Sunday 22nd November 2020
By Stephan Uersfeld, Berlin
All the things that can happen while the world is waiting for a substitution. BVB clearly wins at Hertha BSC, Erling Haaland scores four goals and welcomes Youssoufa Moukoko on the field. Meanwhile, Lucien Favre gives the confused professor.
On Saturday they had to wait a long 85 minutes in the Berlin Olympic Stadium to finally see the greatest talent in world football live in the Bundesliga. After a week in which Youssoufa Moukoko had grown from a 1.79-meter-tall 15-year-old to a 16-year-old the size of a building and basically it was all about how many goals he would score on his debut Borussia Dortmund is once again all the time in the world.
After a 0-1 deficit at the break with a remarkable goal from Matheus Cunha, Erling Haaland rolled over the home side in his 22nd Bundesliga game with his goals 20, 21, 22 and 23 and discussed his substitution with coach Lucien Favre. “He asked me how often I scored. He asked: ‘Did you score three goals?’ and I: ‘No, four goals. Only four goals because you replaced me.’ I’m really mad at him now. But that’s how it is! “, Haaland told the US broadcaster ESPN and smiled.
His trainer did that too. When asked about the brief exchange, he said: “That’s right. I not only watch the goals, I also watch the passes, the crosses. I know that he can score goals. He did well. He’s happy now and them The team is very happy. That is the most important thing. ” Before the game, other things were important. For many months, even years, the Moukoko hype wave had built up in the distant ocean of the Dortmund Youth Academy. Sometimes the media reported from these unknown waters. Then the striker had once again set new fantasy records.
At least as good as Mbappé
Well over 100 goals for the youth teams of BVB, a few even for the U-Teams of the DFB, warm words from national coach Joachim Löw and U21 coach Stefan Kuntz, a kicker title, his 16th birthday, synonymous with the right to play for professional teams and hundreds of reports worldwide, caused the wave to soar to a record high in the past week. He is at least as good as Kylian Mbappé and taller than any building in the world. Very few who reported about him had seen him for over 90 minutes. The silent post principle in times of general availability of information remains fascinating.
When Moukoko then steps onto the lawn of the Berlin Olympic Stadium well in front of his teammates, he is surprisingly no bigger than any building in the world, but just a boy who soaks up everything. He hits long passes from the center line for around 10 minutes. Then the rest comes and it disappears into the crowd. At kick-off Moukoko will be on the bench, as will 17-year-old England international Jude Bellingham, his 20-year-old compatriot Jadon Sancho and 18-year-old US player Gio Reyna. Trainer Favre relies on experience and, as always, on patience.
He also scored when Cunha in the first half and the Dortmund game lacks the depth in large parts. Only shortly before the break whistle does the machine start rolling, also because Julian Brandt is now more of a genius than madness. His passes are becoming clearer, as are BVB’s chances. But they haven’t met yet. As so often in the first half. “We said: we have to keep playing. We run more in the box,” Favre said later. Before the restart, an instruction resounds from down below through the deserted stadium. “Come in well, now!” Shouts a Hertha player. It’s no use. Less than five minutes later, Haaland turned the game around with a double, and less than 20 minutes later he scored a hat trick. It’s 3-1 for Borussia Dortmund.
The perfect game for the moment
Moukoko follows the action as they warm up. It stretches as Haaland runs Marvin Plattenhardt’s erratic back pass, first Omar Alderete and then goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow. The substitutes are happy behind the Dortmund goal. After Haaland’s fourth goal, the time has come. He runs to the bench, pulls on his number 18 jersey and waits on the sidelines.
Moukoko claps with Haaland, is sent to the field by Favre and shines like only a 16-year-old who is allowed to play in the Bundesliga for the first time can shine. For a moment he’s the happiest person in the world. Then he has five ball contacts and the game is over again. Now everything is focused on Haaland, Moukoko has the record. The pressure is gone, the wave has run out. It will build up again. It was the perfect game for the moment.
It was also a match painted for a sold out Olympic stadium. But nobody was there. It was a game that the longing for fans, for cheering, for ecstasy and suffering in the stands brought back painful memories. It was a game, with its ups and downs, with its dynamism, with its stories that would have been celebrated by the atmosphere. But football in this bizarre year 2020 will have to live without this dimension.
So inevitably there is only a fallback to virtual space. There Haaland casually commented on his goals and Moukoko shared stories on Instagram until late at night. “He’s the greatest talent in world football,” said Haaland in the empty round of the Olympic Stadium. “I’m 20. I’m getting old, that’s how it is!” When Favre appeared for the interview, the wind blew a stand on the advertising board with the “The future belongs to Berlin” lettering. It was even clear to nature that evening that the future belonged to someone else: Erling Haaland.
16-year-old Moukoko can wait a moment. A lot has happened before he came on and one day Moukoko will be 20 and then old. That’s how it is!