm really happy with my choice. I look forward to the rest of my time here in Dortmund."
bundesliga.com: Was it the right decision to join BVB with everything you know now?
Adeyemi: "Yes, absolutely. As I always said – the first six months were really difficult. I always knew it could only get better, and this year personally has only been uphill for me. I think we're showing a good togetherness as a team, so I'm really happy to be here in Dortmund."
bundesliga.com: What are the reasons for things going so much better in 2023?
Adeyemi: "I don’t really know. I always stick with the words: new year, new luck. All my energy and focus is going into performing in training and in matches – I want to make sure I don’t have a year like the last one again. I think hard work always pays off, and that's why as a team, you can pick up form and go on a run of positive results. If you invest a lot, you get your rewards at some point."
Watch: Borussia Dortmund on the title hunt
bundesliga.com: It seems that you also put more emphasis on defending. Is that where you get your confidence?
Adeyemi: "Absolutely, that's exactly how I would describe it. The most important thing for me is to always stay in the game, defensively and offensively. I always think if I do my defensive duties properly, the offensive side will come out by itself – this is exactly how it's been going this season. I don’t dwell on the negative things that can happen anymore, I just work as hard as possible defensively, to help my team keep that clean sheet – the attacking side comes out on its own."
bundesliga.com: You scored an incredible header against Wolfsburg. Were you surprised?
Adeyemi: "I've always known I can jump quite high. Usually, I have used this strength to help with the build-up in the midfield, and not to be prolific in front of goal. I think in the end I started wanting it more and luckily, I managed in the end."
bundesliga.com: Is that a previously unknown strength of yours?
Adeyemi: "I think it was always there, I just didn't use it. I definitely think it's a new strength I can utilise moving forward in the future.
bundesliga.com: What did the other players say to you?
Adeyemi: "The term being thrown around in the changing rooms at the moment is, 'Airdeyemi'. The team always knew that I could jump high; my heading ability just wasn’t perfect. A lot of them are telling me that my header was a good one, though, which is nice."
bundesliga.com: You're the player in Europe who needs the fewest minutes to be involved in a goal. Is that something you just have to take in your stride?
Adeyemi: "The best way is to not overthink it – to not think I need to score or assist in a specific moment. You just have to stay in the game, do your defensive duties, and the rest will come on its own. If you work hard and give your all for the team, the rest will solve itself.”
bundesliga.com: Were you born fast?
Adeyemi: "It comes from my parents and is a gift from God. My parents were both athletes. I probably got the speed from my Dad, but the jumping ability, I'm not so sure. I will have to ask to find out – or just be thankful I have it!"
bundesliga.com: Your father was also fast then?
Adeyemi: "Yes, I'd say so – he was also a footballer. He tells me he used to be quicker than what I am now, but I don't really believe him. I will let him say it, though, that’s not a problem for me."
bundesliga.com: Is it true that your father was also a professional?
Adeyemi: "Yes, you know how parents are - they all say they were professionals when they played football back then. My Dad tells me he used to be really good at football and very sporty, which I believe of course. Nigeria was of course very different back then, in comparison to now. He probably didn't have the opportunities that I was lucky enough to have, which is why it didn't work out for him, in terms of reaching the pinnacle of European football."
Watch: The best of Karim Adeyemi
bundesliga.com: How did you get into football as a child?
Adeyemi: "My Dad stuck me with a ball at my feet from a very young age, and told me I needed to play football. In the end I joined a football club and enjoyed it like every other football-crazy boy. I was always happy when I could kick the ball around with my friends; we played a lot of games outside on the concrete pitches. You then start to join better football clubs – you hear from people that you have something about you, that you have a knack for it. The dream was always to play in the Champions league or the Bundesliga, in front of all the fans. To be able to realise that dream is unbelievable."
bundesliga.com: Did you have the dream of becoming a professional at an early age?
Adeyemi: "Yes, the dream was there at a very early stage. I think every kid who played football had the same dream, to become a footballer. A lot of people don't make it, that's why I'm so grateful that I was able to succeed in the way that I did. I hope I can continue to play for a few more years."
bundesliga.com: Who had a special influence on you as a child?
Adeyemi: "A lot of people. The first thing that pops to mind is the first trophy I played for, which we ended up winning. I met a lot of people and a lot of coaches – a lot of good people. I really enjoyed the moments playing for Unterhaching, and to have my family close by was amazing."
bundesliga.com: Did anyone in particular help you on your way to becoming a professional?
Adeyemi: "Firstly, my family and friends – I think you need thank them every day for what they do. In Unterhaching, Manni Schwabl, with whom I still have contact. My old coach at Unterhaching of course, [Marc] Unterberger; he was my coach for a very long time. Coaches that I had at Salzburg, for example, Jesse Marsch or Matthias Jaissle; even the sporting director, [Christoph] Freund. I got along with all those who I mentioned, and I took their advice with me throughout my career and life. You have to be thankful to all of them, but it’s also part of how business works; I can see both sides of it. I'm just thankful for everyone who tried to help me."
bundesliga.com: How did the slaps with Jude Bellingham come about?
Adeyemi: "I think he just did it spontaneously, and I returned the favour in the last game we played. There are a lot of videos of me getting slapped, so I want there to be more videos of him getting slapped. I think you can see we love celebrating together and it’s a lot of fun."
bundesliga.com: What makes your relationship with Jude so special?
Adeyemi: We celebrated together a lot in the past. We did some funny things, which is always very fun."
bundesliga.com: Would you say the remaining games are must-wins to make the dream come true?
Adeyemi: "Yes, I think we need to win the last three games. I always believed we could win it, from the first moment that I signed here; even after the first six months when we were sixth in the table, I said we could still do it. I never ever thought that we couldn’t make it, that’s why I'm not surprised that we are where we are. I think we could have done even better, but I'm convinced we will still manage to win it."
bundesliga.com: You were born in Munich, does that make it personally more sensitive for you?
Adeyemi: "Personally, no. Bayern have won it so many years in a row, and I think Dortmund deserve to be champions again. So, personally it doesn’t affect me, but of course I would be over the moon to bring it over the line as a Dortmund player."
bundesliga.com: We've seen pictures of your shin pads, what's that about?
Adeyemi: "They are shin pads designed specifically for me. I have the national flags of my heritage on them – one pair with Nigeria, and the other with Romania. I also have the Anime one piece on there with the character 'Luffy' on them. He's my favourite character from the series, so I always play with these shin pads."
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