Dubai - Three days and five practice sessions into their Dubai winter training camp, the squad of this year's DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga ambassadors Borussia Mönchengladbach got a bit of down-time on Monday in the form of an afternoon off - and their four Scandinavian players opted for an off-road trip with a difference.
"Really worth it"
While most their colleagues were off shopping in the Dubai Mall, Havard Nordtveit (Norway), Swedish duo Oscar Wendt and Branimir Hrgota and Finland's Alexander Ring signed up for a desert jeep tour. "I enjoy nature and prefer the adventure," explained Nordtveit, "This is my first time in Dubai and I want to see something of the country."
Adventurous it certainly was, with sporting director Max Eberl, club vice president and former coach Hans Meyer and a few others from the Borussia entourage along for the ride as well. Seven cars steered across the undulating Dubai-near desert - and the players saw it all from the front of the convoy, Nordtveit having reasoned that "you never know what you might find behind the next dune when there's nobody in front of you".
Indeed - and behind one, they came across a free-roaming camel and its calf. That and and some spectacular photo opportunities added up to "a trip that was really worth it", the 22-year-old holding midfielder summarised when the group got back to their hotel in the early evening.
Hanke and Stranzl fit
In the one morning training session, head coach Lucien Favre had a full 26-strong squad at his disposal for the first time in Dubai, with Mike Hanke and deputy captain Martin Stranzl now recovered from the after-effects of a bout of flu. The practice was focused on match drills, rounded off by a full-pitch eleven-a-side match split into four ten-minute blocks. It turned out to be a low-scoring affair, with Dutch forward Luuk de Jong netting the only goal.
Two more sessions are scheduled for Tuesday and one on Wednesday, before the Foals take on Bundesliga rivals Hamburger SV (19:00 local time) in the "7he Sevens" stadium. The game will be shown live in 24 countries across the Middle East and north Africa by DFL broadcast partner Dubai Sports Channel - as will Gladbach's meeting with Eintracht Frankfurt at the same venue on 11 January, again at 19:00 local time (16:00 CET).