The moments of triumph said a lot about the man and goalkeeper Marcel Schuhen and his Darmstadt status. When promotion to the Bundesliga was finally achieved after weeks of extremely nervous tension and a physically and mentally enormously demanding match against Magdeburg, the 30-year-old went down on his knees. In an instant, tears of emotion came to him. Behind him, the fans were already running onto the pitch in wild cheers, but despite the general hubbub, the first path of some "lily" professionals led to their goalkeeper, their consistently strong goalkeeper, who is also a foreman in terms of internal climate and cohesion.
The players followed the impulse to share the first moment of great happiness with – or rather: lying on shoes – which expressed a lot. A lot of appreciation and gratitude for his enormous part in the victory against Magdeburg and the success of the whole season. "Whenever the team wobbled for a moment, he was there," says experienced defender Klaus Gjasula. "He is an outstanding support. With a goalkeeper like that, you can only move up. If he had been in goal for another team, they would have been promoted. Chapeau, I take my hat off."
Shoes, you can already say, was factor X, Y and Z for the SV 98 in this round. The winning countryman, who came to southern Hesse from Sandhausen in 2019, not only played a season without classic goalkeeper mistakes, but also kept the team in the game a few times or secured important points with various top-class actions. In the trade magazine "Kicker", Schuhen leads the ranking of the top second division players after 33 matchdays with a grade point average of 2.56.
With skin and hair
The appreciative "Schuuuuh", which echoes through the stadium at the Böllenfalltor after his saves, has long been a well-known accompaniment to his game. The leading player also comes across internally and externally as a rousing guy who speaks in a firm, loud voice and prefers a clear edge to the spongy phrase. In doing so, he exudes a degree of emotionality that sometimes makes him seem like a fan in the interview zone who has gained access to the team and dressing room via a raffle prize and goes into raptures about the experience. His haunting words at the stadium microphone on the last matchday of the pre-season, when Darmstadt's Bundesliga dream was shattered, set the tone for the successful next attempt. The goalkeeper is one of those players "who want to do everything for this club and are there with skin and hair," said coach Torsten Lieberknecht.
He performed Schuhen's preliminary masterpiece against FCM in the 74th minute. The way he first cleared in flight in front of the one-headed student, picked himself up and seconds later reflexively parried Ceka's hard-hitting shot was – the thesis is not too daring – decisive for the season. Lieberknecht made it clear afterwards that it would have been very difficult to endure a third match point in the season finale.
Schuhen stands out from the stable "lily" defense, which was the key to promotion. In the previous season, the total of 46 goals conceded, which were also the receipt for many a match played in hurray-style, were the main reason that the SVD narrowly missed the chance of promotion. Currently, they have only conceded 29 goals (twelve clean sheets), which is due to stronger shoes and a fundamentally changed defensive attitude. "There's a lot of energy in our goalkeeping team," goalkeeping coach Dimo Wache told the F.A.Z. "We had set ourselves a goal before the season in terms of the number of goals we conceded." What number is that? "I'll just say this: We're not done yet." It could well be that Wache and the three goalkeepers will be in each other's arms again on Sunday (15.30 CET in the F.A.Z. live ticker for the second Bundesliga and on Sky) after the final end of the season with the completed game at Spielvereinigung Greuther Fürth - because they may have played a season with less than 30 goals conceded.
So now Marcel Schuhen is the Bundesliga goalkeeper. Can he do that? Does Wache, who himself stood between the posts in first and second class for many years, trust his protégé to do that? "That's what I said to him quite honestly: Not last year, this year for sure," said the 49-year-old.
In general, it's hard to imagine at the moment, Schuhen didn't have an easy time in Darmstadt for quite a while. Not so much with the fans, who took him to their hearts after a bumpy start in southern Hesse because of his always combative-positive manner, than with those responsible. Lieberknecht's predecessor coach Grammozis and especially Anfang are said to have alienated with shoes as number one. In the summer of 2021, Wache and Schuhen then began to "fundamentally change his game. Physically and mentally. How he interprets a game and his role, how he can be more dominant, attitude, courage, presence, all those things," said Wache, who has been keeping the "Lilies" goalkeepers on their toes for ten years. "There was a lot at stake for shoes. We then really worked, and I am happy and grateful that we trusted each other so extremely on this path."
In the first minutes after the completed ascent, there was a second memorable scene of shoes. After the first tears had dried and the overflowing adrenaline and testosterone had gained the upper hand and had broken through in countless hugs – in which enormous forces are at work with Schuhen's hands-on participation – he suddenly held his little son in his arms. And Schuhen, the strong man in the Darmstadt penalty area, cried into his little yellow goalkeeper jersey.