Waltrop - For all the rivalry between Ruhr district rivals FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund, which should of course only exist on the pitch, there are also real friendships, even among players.
In this respect, Japanese stars Atsuto Uchida and Shinji Kagawa act as role models ahead of the 145th derby, which takes place at the Veltins Arena this Saturday (kick-off 13:30 GMT/15:30 CET).
When Kagawa returned to the Bundesliga from English Premier League side Manchester United FC at the beginning of September, one man was particularly happy - Schalke 04 defender Uchida. When asked a few days later if he had already got in touch with his compatriot, Uchida replied without hesitation: “Yesterday, the day before yesterday, three days ago and the day before that as well. We meet every day in Düsseldorf for Sushi.”
On Thursday, the two friends were not in Düsseldorf for a change. They were in Waltrop, conveniently located halfway between Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen, meeting at the industrial site of the former coal mine to take part in a TV recording for the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH on the upcoming derby.
Naturally, the duo also had time to talk about their respective teams’ current form and their thoughts on Saturday's crunch clash. “We are on a two-game winless run in the Bundesliga,” said Kagawa. “That’s why a win at Schalke would be massive for us. A derby victory would give us a lift for the next match at RSC Anderlecht [in the UEFA Champions League] and the upcoming games in the Bundesliga.”
Though BVB have failed to win either of their two league matches since Kagawa marked his return to the club with a goal in a in a 3-1 victory over Freiburg on Matchday 3, the 25-year-old is delighted to have made the move back to the Signal Iduna Park. “The way I was welcomed in Dortmund was amazing," he explained. "The Dortmund fans’ support is unique in football. Since I’m back, I only feel gratitude.”
Watch Atsuto Uchida make his comeback for FC Schalke 04 in their victory over SV Werder Bremen on Tuesday, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: