Leading his Ingolstadt team-mates out onto the field for the club's first-ever Bundesliga game is something Marvin Matip certainly did not expect at the start of last season. ”I was hoping that, given our team, we would not be struggling against relegation, and I thought if we had a really good season, we could possibly finish with a single-digit position,” the German-Cameroonian defender tells FIFA.com of the team's Bundesliga 2 campaign.
But far from struggling against relegation, Ingolstadt started the season like a house on fire, winning seven of the first 11 matches and drawing four. “Suddenly that changed things. We had a run of four 1-0 victories and suddenly I realised that possibly we could achieve more. I did not think that we could be promoted, let alone win the second division, but that we could have a really secure season and finish somewhere around fifth or seventh.”
If we go to our limits in every match, and at times even go beyond ... we could avoid relegation.
Ingolstadt captain Marvin Matip
Gaining promotion with Ingolstadt should set up a meeting with Marvin's younger brother Joel, who plays for Schalke 04. “It a nice bonus that games against my little brother are possible. I always held thumbs for him and was so proud that he managed to go his way and what he achieved. And now our paths will cross more often and that makes me very pleased.
“We have a lot of contact and we talk about whatever the situation is at the time. Schalke had a very up-and-down last season, and so I would wish him luck that it gets better and he would wish me luck that we continue being successful. I am sure it will not be easy when we play against each other. It will be very difficult for mom and dad to take sides. I think they won't. They will wish both of us a goal and a good game. Then they will be happy. I would not like to be in my mom's role, as she is sitting between two chairs.”
A recall on the cards?
Marvin's father was a Cameroonian student who came to Germany to study medicine, making the Matip brothers eligible for the Indomitable Lions. But unlike younger brother Joel, who is a regular in the side and can look back at two FIFA World Cups™, the 29-year-old has played just one game for the national team, though he is hoping that playing in the Bundesliga will see him receive further call-ups. “I have had contact with Cameroon coach Volker Finke and if I manage to repeat my performances from last season, I should have chances. I have played one international with my brother and that was a very nice experience, which I would like to repeat. Aside from the times when I played with him as a child on our playing ground, I have never played with him.”
Matip says that he had contact with Finke before this years' CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where the team crashed out in the first round. “But at the time I was really exhausted physically because of our long season and I simply did not believe I could handle more. The situation with Ingolstadt was also such that I did not want to say to myself at some stage that I was not there for the team when they needed me. So the time was not right for me, but I could imagine playing for Cameroon again.”
He does admit that his French is very rudimentary, although he insists it is not a problem. “I studied French until 11th grade, and then did a refresher course for the national team. But if I am honest, my French is very poor. My understanding is acceptable, but speaking is not good. But with French, English and speaking with my hands and feet, I can always manage to communicate.”
And he says that he has no problem finding the Lion inside of him. ”I visit my fathers' family every few years, and I support them in competitions. I grew up in Germany and probably feel a bit more German than African, but it is not an either-or situation. Both cultures define me, and I would like to think that I am shaped by the best of both worlds, even if they are so very different.”