Sebastiaan Bornauw - here leading Cologne out against Rhine rivals Mainz - has wasted little time in endearing himself to the Billy Goats' faithful. - © DFL
Sebastiaan Bornauw - here leading Cologne out against Rhine rivals Mainz - has wasted little time in endearing himself to the Billy Goats' faithful. - © DFL

Cologne centre-back Sebastian Bornauw on being compared to Daniel Van Buyten, handling Robert Lewandowski and coping with coronavrus


Sebastian Bornauw has made an electric start to his Cologne career; the Belgian centre-back having plundered five goals since arriving from Anderlecht at the start of the season.

Keeping busy at home while the Bundesliga and indeed Germany comes to terms with coronavirus, the 21-year-old took the time to speak exclusively to in a wide-ranging interview… Sebastiaan Bornauw, how is it for you as a professional footballer not being able to play?

Sebastiaan Bornauw: “It's difficult. We want to be on the field training every day and, most of all, playing at the weekend. It is how it is though. I’m missing it very much so I hope we can play in front of our home fans again as soon as possible.” How are you keeping busy at home?

Bornauw: “We have a programme from the club, from our physical trainer, so we’re training six days out of seven, running a lot and doing power work every other day. It’s ok for me, I like to be at home and spend time with my girlfriend and my dog. I train around 11, come home and recoup and do some stuff at home.” Have you tried any of the social media challenges? 

Bornauw: “No, I haven’t done the toilet paper one! They asked me but I didn’t do it. I just did the home team challenge from Adidas and the challenge to play football and the piano at the same time.” How have you stayed in touch with your teammates and coaches?

Bornauw: “The coaches call us very often, every second or third day. That’s really good. We also have a WhatsApp group where we talk a lot, that’s how we keep in touch. We need to be focussed, we should still have nine games to go and we want to play as well as possible. It’s a challenge but we need to stay focussed for the upcoming games.” How would you summarise Cologne's season?

Bornauw: “It was difficult at first because we didn’t pick up many points. The change of coach then came [Markus Gisdol replaced Achim Beierlorzer in November] then and I think we stood up and began to believe in ourselves. We then started to pick up points. We've played really well, and I hope we continue in this way, play some good games and see where we’re at.” How has the season gone for you personally?

Bornauw: “I’ve enjoyed every moment out there on the pitch. I realise that even more now. I’m very happy to have played some Bundesliga games and I like it here. I’m happy to be playing. I’ve adapted fast because I feel at home here. I'm accepted here. It’s great to be in Germany and play in this competition for this fantastic club. I’m just happy.”

Watch: Bornauw - alongside Cologne teammates Ismail Jakobs and Noah Katterbach - were December's Rookie of the Month nominees. Fans recently voted you Cologne’s player of the year so far in a local newspaper. How proud does that make you and how much does it push you for the future?

Bornauw: “I didn’t know that! I’m proud but I’m always thinking about the team. If I can help the team that’s my main goal and if I can win this award, it’s recognition of myself so it’s good. I have a lot of seasons to go, though, and I hope to play well for a long time to come so we will see then.” You're the club’s top scorer after Jhon Cordoba with five goals, including four in the last eight games. How do you explain your goalscoring ability?

Bornauw: “I played as a striker when I was younger. Maybe that, but I think a little bit of luck as well. When the ball comes to you and you really want to score and take the opportunity. You think this ball is mine and you really go for it then that helps. It’s not my main goal to score but when I can, when I see a corner and it’s well delivered, which it has been this season – big credit to the lads delivering the balls this season – then I think this is my chance.” Four of your five goals have been from set pieces. Why are Cologne so dangerous from set pieces?

Bornauw: “I don’t really know. I think they take them very well. We train them sometimes but not a lot. I just think we have the players for it. It’s one thing to score, that’s the most important thing from a set piece.”

Watch: Bornauw - alongside Christopher Trimmel and Martin Hinteregger - is among the surprise corner kick kings in the Bundesliga You began your career in Casablanca in Morocco. How did that come about and what are your memories of that time?

Bornauw: “My dad was working in Morocco. I first lived in Belgium, then France, then Morocco because of my dad’s job. I started playing football there at the age of six. That was my first club and I have really good memories of that time. It was always nice weather and I like the country a lot. Then we came back but I’m very positive about that experience.” How did your career then progress up to your move to Cologne last summer?

Bornauw: “I started in Casablanca then we came back to Brussels, I played one season at the local club around the corner, then I went to Dender in the first division. I then started at Anderlecht, I played in all the age categories including the first team. I played in the first team for one season then I moved to Cologne.” Having played in Morocco and Belgium, was Cologne the right next step at the right time?

Bornauw: “It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I wasn’t playing in a big competition. Cologne came in for me, it’s also close to Belgium, so it worked out really well. It’s a really traditional club and I felt really good when I came here.” You scored your first Bundesliga goal on Matchday 8 against Paderborn. How special was that and what are your memories of it?

Bornauw: “It maybe took too long for me to score! I was really happy at that moment; we didn’t have many points at the time. We won the game 3-0, kept a clean sheet and I scored so I was really happy. It was special to score in front of all the fans.”

Watch: Highlights of Cologne's 3-0 win over Paderborn - the Billy Goats' first victory this season. You're often compared to former Bayern Munich defender Daniel van Buyten, who is also your agent. What do you make of the comparison?

Bornauw: “I still have a long way to go, he had a great career! It’s hard to be compared to him but he had his career, I’m going to try to have mine. It’s an honour though, because I like him a lot as a person and as a player so it really is an honour.” You used to play in attack when you were younger, is centre-back now your favourite position and why?

Bornauw: “Centre back is my favourite position, but I still like to score, that’s still in me. I do prefer centre-back though. It’s more my thing. I get a better view of the whole pitch, that’s more comfortable for me, I like that more.” Who was your role model as a child?

Bornauw: “I had several, in football I always had the perfect defender in my head, I had to collect pieces of everybody. I remember liking the mentality of [Carles] Puyol, I liked [Vincent] Kompany, he’s Belgian and comes from Anderlecht. I liked to watch Raphael Varane. I didn’t have just one role model, I liked a lot of players. From other sports as well, I like to watch boxing or cycling.” Who has been your most difficult opponent in the Bundesliga?

Bornauw: “I think Robert Lewandowski. He’s the smartest striker there is. Sometimes you can forget him for 10 minutes then all of a sudden, he’s behind you with a perfect run. You also know the Bayern players can put the ball where they want to, and he’ll be there. He only needs one chance for one goal, that’s his biggest quality.”

Robert Lewandowski (l.) has scored three goals in two games against Bornauw's Cologne this season. - Getty Images Who is your favourite Bundesliga player?

Bornauw: “That’s difficult, I’d say Kingsley Ehizibue because he’s a good friend of mine! I'd say Ezi is my best friend in the team. We speak the same language, he lives close to me. We’re in the same situation, his family is in Holland, mine is in Belgium, we speak the same language, he’s the same age as me. I like his work ethic and he has a really big heart.” Do you have any superstitions or rituals before a game?

Bornauw: “Yes, one. I always wear the same underwear. But I wash it! I have one colour and I always wear the same colour.” Thank you. Finally, perhaps you have a message for the Bundesliga fans all over the world?

Bornauw: “Don’t give up, keep waiting because maybe the world’s best competition will be back as soon as possible. Try to make the best of it – everybody is missing it!”