Risse: “I lived in a student flat at the time”
The 32-year-old remembers his time at Mainz 05 and speaks about his current club, the team which is closest to his heart and similarities between Köln and Mainz.
A 20-year-old young prospect born and raised in Köln by the name of Marcel Risse transferred from Bayer Leverkusen to 1. FSV Mainz 05 in 2010 – initially moving into a shared student apartment in the centre of the city. “I wanted to have people around me who would chat about things other than the last result,” Risse touched upon his fondest memories unrelated to sport and to his career during his time in Mainz. The now-32-year-old has been playing in the 3. Liga with Viktoria Köln since 2020.
In 2013, Risse made the trip up the Rhine to 1. FC Köln, and the midfielder admits that they are the team which remain closest to his heart. During his interview, he spoke about the similarities between Cologne and Mainz, a goal which was set up for him by Bo Svensson, Viktoria Köln, and the best goal he scored in his career ahead of the clash between his two former sides in Cologne on Saturday (15:30 CEST).
Hello Marcel, can you still remember the goal you scored for Mainz 05 which Bo Svensson set up for you?
Risse: “Yes, it was in a Europa League qualifier in 2011.”
That’s right! Unfortunately, we lost that game against Gaz Metan Medias despite your strike, going out on penalties. What are your memories of your time at Mainz 05 in general?
Risse: “Super! The things I experienced there will stay with me for my whole life. I look back at that time fondly and still have friends in Mainz - I lived in a student flat at the time, and I still chat regularly with my old flatmates.”
It’s not typical for a professional footballer to live in a shared flat...
Risse: “At the time, I was at the age where I wanted to move out and get to know new people. I introduced myself normally as you do, I said where I’m from and what I do, and one of them couldn’t quite believe it (laughs). But that’s exactly what I was looking for. I’d previously lived alone in Nuremberg and realised how difficult it is to meet new people from outside the footballing world. I wanted to have people around me who wanted to talk about things other than the last result. It did me the world of good and it was definitely the right decision.”
I look back at that time fondly and still have friends in Mainz.
Were your flatmates Mainz fans?
Risse: “One of the five was, but the others weren’t. I met a lot of other people through them as well, and we always had plenty of Mainz 05 fans round. That’s what makes the city so special – regardless of how things are going, everyone’s behind the team and that makes the pressure more normal.”
Would you say that people from Mainz are similar to people from Cologne?
Risse: “I’ve always thought that. The city’s got a lot in common with Cologne, not just because the Rhine flows through both cities, but also the people themselves.”
Everything went okay from a sporting perspective too, right?
Risse: “Yes, it was great, even if last year didn’t go too well for me. Overall, though, I had a wonderful time.”
Tactically speaking, he was one of the very best.
Thomas Tuchel was your head coach at the time. What did you think of him?
Risse: “Tactically speaking, he was one of the very best. The video analyses he prepared as well as the match plans felt like they were always perfect. It was absolutely extraordinary, and I took a lot of that on board.”
Bo Svensson has been head coach at FSV since 2021. Did you ever think at the time when he was your teammate that he could go down the coaching route?
Risse: “He was one of the leaders of the team, and someone we would look up to. I got on very well with him. I’m so pleased that it’s going so well for him as a coach and that he’s been successful at Mainz.”
You transferred to 1. FC Köln in 2013, and you made the switch to the other side of the Rhine to play for Viktoria in 2020. How are things going in your hometown?
Risse: “I can’t complain. At 32, I’ve played 30 games for Viktoria Köln so far in the 3. Liga this season, we’re doing okay in terms of the table, even if recent results have made it a bit tighter at the bottom of the league. I’m back in my hometown, I’ve got married and had two children. I have absolutely nothing negative to say.”
You’ve also captained your side this season, even though you aren’t particularly well-known for being one of the loudest players. How do you see yourself in this role?
Risse: “I’m not somebody known for coming out with long speeches, but that’s part of the job and it’s going well. I also speak to my teammates a lot, particularly the younger lads. We’ve got a young squad who are really personable, but some of the younger lads don’t yet know how to deal with the highs and the lows, and they need to learn that.”
The 3. Liga has a lot of really good teams in it this year. How’ve you been getting on?
Risse: “It’s been a really demanding season for us, especially after only picking up five points from our first nine matches and not having the squad that the coach thought we might have had. We’ve had to call up some U19s players at time. But to overcome all these setbacks and to get to where we are now has been an extraordinary achievement.”
It’s part of the club’s identity.
How would you describe Viktoria as a club in comparison to other clubs in Köln?
Risse: “Youth players have been called upon more and more in the last few years, it’s part of the club’s identity. The infrastructure is improving as well. We get a similar amount of attention as Fortuna Köln do, which is, of course, less than that which FC get. Average attendance at games is about 2,000, depending on how many fans the away team brings. Right now, it’s a great place for young players to get into professional football and to get experience.”
Why did you make the move to Viktoria from FC?
Risse: “I was at FC for a long time, and they’re still my club. Of course it wasn’t easy to leave, but that’s football, sometimes you have to make the move. The whole situation was handled fairly. I didn’t want to just transfer to a random second-division team. At Viktoria, I can stay in my hometown and play a decent level of football in the 3. Liga, and that’s what I’m doing.”
You’re a Cologne native and mentioned that 1. FC Köln are your boyhood club. What makes the club special?
Risse: “Cologne is a city of millions of people and it feels like every other person could name every single player in the squad. It’s a very emotional city. When it’s going well, people start talking about European football, and when it’s not, you can feel it from every corner of the ground. Most of the time it’s either black or white. But when things are going well, it’s incredible playing in the stadium and feel the atmosphere in the city.”
You’ve experienced that yourself, for example when you scored the goal of the year in 2016 for Köln in the derby against Mönchengladbach. What happened after the goal?
Risse: “That was the goal of my career. There was a lot of attention on us back then: we were in a good position in the table and then we won in the derby. It was really nice to feel all of the euphoria. A few weeks later, I unfortunately suffered a bad injury.”
It’s a very emotional city.
You’ve had some bad luck with injuries throughout your career. How have you managed to put them behind you and look ahead?
Risse: “Unfortunately, that’s just part of football. Some of us have more luck and others have less. But they’re all experiences that you can take the time for after your career has ended. You have to fight back from it; there is no alternative. I could have given up or stopped, but that has never been my intention. This is my dream job and there was never any other option for me, even when something bad happened.”
You’re 32 years old now. Have you ever thought about what you will do after your career or would you like to play for as long as possible?
Risse: “I’ve not decided that yet. Everything has to be right in a physical sense. I have to be at 100% physically for it to be worthwhile; otherwise I can’t help the team progress. During my career, however, I’ve created a few options for myself away from football.”
Are you satisfied with how your career has gone so far?
Risse: “Definitely. Things can always go better, but I know enough players who have been unable to return after injuries, so I’m satisfied.”
Two of your former clubs are facing off this weekend when Köln play Mainz. What kind of game are you expecting?
Risse: “An even game. Both teams have implemented their style really well this season, so it won’t be an easy game for either side. Mainz have developed their mentality even more and Köln have embraced the style that the coach introduced, and it’s worked really well.”
Both teams have implemented their style really well this season.
What would your prediction be?
Risse: “I’m hoping for an entertaining game. As I was born in Cologne, I’d like to see a Köln win to give everyone there a bit more hope of a top-six finish.”