By Matias Bengolo @scpaderbornen
From London to Paderborn: Bashir Humphreys chose the German second tier to enhance his development — an underrated league for it.
|SC Paderborn play their home games at the Home Deluxe Arena.||Photo: Markus Unger, CC BY-SA 2.0|
“I want to be promoted to the Bundesliga with Paderborn” Bashir Humphreys said in his first interview as an SC Paderborn 07 player.
We know why. The Bundesliga is well-known for being one of the best leagues in the world at developing young talent. Kai Havertz, Florian Wirtz, Jamal Musiala, and fellow Englishman Jude Bellingham rose from Birmingham City to being touted as one of the best midfielders in the world. How? Because the Bundesliga doesn’t just give young players opportunities when other leagues may not, but the Bundesliga also gives them a platform and has a large enough fanbase to be noticed… quickly. The Bundesliga’s wide media presence helps players. They are looser with their video sharing compared to other leagues, and have over four million followers on TikTok, for example.
The 2. Bundesliga is a little different. The 2. Bundesliga has almost zero English exposure. It doesn’t even have a Twitter account. Germany’s second division has a reputation for being crazy, as players slog a 34-game season out. Teams are either clawing their way to safety or battling for promotion. You’re rarely in between. That’s what I love about the 2. Bundesliga, it’s what makes it so unique as a division.
As well as this, the quality of youth development in the 2. Bundesliga is severely underrated. Ransford-Yeboah Königsdörffer (Hamburg, striker, aged 20), Armindo Sieb (Fürth, forward, aged 19), Shinta Appelkamp (Fortuna, midfielder, aged 22), Marvin Pieringer (Paderborn on loan from Schalke 04, striker, aged 23). All players aforementioned are 2. Bundesliga products and I guarantee most will become solid Bundesliga players in the future, at a floor.
Bashir Humphreys most likely had offers on the table from Bundesliga clubs. Would he be the unofficial captain after a week of signing for the club? I don’t think so. This is something that is so crucial to development — trust and opportunity — that the 2. Bundesliga gives players.
Humphreys was alongside former Brighton and Hove Albion defender and veteran Uwe Hünemeier when the Chelsea loanee debuted for Paderborn in the DFB-Pokal against VfB Stuttgart. This was to help Humphreys with key communication, and he had someone to fall back on and speak English to if needed.
It’s not feasible for 37-year-old Hünemeier to play two games in three days. So, Humphreys was on his own. In a pivotal match against promotion aspirers Fortuna Düsseldorf. Without much knowledge of the German language. As a former captain of Chelsea’s youth team, Humphreys knows what it’s like to be a leader, and he showed those qualities. He didn’t stop barking out instructions to his defenders, a simple point to direct the left-back of where to stand or where he wanted the ball playing to. He was playing the next move in his head, identifying the space on the pitch. It helped when he received the ball, countless times Humphreys would take off from his central defender position and dribble into open space, before spraying a pass to the wing. The football IQ was clear to see, and he was smarter than any other player on the field. Paderborn won 4-1, and a penalty was the only reason the defense didn’t earn a clean sheet.
Humphreys has completed 84 per cent of his passes in the first two games at Paderborn, winning half of his total ground duels and completing over 50 per cent of his long balls. The English Under-20 international was trusted as the anchor of the defense against Fortuna Düsseldorf, and four of his nine long passes were on point. He seems more than comfortable with the role, and the level of football. He faced a prolific striker in Rouwen Hennings and limited him to two shots on goal (one from a penalty).
Paderborn’s head coach Lukas Kwasniok is convinced by the 19-year-old, “His performances don’t surprise me. He is an asset to us. I would have given him a win at the start.” Kwasniok is a former youth coach with Karlsruhe and knows how to develop players to their full potential.
He even already has a nickname with the club, players and coaches call him ‘Bash’ behind the scenes. Despite speaking a limited level of the language, Paderborn have welcomed him with open arms and his personality helped that connection, “Bash brings a lot of quality – on the pitch but also as a human being.” Kwasniok added.
Bashir Humphreys played for Chelsea’s first team, and regularly trained with Graham Potter’s crop. He chose to enhance his development by traveling to Germany without knowledge of the language and picked the 2. Bundesliga. Regardless of if Paderborn are promoted or not, this six-month spell will allow Humphreys to get out of his comfort zone of Cobham and fight for something as the leader of a defense. The 2. Bundesliga is the home for opportunities like these.
The 2. Bundesliga deserves more credit for developing players.