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Exclusive: Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby on the Bundesliga, racism, and his favorite German word

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Moussa Diaby’s star is on the rise at Bayer 04 Leverkusen. We spoke to the attacker about his experience playing in the German Bundesliga.

FBL-EUR-C3-LEVERKUSEN-SLAVIA PRAGUE
Moussa Diaby celebrates scoring against Slavia Prague, December 10, 2020.
Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

Bayer Leverkusen’s electrifying French forward Moussa Diaby dazzled on Thursday against Slavia Prag in the Europa League. Coming on a halftime, the 21-year-old scored a goal and logged an assist, helping Leverkusen to a resounding 4-0 victory. He has a chance to help Leverkusen take 1st place in the Bundesliga today.

Earlier in the week, Diaby made time to sit down to answer questions submitted by Bavarian Football Works in an interview graciously arranged by the club.

After a year and a half in Germany

We asked Diaby how he felt about playing in the Bundesliga now that he has been at Leverkusen a year and a half. “Yes, it’s true that it’ll soon be more a year and a half since I came to the Bundesliga,” Diaby said, “I think the adjustment has gone very well.”

We asked Diaby whether he felt the transition was easier or harder than he expected. “I wouldn’t say that it’s easier here since arriving,” he said, “but I think that the league is on a very good level, with very good teams, and very good players. So I’m very happy to be here, and I hope it continues that way and I continue to give good performances for the club.”

Football without fans

Although the Bundesliga is famous for its fan atmosphere, much of Diaby’s time in Germany has occurred under coronavirus restrictions. We asked him how the absence of the fans affected his or his teammates’ performances.

“No, it’s true that normally it’s easier to play with the fans: we’re happy because we’re playing at home, and the supporters are there — they cheer us on all game,” Diaby said.

“Now, I don’t think [their absence] causes trouble for us, but rather I think it’s a psychological problem,” he continued. “You have to concentrate the entire time and not think about the fans, even though it’s always better when they’re there. Instead, you have to do everything to win and make them happy, and it’s really great if they watch from outside and push us to accomplish great things, even if they’re not present in the stadium.”

Learning German

Moussa Diaby in a video interview with Bavarian Football Works, courtesy of Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Moussa Diaby in a video interview with Bavarian Football Works, courtesy of Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Bayer04TV / Bavarian Football Works

On a lighter note, we asked Diaby what his favorite German word was. With a smile, he answered, “Scheiss!” (“crap”). The Bayer Leverkusen PR rep reading our questions to him may have been thinking that same: “A nicer word?” she asked. “Weiter, komm! — I haven’t learned very many,” he explained. “I don’t want to quote them all to you, but there are plenty I’ve learned,” he said.

Diaby in fact volunteered to answer the question again at the end of the interview and did a second take, realizing something more diplomatic was expected.

“The word weiter,” he said, “which means, ‘go!’ I think it’s a word that you use a lot in football, and so it’s the word that I’ve heard the most since I came here.”

The Bundesliga as a destination for French players

Diaby is one of several members of the French national team — l’Équipe nationale — who play in the Bundesliga. Besides Marcus Thuram at Borussia Mönchengladbach, there are also Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman, Lucas Hernandez, and Benjamin Pavard.

“I think French players think that the German championship is a very good championship, if they come to play here,” Diaby said. “The names you cited are playing at very good clubs, among the best of the Bundesliga.”

“You learn a lot of things in the German league; you learn another language, you learn another football, and it’s good,” he added. “It’s good for others for the future to learn more, whether in Germany or elsewhere.”

Racism in football

Finally, we asked Diaby, as a Black footballer in Germany, for his thoughts on the problem of racism in football and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Diaby said, “I think there have been problems, and I think that people are not happy about it. These things happen in football, unfortunately, and the people who do it, they don’t think before doing it,” he said of recent incidents of racism.

About Black Lives Matter, Diaby said, “I think it’s very good that people are establishing it, Black Lives Matter. It lets you show people that racism has no place in football or any other sport. And I support this gesture.”

We at BFW are very grateful to Moussa Diaby for taking the time for our questions and Bayer 04 Leverkusen for making this interview possible.