In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Borussia Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller says he's hoping to fix the club's early season struggles with goals.
Haller's return to football after recovering from testicular cancer was one of world football's biggest feel-good stories of the year last term and his sensational scoring form at the end of the campaign took Dortmund to the brink of the Bundesliga title.
They ultimately came up short and their 2023/24 Meisterschale bid hasn't been straightforward, but Haller tells bundesliga.com that he is laser-focused on getting Edin Terzic's side firing once again.
bundesliga.com: How would you rate the start for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga in 2023/2024?
Haller: “Not the best out, of course. Even if the first game we won, we knew that the way we played was not the best and we could do so much better and the second game, yeah, let's say we had maybe less luck and we had the draw. Yeah, not the best start. Yeah, last season was not the best start as well and we still managed to be to be at this point so yeah, I'm not worried about everything. It's just a daily basis walk. We need to fix the few things we need to fix and then we'll see but it's an everyday walk and everyone is trying to be better but we have some goals and we are Borussia Dortmund so we need to fix everything really quick.”
bundesliga.com: How do you feel, personally?
Haller: “I feel good, I feel really good. I feel way better than the last season so for me, it's also a small victory. So, I try to take this with me to, you know, to perform better and help for my guys, for my teammates and just give the best to make them proud and to make it so that they can count on me. That's it."
Watch: The best of Haller and Dortmund in 2022/23
bundesliga.com: How are you handling missing out on the title last season?
Haller: “Let's say it's still in my mind and it will stay forever but like I said, we always need to, you know, to go through every challenge. So, the best answer I could give to myself and to all the people that support me and the club is to just move forward and get back to the job and score goals That's it. So, there are no options.”
bundesliga.com: How did you find your way to football, as a small boy?
Sebastien Haller: “I don't know if there is a moment the football started with me. You know, we all grew up with the with balls around and we played football like we are born with it, you know. My friend, one of my, my oldest friend is at home for example and we were talking about, you know, football. It was every day, you know, after school, at school, at home, everywhere. So, for us, it was not even a question about what means football or where or when it came from. It was just football is football, you know, you play football all the time because this is what brings you joy.”
bundesliga.com: Are you still in contact with people from back then?
Haller: “Yes, you have friends from five years old, like neighbours or even guys that used to play in the academy or some guys that play with professional clubs. I'm in contact with some of them, yes.”
bundesliga.com: How was your path into football?
Haller: "Actually, I didn't know it was a trial at Auxerre. So, I thought it was just coming there to see the level and play with the guys. So, I came there I saw 100 hundred kids ready to fight. So, I was like 'Okay, today it's a big opportunity.' So, you just make one or two days of playing football. Out of nothing, you see the guy from the academy comes: 'Yeah would be nice if your son comes to join the club.' So it came really quick and out of nothing. I didn't have a lot of questions in my mind. It came quite fast because I was 17 when I signed my first contract and I joined Auxerre when I was 13. So, after four years of just playing football every day, I was in a welcome family then in the academy, like a boarding school; it came really quick.”
bundesliga.com: How hard was it for your parents to let you go back then?
Haller: “A lot, a lot. I think now as a parent, as a father, yeah. I realise every day it was difficult to have your child away from you and that he needs to chase his dream and you can't have a - you can't handle really the situation. So, you need to trust him. You need to try to be around to help him when he needs something. But I was not the child that said every day, 'I need this. I need this.' No, I was just playing. I can understand that this was not easy.”
bundesliga.com: Did you ever have the feeling you were missing out on something – not having chosen the right path?
Haller: “No, no, this is the craziest thing. Sometimes I was wondering why I was not feeling bad. I don't know. Maybe because I knew I was on the right path. Maybe because I knew that it was a crazy opportunity and I was just following the rules, you know, I didn't do something bad. I always just played quite well and I knew that my parents were proud of me, even my brother and sister, my friends - I knew that it was the place I had to be. So, for me it was no question, no doubt so even if things are not that easy because it's not always that easy, you know that you just need to face this this challenge.”
bundesliga.com: How did your decision to play for the Ivory Coast come about?
Haller: “I think I arrived at a moment at a certain moment of my life and career. Since I was really young, I received some calls from the Ivory Coast national team but you know sometimes it's difficult to explain but you're not just not ready to go. I was also playing with the French national youth teams, I didn't feel it was the right moment for me to go, and sometimes we forget that this is a football career that we are speaking about. It's not about deciding which country you put in the bin and which one you are trying to represent. No, it's way more complex than this. It represents a lot of things for me. I'm from both cultures. Even if I grew up in France, but when you see me you don't say, 'He's French.' I grew up also with the Ivorian culture a lot, of course, because my mum taught us a lot of things. France was everywhere because we grew up in France, so we knew what it looked like but Ivory Coast was through my mom, through my cousin, uncle, a lot of members from my family. It's a rich heritage, a rich legacy that is from my parents because you need to learn from both cultures and you always take the best from it. So, it was really nice and at certain point I wanted to represent Ivory Coast on the pitch because I tried to learn. I tried to contemplate what I really wanted to do.”
bundesliga.com: What does it mean to you to have a culture from two different nations?
Haller: “Everything is both. It's like cooking, you know, you just put some spices from France and from Ivory Coast. It's a real mix and I'm really proud of it because I know that when I was young, a lot of people were asking me, 'Where do you come from?', or 'Why this, why that?' And I was a bit different and not white, I'm not black. I'm not, I don't know, I'm just between everything. You know, it's not always easy to find your place or just to tick a box or be put in a group. So, you're wondering yourself a lot and at the end you just realise that it's just a chance, just a mix of culture and you need to understand this. Everything I do, it's with the mix of culture, of course.”
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