Dayot Upamecano: ‘You have to be able to bear pain if you want to win'
Pictures: © Dirk Bruniecki
In an interview with the members' magazine '51', the FC Bayern number 2, Dayot Upamecano, talks about his childhood, his character and his targets.
Interview with Dayot Upamecano
Dayot, you said lions are your favourite animals... Have you changed your mind as that's the animal on the badge of FC Bayern's local rivals?
(smiles) "I think I have to clear that up. That statement obviously never related to a club. When I joined FC Bayern, I was just asked what my favourite animal was. I like lions because I think they look so calm and thoughtful. If I go to the zoo I always like looking at them. I often used to go to the zoo in Leipzig with my family and also with my teammates. Unfortunately, I haven't had time for that in Munich. But I've heard the zoo here is well worth a visit."
Is it right that you've still got scars on your knee from playing football on concrete in your hometown Évreux?
"Yes, that's right. We played on concrete as children and teenagers and always in five-a-side games. There was no referee and therefore it was intense. We played for hours without stopping. My mother would call out of the window: 'Come back home now.' And I always answered: 'Please, another five minutes!' I could have played for ever."
What did you learn back then from playing on hard concrete with your friends?
"I think the aggression, the mentality, which was completely normal for us back then, characterises me up to now on the pitch. We always had our own, special crowd: People from the area, perhaps ten people who watched us and cheered us on. We celebrated with our spectators when we scored. You definitely want to win under those conditions. You notice there's a crowd and you want to give them something back. Also you don't feel like them taking the mickey when you lose."
You said anybody who survives playing on a football court can survive anything – bloody knees were no excuse...
"You have to be able to bear pain if you want to win. With us, we always wanted to win all the games. It was important to us to be able to say in the end: 'We've won!' I've been very strong mentally since that time."
Your mum had to patch you up too often at home.
"Yes, she was always there for me – although it obviously didn't please her that I kept coming home with injuries. She always said I should be a bit more careful. My mother is very important to me. She worked on the market and I helped whenever I could, especially when she had to work there on her own in the cold. I always said to her: 'I'm here for you.' We had to stick together. That's what defines a family. She supported me and I tried to give her that back by going to the market with her. Every weekend, I ran to help her after playing in our matches."
How difficult or easy is it to grow up with four sisters – football at home probably wasn't that important, was it?
"To be honest, it was tough (laughs). We only had one TV set and whenever I wanted to watch football they were always clearly in the majority. Sometimes there was a real battle at home for the remote control. Then my sister said: 'You can watch today – but no more from tomorrow.' So I often didn't have the choice and I was playing outside most of the time anyway. It didn't hurt me. Today, my sisters are my biggest fans. Whether things are good or bad, they are here for me regardless of what happens."
How do you pronounce Dayot? With a 't' at the end or without?
"Oh, thanks for the question (laughs). It's 'Dayo' so without the 't' please. I keep saying it, in France as well, because very few people pronounce it correctly."
A lot of people who don't know you think you are shy and retiring – but not on the pitch. Is it right or are you just somebody who gives a considered response and thinks before they speak?
"I wouldn't say I'm shy. People often confuse shyness with calm. I just think before I answer and many people think I'm shy because of that. I just don't want to say anything stupid, that's all (grins)."
You stuttered as a child and were teased because of that. How did that make you feel?
"It was a difficult time. I was always afraid of saying things in school because it always took me a little time to think and the other children made fun of me. That hurt. But I always said to myself that I just have to carry on talking and not let myself get irritated – these people won't influence my life. It gradually stopped. I also often went to a speech therapist. Today, I say to all children who stutter that they never have to be ashamed."
What are your targets for the next few years – personally and with FC Bayern?
"I'd like to stay healthy and play as many games as possible. And I'd like to do everything I can to prevent us conceding goals. Because I hate letting in goals. And if all that works out well then we'll pick up lots of titles."