THE FIRST HUMBA
Für Paul Nebel ist am Wochenende ein Traum in Erfüllung gegangen, möglich gemacht durch einen "Top-Verein" mit "Top-Fans" - Der Auftritt gegen Leipzig zeige, "was für eine enorme Kraft entwickeln, wenn wir gerade in schwierigen Momenten zusammen stehen"
Just a few years ago, it was only a dream. As a ball boy and youth player (at the club since 2015), Paul Nebel regularly attended the games of his Zerofivers in the arena and hoped to make the leap himself one day and celebrate successes as a 05 player together with the fans. "It's already a dream come true," says the 18-year-old now, after his furious Bundesliga starting eleven debut at the weekend against Leipzig (1-0), but adds that it was just a start for him, "nothing more".
In his 05th appearance in the top flight, Nebel finally got it right in this memorable clash against the runners-up to kick off the 2021/22 season. His Bundesliga debut as a sub, also against Leipzig (1-3) on the first matchday of the previous season, was followed by three other short appearances in which the midfielder and his team-mates came away empty-handed. It came as no surprise to the DFB junior international that he was able to witness (and celebrate) the first three points on the pitch after this turbulent week, with a completely new squad, but in front of more than 10,000 supporters at the MEWA ARENA. "WE ARE MAINZ", he captioned a post on his Instagram channel after the game and provided his personal interpretation of the words he chose in an interview with mainz05.de:
That's the only way to cope with a difficult situation, and that was very special.
"I already said after the game: I think that in this family club and in this good team, it is perhaps somewhat easier to deal with such a situation than elsewhere. You saw on Sunday what a top club Mainz 05 is, what top fans we have. That's the only way to cope with a difficult situation, that was very special. The atmosphere in the stadium, the game, the cohesion - all that distinguishes Mainz 05 from my point of view and shows what enormous strength we develop when we stick together especially in these difficult moments."
Hanging heads? No chance
Due to Corona, Mainz had only two days of team training before the match. The team had gone into the clash with the Saxons as the underdogs and in the end had sent the favourites home empty-handed, a little fortunate but not undeserved, after a sacrificially hard fight. The recipe sounds simple: "We couldn't train much, but the atmosphere was good. You never had the feeling that anyone was hanging their head. We accepted the situation and tried to influence what we could influence: Namely, to put the performance on the pitch." As we all know, it succeeded in impressive style, in which Nebel, who was completely exhausted when he came off as a substitute in the 89th minute, had also played his part, repeatedly occupying Leipzig's attack and throwing himself into every duel in the centre of midfield.
Now I was allowed to be in the thick of it. It's just nice to see that hard work pays off at some point.
The fact that he was able to experience his first humba in front of the home crowd a few minutes later was the well-deserved reward for an impressively mastered task against an international-class opponent: "I remember standing there as a ball boy and watching the team celebrate with the fans. Now I was allowed to be right in the middle of it. It's just nice to see that hard work pays off at some point," Nebel says proudly.
The role model is a world footballer - chasing more "dream moments"
Despite the confirmation in the form of a strong performance and subsequent praise from coach Bo Svensson, however, the young professional admits that he will not rest on his laurels and must continue to work on himself. In his attitude to sport, Nebel takes his cue from his idol Cristiano Ronaldo: "He is always ready to do everything for success with hard work. These are things that spur me on. He's still striving for the highest goals in his mid-30s, and that's what I'm aiming for in my career as well. You can never be satisfied and sit back, not even now after such a dream moment. Because I hope it was just one of many more dream moments."
The fact that Nebel was able to share the moments of this memorable Sunday not only with the fans but also with a number of long-time companions from the academy at Bruchweg rounded off the first Bundesliga victory for the native of Bad Nauheim. After all, seven of Mainz's own youngsters were in the starting eleven against Leipzig and were no less convincing. "It's definitely something special when you've known each other all these years and are also close. It's a cool feeling to achieve something like this together with them and it makes you want more. But I also realise that although this was a good start, it was only the beginning."
Only the parents are missing
Of all people, Nebel's parents could not be present, as they had to watch the 18-year-old's debut on television due to their holidays. "Of course they were happy, but they would have much rather been there. My uncle and my cousin as well as one or two of their buddies were sitting in the stands. That meant a lot to me because I'm a very family-oriented person and they are very close to me."
...my goal this season is to get even closer to the team, to exert pressure and to push my colleagues.
To ensure that parents can still cheer on their son as often as possible from the stands of the MEWA ARENA in the future, Nebel will do everything he can, as he promises: "It is important for me to become even more consistent, that is of enormous importance in professional football. I want to be there for the team and make the right decisions on the ball even more often." From his point of view, the last year was important, also due to the appearances in the U23s, in order to "arrive even more in men's football. I feel very fit and my goal this season is to get even closer to the team, apply pressure and push my colleagues." The potential to become a cornerstone in the 05 game in the coming years was at least hinted at by Nebel last weekend. The next Humba, let it come.
Did you know that Paul has Irish roots?
"My grandmother is Irish and my mother is half-Irish. The country is like a second home to me and my parents are on holiday there right now. I don't have an Irish passport yet, but I'm thinking about applying for it because I have it inside me and I feel that I have roots there, which I'm proud of," the homegrown reveals.