Interview with Niklas and Fabian Süle: my brother the neighbour

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There is a unique curiosity on Säbener Straße as one brother is playing at the highest level for FC Bayern and the other coaches amateur club FC Sportfreunde next door. Club magazine "51" organised a neighbourly reunion between Niklas and Fabian Süle.

Interview with Niklas & Fabian Süle

Niki, Fabian - what about your brotherly love in general: How was it growing up together, was there often trouble or were you mostly on the same wavelength?
Niklas Süle:
"We used to have problems with each other when we were younger. I think it's normal for brothers to have issues with each other. When I moved to Hoffenheim when I was 14 and I moved out, I got a different perspective on our relationship. It's also different from before, when I was the little brother I was always annoying, I always wanted to go into my big brother's room and kept getting kicked out..."
Fabian Süle: "... kicked out sounds a bit too harsh (smiles)."
Niklas: "Well, let's put it this way: I wasn't always welcome, so I'm not angry with you at all. What I wanted to say is that our relationship has developed over the years. When I moved out of home and we didn't see each other that often, you suddenly felt: okay, I'm missing someone very important in my life. Even when Fabi spent four years in New York for his studies, we were in constant contact and spoke on the phone twice a week. When I moved to FC Bayern, he decided to move from New York to Munich to do his Master's degree here. Today our relationship is stronger than ever. Fabi is the most important person in my life, apart from my girlfriend, my son and my parents. If I need advice, the first thing I do is ask him. I think it's the same the other way around."

Football was the thing you connected together over the most from a young age; did you ever play together?
"No, never. Not in a team."
Fabian: "When havin a kick-about, of course."


Were there ever calls to knock it long?
Niklas (laughs):
“We never knocked it long. We’d dribble, always had the ball close to foot.”
Fabian: “That’s right, we were both dribblers. And Niki always used to play up front back then. He might’ve been a couple of years younger but he was already physically very developed. I also think it pushed him that he had to play with us older boys. You learn to establish yourself.”

But it wasn’t always about dribbling. You used to water the grass in the garden and try to slide tackle each other. Were there ever injuries or was your mother not worried her boys might smash heads?
“Well, our mum didn’t really say much about things like that. But it was different for other situations that weren’t to do with football. But our dad would water the grass extra for us and sort of organised it all. He liked to watch us. I still remember it all now. Our dad even built an extra little wooden goal in the garden, then watered the grass and away we went.”
Fabian: “There were the odd injuries, people cried every now and then, but never for long. You had to get up and go again.”

Your mother was an athlete, your father was a footballer. Did you get good genes and a general love for sport?
“I think we got a bit of talent. And it was also obvious from a point that I’m quite sporty but Niki was soon a step ahead. In football he’s technically versatile, dynamic, robust, consistent and quick. One of his strengths is a very good top speed. Maybe it comes from athletics training earlier, or from the good genes. In any case, it doesn’t matter what we do, whether football, tennis, table tennis, pool – Niki can do it all and do it really well. He only has problems with bowling and he gets worked up there (laughs).”

Fabian, what trait would you like to have from Niki?
“As a person or sportsman? I’ll start with as a person because that’s more important. I really like a lot about him, but his personality in particular. He’s very emotive. Niklas has a really good feeling for people around him. He’s reliable and always there for you. Niklas is actually a very loving person. You can talk about anything with him. I think that’s one of his standout features here at Bayern, as a team player. He’s very kind, you can really get on well with him. One of his greatest strengths by far is that he’s physically and mentally really robust. He can blank things out and concentrate on what matters. You can see that on the pitch. I’d like that trait from him.”

And you, Niki, what impresses you about your brother?
“Fabi is very structured in what he does. Sometimes I make fun of him for that and maybe put a book out of place in his apartment. It doesn’t take him long to put everything back. It’s a bit like OCD, but I’d still like to learn some aspects of that.”


Fabian, when did you think your brother can really go far?
“There was a time when he was 16, I was 19, and he played in my team in Walldorf for fun. There was a huge difference to the rest of us. He’d just started training with Hoffenheim’s first team for the first time. You then realised he’s got talent and can play football well, but maybe there’s another level to it.”

Are you proud of your little brother at a time like this?
“I always thought it’d be fine whatever Niklas does. He could be a plumber, electrician, doctor, pilot – I’d always be proud of him. The key thing for me as a brother is that he’s happy with what he’s doing.”

Niki, Julian Nagelsmann says you’ve got a No.10 in you. Will we see more of the dribbling in attack that you did as a kid?
“Yeah, he just needs to play me as a No.10 (laughs). But things are fine as they are. I have a special level of trust with Julian. We’ve known each other since I was 15 and he knows which buttons he needs to press with me. When I sense trust, I can perform to my best. I think I’ve been able to take a step forward again this year and get involved in attack more than I used to. I want to build on that and I hope I can show fans that a defender can score the odd goal as well.”

Would you sometimes prefer to play for Sportfreunde, at an amateur level with no pressure?
“That would definitely be appealing, but we’ve got a similar setup here at Bayern because we’re a band of brothers. And I dont think you can play without pressure. And when I watch Sportfreunde, the way Fabi and his team want to win every game and how hard they work on themselves, football is the same everywhere, in the Bundesliga and at lower levels. You have to give everything and have fun.”

Fabian, is there a title prize with Sportfreunde?
“When we got promoted to the top division in the city, which was before my time, Uli Hoeneß gifted us 50 litres of beer. Maybe Niklas can arrange something if we go up again. But there’s no real title prize for us.”

How strange is it for you that Niki is playing for Bayern and Fabi is one door down coaching Sportfreunde?
“We always say it means there’s a Süle on Säbener Straße round the clock. Niklas starts with the first team in the morning and then we come to training after work in the evening.”
Niklas: “We’re definitely all about good neighbourliness (smiles).”

Photos: Anna Aicher

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