inside
The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand

Company

"Volkswagen and VfL Wolfsburg
go Hand-in-Hand"

In an inside interview, soccer club VfL Wolfsburg’s new manager, Jörg Schmadtke, talks about the Bundesliga team’s pre-season training program, his role as a beacon of hope, his excitement about self-driving cars and Wolfsburg as a great place to live.


Mr. Schmadtke, you are the face of the new VfL Wolfsburg team, and for many fans, the beacon of hope that, after two unsuccessful seasons, everything will get better at the very last minute. Will it get better?
I don’t see myself as a beacon of hope, because it’s never just one or two individuals who decide the fate of the team. When a club is successful, it’s because it was a team effort. Will it get better? We’re giving it our all, I can assure you of that. But I can’t promise anything, even though we are well on our way to transforming the mindset of the whole club. 

What do you find appealing about managing the Wolfsburg team?
VfL is a club with great potential. The question is, why hasn’t it come to fruition in the past two years? That’s what I want to find out and try a few ideas to make the club successful again – without changing its DNA in the process.

"When a club is successful, it’s because it was a team effort"

Jörg Schmadtke during his inside interview at the Volkswagen Arena.

What skills does a good Bundesliga manager need?
A good Bundesliga manager should always be self-critical and keep a critical distance from the entire soccer business. Otherwise, you become professionally blinkered. You also have to be adaptable. You cannot develop a single blueprint and expect to apply it to every club you work for. For example, what works for Cologne might be completely wrong for Wolfsburg. Never forget: every club has its own history and unique characteristics.

What characteristics have you identified at VfL?
VfL is a club with exceptional underlying conditions. Such an excellent training ground for both professionals and youth is hard to find in the Bundesliga. But we also need to take full advantage of these working conditions. We are a wholly owned subsidiary of the world’s biggest car manufacturer, which employs over 600,000 hardworking people around the world and makes exceptional cars. If that were not the case, there wouldn’t have been more than 10.7 million Volkswagens sold in the past few years. Every one of our players should know that Volkswagen and VfL Wolfsburg go hand-in-hand, even if VfL is a business in its own right.

Have you been to the plant?
Yes, and to the Autostadt. I haven’t been on a factory tour yet though and would like to do that as soon as I have time. Only my son has had the pleasure when he came to visit me here in Wolfsburg after I was hired. He was very impressed and said, “Dad, you absolutely have to go!”

How are you finding the city of Wolfsburg?
Considerably more attractive than its national image suggests. I’m always amazed how many recreational activities there are in the city and at how green it is. I have also been to the Fallersleben and Vorsfelde neighborhoods and must say, they seem like great places to live! And if I want to experience big city flair, I can take the intercity train and be in Berlin in an hour.

The start of the new season will be challenging for VfL with the matches against runners-up Schalke and last year’s sixth, Leverkusen. Or do you see things differently?
I welcome this starting program. The idea that we have time to slowly ease into the season is wrong. We have to hit the ground running, and with opponents like Schalke and Leverkusen, everyone knows what they’re in for. It also helps our players to understand why they have to do such and such exercise during our preparatory training – and not just once, but perhaps a dozen times.

What would make this season a good one for VfL?
At this point in time, I would be happy with a place in the middle of the league table without the fear of relegation. We are also aiming to give spectators a good show. Soccer is part of the entertainment industry. A lame kick is okay for viewers once or twice, but not for the whole game.

VfL has one of the most successful women’s teams in the world. What can the men learn from them?
Definitely their obsession with success and single-minded ambition they’ve had for so many years. Without it, the many titles in the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal (German Cup) and Champions’ League would not have been possible.

Are you familiar with the women’s Bundesliga?
Yes, as the manager of Cologne I was also responsible for the women’s Bundes- liga division of the club. And a good female friend of mine is the manager at SC Freiburg. The women’s game is different to the men’s. Once you take that into account, there is phenomenal soccer to be seen. Time permitting, I would also like to go and see a women’s game at the stadium.  

Let’s talk about cars. Is it true that you are an avid driver?
Yes, I love to drive fast. But my wife feels safe with me and even sleeps while I drive. I take that as a good sign. Because of my job, I spend many hours in the car. I even drove a Touareg during my time at Hannover 96. As of recently, I now drive the new Touareg. The new edition has made a huge leap forward. If cars become self-driving in future, that would really be good for me. Then I could even get work done during the drive.  

Jörg Schmadtke has overseen almost 400 first-division and second-division matches. He has been VfL manager for three months.

Jörg Schmadtke

has been the manager of VfL Wolfsburg since June 1. He previously served as manager for Alemannia Aachen for eight years, and for Hannover 96 and 1. FC Köln for four years each. In his days on the pitch, the native Düsseldorfer was a goalkeeper and played predominantly for Fortuna in his hometown. His career later took him to SC Freiburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach. He retired 20 years ago. Schmadtke is married and has two adult children. His hobbies are reading and sports.