The Bundesliga's youngest ever player and the league's oldest ever goalscorer play together at Werder Bremen. And Nuri Sahin has admitted he often tried to headhunt Claudio Pizarro to sign for Borussia Dortmund in previous years.
Speaking to bundesliga.com, the former Dortmund midfielder discusses life in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, his thoughts on his Bundesliga career so far and how he attempted to sign Pizarro for BVB.
bundesliga.com: Nuri Sahin, how's life been for you during the pandemic?
Nuri Sahin: "First of all, we're good - my family and my teammates here, we're all good. It's an exceptional situation that none of us have been in before. It's a test that we have to pass as a team - that's how we're dealing with it."
bundesliga.com: How has it been for your family?
Sahin: "I have two kids - a son in the third grade and a little daughter who's in kindergarten, she's three. We're trying to make the best of it, we're trying to enjoy our time together and to use it at home. In terms of schooling, we're trying to do as much as we can, obviously it's not really a time for lessons, but we have a very good relationship with the school my son attends, they've given us lots of materials and we're trying to think of a lot of games we can play together, family games or learning vocabulary from other languages, stuff like that. I would say we're really filling our time together and it's been very helpful!"
bundesliga.com: This time has brought a spotlight onto health workers and all their work...
Sahin: "'Heroes' is always relative when you're a footballer. Obviously, we're idols for children in some way, perhaps role models, but the real heroes who have never had the amount of attention we usually receive are hopefully receiving their deserved 'hero status' now - those are the people who help, doctors, people who help others in this time. Our thanks goes to them, they're the real heroes. I haven't got a hat with me, but I have to take it off to them! The people who put their own health at risk to make sure that we're okay, it's crazy."
bundesliga.com: Has this time been a test for you, having to stay at home and not live life as normal?
Sahin: "To be honest, a test… We're all very privileged. We're doing well. Obviously it's a struggle for us a bit, but we should be thankful: we all have nice flats, nice houses, gardens where we can go outside, and there are people who aren't as lucky as us who perhaps live in a very small flat, or have lots of kids, perhaps not as stable a marriage or they have to live with existing health problems… For them, it's obviously a big struggle. It is for us too, but we shouldn't over-exaggerate it I think. As a club it's obviously tough because a club takes responsibility for a lot of people: a football club isn't just the eleven players on a pitch, it's all the people around them who support them and in some ways have put their whole lives into the club. It's tough at the moment and it's a real test, but I'm sure everyone is aware of their responsibilities, both us players and those at the club, and like I said at the start, we'll only get through this together and I think Werder Bremen is doing that."
bundesligsa.com: How have you been able to stay in contact with other family members who aren't at home with you?
Sahin: "In lots of ways! Internet, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype, all those things that you perhaps didn't use as much before, we're using a lot now. I call my mum every day, and it's really made me notice just how little I used to call my mum in normal times. It's crazy. This crisis has helped me learn something and showed me the important things - I had the feeling that I rang my mum very often, but this crisis has shown me I really didn't do that."
bundesliga.com: And how have people been coping in your home country, Turkey?
Sahin: "I have a lot of friends and family there, we're always in contact. There was a quarantine at the weekend, I think there's another one this weekend, and kids under 20 and adults over 65 are locked down. So I see what's going on in the news, and my friends are all good - same as us here in Germany. They're trying to get by as well as they can, be with their families and make sure they have everything they need. I think Turkey is well equipped and well prepared for it all."
bundesliga.com: You've returned to team training with Werder Bremen in the last week. How has that been?
Sahin: "It's not really team training I have to say! We train in a group of maximum four players and one coach, so I wouldn't call it team training, but it's nice to pass the ball to a teammate instead of against a wall, and that you don't have to go and get the ball, instead it comes back to you from your teammate on your stronger foot! Little things like that we've all missed. And then even in a group of four, it's great to laugh together, relax a bit, it's really important. It's better than it was in the first week or ten days just doing individual training or those first weeks where we were stuck at home and we could only go running. Obviously we don't have any physical contact in training, you can't have any challenges. I hadn't imagined it that way but they really do make sure that everyone keeps their distance. On the first day, I came in and thought I could maybe take a shower, but all the showers are closed, we have to shower at home! So all the measures are really closely enforced - they're very strict, I have to say."
bundesliga.com: How have you been keeping in contact with your teammates from home?
Sahin: "It's not rocket science, but I think a lot of teams are doing what we're doing, chatting on Zoom, Skype or video calls, tactic calls, whatever you want to call them. We had a video meeting as a team this morning that went really well. On the field, you can do a bit more work with individuals, something which isn't really possible for a coach when 20 or 25 players are together on a pitch - so you can do a bit more detailed work, as best as you can.
bundesliga.com: It hasn't been the season anyone will have planned for Werder Bremen. Has the battle against relegation been a topic of discussion?
