Happy Mitchell Langerak a charm for Borussia Dortmund | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 11.11.2013
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Happy Mitchell Langerak a charm for Borussia Dortmund

Mention Mitch Langerak to Borussia Dortmund fans and they will say the same thing - the Australian back-up goalkeeper is the club's "lucky charm." It is hard to argue with their logic.

In 13 matches for the club, the Dortmund No.2 has only failed to be part of a winning team once. Even then, the 25-year-old could be considered unlucky; that one blemish on his otherwise-spotless record came after he entered the field following the sending off of Roman Weidenfeller and with Dortmund already losing 1-0 to Napoli.

The 'lucky charm' label, and Langerak's seemingly ever-constant smile, has given the shot-stopper somewhat of a cult status among the club's fans: "I've heard a few things and whatnot about being a bit of a lucky charm because I've won quite a few games when I've played, so that's a good little statistic to have," he laughed while telling DW.

"But it's all relative, I think. When I've played I've been lucky. We've played well and had a good team in front of me and generally the boys can put the ball in the back of the net at the other end," he said.

Particularly in the unpredictable careers of goalkeepers, Langerak knows the moniker has a use-by date. "Yeah, I'll take it while I can, to be honest," he said with another chuckle.

Langerak arrived in Germany in May 2010 after a breakout season from Australian A-League club Melbourne Victory. With vice-captain Weidenfeller, the established No.1 for Dortmund, Langerak has had to be patient for opportunities under coach Jürgen Klopp.

Dream debut

His debut, in February 2011, had the potential to be the stuff of nightmares - against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. He acquitted himself well in a 2-1 win; a victory that was to prove essential to Dortmund's Bundesliga title win that season.

Langerak has since shown himself a more than capable stand-in for Weidenfeller, and the 2013-14 season is looming as his best yet. Debuts in the Champions League and for Australia have already come.

The latter was a bitter-sweet experience, with a 6-0 loss to France on October 11 costing German coach Holger Osieck his job. A score line like that might mean a poor game for a goalkeeper, but Langerak could not be blamed for any of the goals and made several superb stops to emerge with his reputation enhanced.

The ensuing retirement of established Australia No.1 Mark Schwarzer has given Langerak a run at the starting position for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"It's been exciting times for me," he said. "… For me personally, it's been fantastic to make the progress and be involved in a lot of games … obviously to make my Champions League debut and then to back it up two weeks later and to make my Socceroos debut - it's a bit of a dream come true.

"It's happened really fast and it's gone really well, so hopefully I can continue to play games and make inroads in my development, and if I get the chance to play for the Socceroos a few more times and Dortmund a few more times, then fantastic."

Patience a virtue of Langerak

The life and times of a second-choice goalkeeper can be a frustrating one. In Langerak, however, Klopp has a patient successor to Weidenfeller's throne. Being at a club like Borussia Dortmund helps, and Langerak touched on the differences between his team and others.

"It does definitely feel like we are representing Dortmund, because you just feel the vibe around the club, around the city," he said. "It almost feels like the city just functions on the club, and everybody's willing the team to win.

"The experience on matchday … you look around the city and people have got flags out their windows, everything's decorated, the cars all covered in Dortmund stickers and everything. It's just phenomenal, what it is here.

"To be involved in that, it's really something special. Even at the games, you can feel that it's more than just a club. It's more a cult-thing for the people here in Dortmund.

"Definitely when I'm at away games, you can feel the difference between our club and other clubs - even when we go to Bayern and that … We feel like we've got the following, the fans have got more belief in us and we've got a bit more of a culture."

France's forward Olivier Giroud (3rd L) scores past Australia's goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak (C) during the friendly football match France vs Australia on October 11, 2013 at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris. Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

It has already been a memorable season for Langerak, who made his debut for Australia against France on October 11.

Well placed to comment on how the Bundesliga is regarded both in Germany and abroad, Langerak points to an ever-growing and far-reaching popularity rivaled by few leagues around the world.

"In the Champions League final there were two German teams, and the year before Bayern lost on the penalties," he said.

"When Mario Götze signed at Bayern, I actually asked him straight away, 'Did you ever think about going to Madrid or Man United or anything?'. He said, 'Yeah, I had interest from them,' but he wanted to stay in the Bundesliga.

"It just shows the strength the league has got at the moment."

Keeping enemies close

Langerak believes the race to this season's Bundesliga title "might go down to the wire," citing Dortmund's league matches against Bayern - the first of which comes on November 23 - as key.

How much involvement Dortmund's 'lucky charm' will have in Dortmund's title campaign remains to be seen. He has at least recovered his trademark grin, having broken his two front teeth when he collided with the upright in his Champions League debut against Napoli on September 18.

"They're a lot better now. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt at all … I didn't even know I'd lost my teeth at the time, because it actually didn't hurt," he said. "But I've got them fixed up now and my girlfriend says they look better than before, which is important."