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Words: Owen Blackhurst

“It felt inevitable,
” Uli Hesse tells us outside Signal Iduna Park. Uli is a fifty-something Borussia Dortmund season ticket holder who is five pints deep, wearing a flat cap and a BVB scarf. Uli is also a brilliant author and journalist, and the editor of MUNDIAL's German second cousin 11 Freunde. We’ve asked him about the events of January 18th, 2020. Borussia Dortmund away at Augsburg. 3–1 down, 54 minutes on the clock. 

“I’ve been watching football a long time,” Uli continues. "And I’ve never had that before when a player comes on and he’s a kid, and you just know he is going to be good.”

It’s wet look gel and side parting Haaland who is summoned from the bench by Lucien Favre. Black kit, two yellow Bundesliga stars on the chest, some fancy silver detailing. Does he look nervous? Nope. He runs on, barks the new formation into the mist and signals it twice on his gigantic fingers in case people can’t hear him.

It’s not hyperbole to call what happens after that one of the great debuts. He grabs Augsburg by the throat, pins them up against the wall, and gives them a good old-fashioned thrashing. The first goal is concussive, a daggering left-footer across the keeper and the second a little tap to the ribs to set up the finale. Haring onto Gio Reyna’s pass after a curved run, he gobbles up the ground and delivers the knockout roundhouse to a broken opponent, friends turning away and strangers shaking their heads as the jukebox kicks into life, and AC/DCs ‘Thunderstruck’ starts up.His teammates are hanging off him and howling; he is red in the face, puppy fat suddenly very noticeable, looking like he could burst with happiness as he eye fucks the travelling fans with his arms in the air, yellow and black flags and scarves fluttering back.

Erling Haaland has just scored with his first three shots in German football. The following week, he comes off the bench and scores a brace against FC Köln, and the week after that bags another double at home to Union Berlin. In between, he’s named the Bundesliga Player of the Month for January. He was only on the pitch for 57 minutes.

His shuddering impact sent tremors rumbling out across Germany’s 16 federal states and into the news desks and onto the smartphones of people everywhere.

“It’s fair to say he was a sensation,” Uli tells us, in accented English that sounds like he’s spent a lot of time in the North West or listening to The Beatles. “One of the problems we have is Bayern’s dominance and how the Bundesliga is being overshadowed by other leagues, and within weeks you had fans from all over the world coming to Dortmund to see him. It lifted everyone’s spirits, this arrival of a superstar player who didn’t play for Bayern...”

The above is an excerpt from our Issue 24 cover story. You'd love to read the whole thing, so click here to do exactly that.

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