Sahin: "Obviously the table hasn't changed during this crisis. Werder are still down there and we're still in a tight position, but I think we're all doing a good job of not talking about it too much, about our futures or about the table. We know where we were before the crisis, we know where we'll be whenever it starts up again, but I think again this crisis should show us all that there are so many more important things at the moment than football."
bundesliga.com: You've made 16 appearances in the Bundesliga so far this season. What would you say about your campaign so far personally?
Sahin: "I'd say the first half of the season was pretty good for me, in the second half of the season I didn't play so much, not that there have been that many games! But yeah, I played the first couple after the winter break then didn't play for a few weeks. I had the feeling that I was going to be back in the team, I had a very good feeling before the game with Leverkusen, but then obviously the crisis hit and the games were suspended. I think I made a very good start to this season, and then my performances dropped off, just like the whole team I guess. You have to see how you come out of it, and I hope we'll all come out of this better as a team from the position we were in before."
bundesliga.com: Speaking only about football, it's also a difficult situation for Werder Bremen. How do you think it can work out for you to stay in the Bundesliga?
Sahin: "If football does come back, it'll be a bit crazy. It's not going to take months. It'll be quick-fire, so the team that's the most secure, the team that works together best, and perhaps the team that can take on this challenge to come out of the crisis as a team, they'll have the advantage. We're doing all we can right now to lay the foundations for that without losing other aspects as well. It's a crazy situation that we find ourselves in but if we're just talking about football then obviously we're going to do all we can to make the best of the situation and save our season in the final 11 games."
bundesliga.com: Would you say the crisis has provided something of a reset for the Bremen squad, a chance to recharge your batteries without having to play in between?
Sahin: "It's the same at home right? When the TV or the keyboard or the remote doesn't work, what do you do? You take the batteries out and when you put them back in, it works again. This crisis definitely was a bit of a reset, and when we turn football back on again then there's definitely a possibility that everything will work fine again after we hit that reset button."
Watch: Sahin played a crucial part in one of the highlights of Bremen's season?
bundesliga.com: What advice would you give to any football fans who are missing that buzz of watching a live match? And how have you been handling replacing that buzz yourself?
Sahin: "I have to say, if you're desperate for football, there are a lot of classic matches you can watch. I've watched a lot! On all different platforms. Recently I watched Liverpool vs. AC Milan in the Champions League final in 2005 – I was there in the stadium, and I recently watched that live – no, it was live then, this time it was re-live! And then also the legendary game at Old Trafford, Real Madrid 4-3 Manchester United where Ronaldo scored a hat-trick. I saw our [Bourssia Dortmund's] Champions League final was on again recently but I didn't watch that! Lots of games, the Malaga game with Dortmund was on recently. So if you want, there's the possibility of watching lots of old games. I like to watch the games and I note down things about them: what was it like then compared to now, little things."
bundesliga.com: What's your biggest memory of your Bundesliga debut, which made you the youngest player in the history of the Bundesliga back in 2005?
Sahin: "That it went so fast! I don't really have that many memories of the first few weeks because it all happened so fast. But I'd definitely identify myself with the Bundesliga, I've been around here for years, in this family if you want to call it that. I don't think I'm a bad example of a young kid coming in and proving himself! 15, 16 years, that's a long time, and I'm really proud."
bundesliga.com: As you said you've had a long career and a lot of nice moments to remember from that time. Is there a favourite memory you have?
Sahin: "As you've just said, I've had a lot of very nice moments, lots of successes, and I don't want to miss anything out. A career highlight? I don't know… I've had a few highlights, as a footballer you always have a sort of bucket list, all those things you want to do as a kid, and I have to say my bucket list is very full, well worked out! I always wanted to win the Champions League and we nearly did but unfortunately, it didn't work out, but I would say I've achieved a lot of things on my list. I couldn't pick one out, I've experienced too much!"
Watch: Nuri Sahin's story
bundesliga.com: How has it been for you to play alongside another Bundesliga legend, Claudio Pizarro, in the last year?
Sahin: "On the pitch… Well, in the past I'd try to headhunt him, whenever he played against us at Dortmund I always thought 'Hey, you should come and play for us!' Because I always found him amazing in the box, the way he scored goals, and I have to say he's surprised me that despite his age, he's still always up for training, which fascinated me and I found it really cool. Off the pitch he's nice. We have a nice little relationship, I can speak to him a bit in Spanish, I can ask him something in Spanish and he can help me, even if he comes from South America and they speak a bit differently! He's stayed young, for sure. He's kept his feet on the ground."
bundesliga.com: Do you have a message for everyone at home?
Sahin: "I wish for everyone to appreciate what they have – I hope for everyone to be healthy and to come through this crisis, and I hope everyone realises that we only have one life and there's only one world where we all live together. I hope all the powers that be on this world show us that we can only get through this together. I'm sure that this will change our lives and the lives of everyone, and I'm very sure that it'll be a positive change because it was time for that."