First Team

“I’ll never forget it”

Ashkan Dejagah on his celebrations after winning the Bundesliga title in 2009, and his enduring connection to the Wolves.

If there is anyone who knows all about the ups and downs of life in the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg, then it is Ashkan Dejagah. The 38-year-old, who has both German and Iranian roots, played for the Green-and Whites in Germany’s top flight, as well as in the DFB Cup, the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the Europa League and the relegation play-offs – and even in the fourth-tier Regionalliga Nord.

He most recently laced his boots in Iranian club football before announcing his retirement last week, and currently spends his time between Germany and Qatar.

In this interview, fan favourite ‘Asche’ – who we spoke to while he was on a layover in Frankfurt – recalls the biggest sporting triumph of his career, and much more besides.

Ashkan Dejagah, 15 years ago today it was party time in Wolfsburg. When you think back to that Bundesliga title-winning season, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Ashkan Dejagah: “I immediately think back to that atmosphere in the stadium. The fans, who had stormed on to the pitch, were hugging each other and ripping out patches of turf. But I also remember what had been going on in the city all day. I can still picture our parade and the moment I got to hold the trophy. Anyone who has experienced that will never forget it.”

The story of that championship-winning campaign has been told many times, but what anecdotes from back then have you kept to yourself until now?

Asche: “Well there’s not a lot I can say about the night we celebrated the title. I had some friends and family visiting me at the time and I went out and celebrated with my friends and my brother all night. My apartment was right in the city centre. It was already light when we got back and I was still shouting and singing as we walked through the door. My dad said: ‘What are you doing, boy?’ I replied: ‘We’re German champions. Look at all the people on the street!’ But in reality, there was nobody out there because the party had long since finished. My dad still tells that story to this day [laughs].”

You stayed in Wolfsburg until 2012. Why were the years after winning the title so difficult?

Asche: “It wasn’t too bad initially, I don’t think, but when the coach left it affected the team quite a bit. On top of that, we were playing in the Champions League, which was something completely new for a lot of players, myself included. All in all it was probably too much for us, which is why we fell short of the increased expectations.”

Of that title-winning squad, who were you last in touch with?

Asche: “I was with Sascha Riether again at Fulham. The same goes for Felix Magath, Werner Leuthard and Andre Lenz. While I was there I went up against Edin Dzeko at Manchester City. I also faced Grafite in Qatar. I’m still in contact with Alexander Madlung and Marcel Schäfer from time to time. The last time I saw someone in person was probably Sebastian Schindzielorz. I had a small restaurant in Berlin for a short time and we had a nice meal there together. That was before he returned to VfL.”

You played your last competitive game for Foolad FC almost exactly a year ago, and wore the number 24 jersey, just as you did at VfL. That warms our hearts!

Asche: “And mine too when you say it like that [laughs]. I joined late last year and had a few options when it came to choosing my number. As the number 24 was available I knew straight away it was the one I wanted. It was wonderful to be able to hang up my boots after wearing the same number on my shirt as I did when we celebrated that incredible success in Wolfsburg.”