25 years ago, Hope Stevens (68) became a Schalke legend!
On May 21, 1997, the Netherlands coach dramatically won the UEFA Cup with the Eurofighters. Schalke won in Milan on penalties against Inter (4:1). Also because Stevens saved Inter-Stars tricks from penalty kicks on his laptop. Stevens: “It was my biggest and most emotional success, the culmination of my coaching career.”
Bild am Sonntag: Mr. Stevens, what’s the big secret about the Eurofighter?
Hope Stevens: “It’s not that hard. This can still be seen today: when it’s one of our birthdays, we are still congratulated on WhatsApp – by all the Eurofighters! It was a real team, and the boys were having fun together. Of course I had to help from outside from time to time , but they actually did it all themselves. That teamwork and concern for each other is unique and still exists – and it makes me so proud.”
Who was the biggest joker?
Stevens: “In his own way goalkeeper Jens Lehmann! When he came back to the dressing room exactly a minute before I asked, we all laughed about it. But that was what it was like at the time – especially the goalkeepers being such special guys. I think he coordinated his arrival in Last minute with the traffic light stages. If he was two seconds late at the traffic light, he drove faster to the next signal.”
Who was your favorite Eurofighter?
Stevens: “Jerry Nemec, the great silent man. He was very smart about football and could read the game like few others. But we also had other strong players on the team. Johan de Koek and Thomas Linke were strong defenders like I used to be. He was our captain. Olaf Thun is the best player, you had to let him show his quality. And we played a new system at the time – with three and five midfield players. The types, the team, the tactics – everything fit in some way.”
Is it true that a Schalke star almost touched your throat before the return match in Milan?
Stevens: “Yes, and even the second time. We’re talking about Ingo Anderbrügge, whom I had to thwart in Bruges and put him on the bench. It started snowing there at noon and we knew: it would be hard for him on the snow. You need men who fight and run – you won’t go far away with beautiful players like Ingo.In Milan I wanted to do something different offensively with Martin Max.When I told Ingo he wouldn’t start, he was so angry that he wanted to confront me.It was hard to eliminate the boy who played really well in the first final of the The starting lineup – Ingo could have eaten me!”
Before he became a 911 champ…
Stevens: “I explained to him that he could still be very important for us. And that is what happened when we lost 1-0. I still remember exactly what I said to him when he was substituted in the 98th minute: ‘Ingo, now you make sure that we go down on penalties. I promise you will shoot the first one.” And how he nailed it…! His left hammer shocked the Inter and gave us courage. Later, Ingo thanked me.”
Have you talked a lot about the late coach Rudi Asour, the second architect of the European Union Cup victory at the anniversaries?
Stevens: Not much, but he was always on my mind. Rudy wasn’t the second engineer but the first. Although I was a complete stranger as Roda Kerkrade’s coach, he got me to Schalke. On the first day, things ‘clicked’ between me and Rudy. Then he was We have many 18 to 20 hours a day together.”
Can such a coach-manager friendship survive even today?
Stevens: “I think it’s more difficult now because the coaches are being fired faster. Rudy once thought about firing me. But then we talked about my possible firing – we can talk about anything. Two days later we got back together and said we were moving forward together. Rudy was hurt when I left. Six and a half years later. He wanted to hold me back, but it was better this way. At that time we didn’t know Rudy actually had the disease. I couldn’t believe later that I didn’t recognize him. I jokingly told him: “Write it, Rudy!” But I didn’t think A cat in dementia. I was hoping to give him a championship. Unfortunately, I only did it for four minutes…”
I’ve also had a hard time with Assauer.
Stevens: “Immediately after winning the UEFA Cup, the team had to be rebuilt, which was not easy for Schalke. When the success did not go as expected, we were faced with very disappointed people. They even threatened to shoot us. For this reason, the police decided that we had to Rudy and I have to secretly wear windbreakers to a game at Parkstadion. I wouldn’t have wanted it at all, but otherwise we wouldn’t have been allowed to sit on the bench.”
Aren’t you afraid?
Stevens: “When I was a player at PSV Eindhoven, my kids were threatened. It was worse! Since you have to train and be with the team, you can’t always take care of your family. I can protect myself, but protecting your kids isn’t easy. The police drove us to and from school. It was a very difficult time.”
How much Eurofighter do you recognize in Eintracht Frankfurt?
Stevens: “I’m happy for Eintracht and Philip Kostik, with whom I worked in Stuttgart. But it’s different: Frankfurt was not a blatant outsider on Glasgow. On the other hand, we didn’t have a real chance against Milan and we beat big Inter. So our victory was a little bit bigger feeling.”
When will Bayern or Dortmund win the Champions League again?
Stevens: “When I hear that Kylian Mbappé in Paris gets €300m from signing money – it can’t be! There are clubs that you can live on for five to ten years. FIFA and UEFA must finally draw a line. Personally I think that It’s best not to get involved in this craziness, even if he only made it to the quarter-finals…”