With three Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards, two assists, and four goals—including the match-winner against a conference rival—in the first seven weeks of his college career, it seems safe to assume that Henning Sauerbier has had no trouble settling down to life in the Ivy League. Just two months into his college career, the Sauerbier has already established himself as a crucial part of the Columbia men’s soccer team.
The freshman from Germany has been playing soccer for as long as he can remember. “Germany is one of the biggest soccer nations, and I think I started playing with my friends as soon as we could walk,” Sauerbier said. “I joined a club in my hometown, Düren, and after clearing selections for my town and region, I joined Bayer Leverkusen at the age of 14.” At Leverkusen, Sauerbier was part of a squad that won the German League Championship in 2007, as well as the German National Cup at the youth level the following year.
The youngster spurned the advances of some of the biggest clubs in Germany, including Bayern Munich, Schalke, and Cologne, as well as England’s Manchester City. “I chose Leverkusen because they were close to where I lived, and they are known for having the best youth teams in Germany,” he said. “They force you to have high academic standards as well as playing soccer, and supported us a lot, which made me comfortable.”
Sauerbier came to Columbia so that he could have the opportunity to play soccer at a high level while also receiving a good education, whereas he would have been forced to choose between the two in Germany. Julian Richers, CC ’13 and one of Sauerbier’s close friends, hails from Düren as well and played a major role in Sauerbier’s move to Morningside Heights. “I visited Julian here last year when I was on vacation, and I was very impressed with what I saw,” Sauerbier said. “He has helped me a lot and I am very grateful, since through him I found the right fit for myself.”
“I could not live without soccer, and just playing was not an option,” he added. “Columbia gave me the perfect opportunity to combine my passion with my education.”
This past weekend, Sauerbier scored with 76 seconds left on the clock to give the Lions all three points against Dartmouth. He played on the right wing against the Big Green in a shift from the usual left-wing spot that he has occupied for the majority of the team’s campaign.
Junior co-captain Mike Mazzullo has been very impressed with the young German’s adaptable nature. “Henning had a great game against Dartmouth,” he said. “He showed his versatility playing on the right, and it’s really good for us to have the additional flexibility of where he plays.”
“He’s been a big player for us this year and scored some crucial goals already,” Mazzullo added. “Overall, he’s a fantastic player with a great work ethic. He defends really well, too, which adds balance to the side. What I like most about his style is that he keeps things simple and knows how to finish. He showed great energy and fitness to run all the way into the box to score in the 90th minute last weekend—it was his dedication that got us the winner.”
Sauerbier is no stranger to the right wing, as that is where he took the field for the German National Team at the U-17 European Championships in Belgium and the FIFA U-17 World Cup in South Korea in 2007. Playing at the highest youth level allowed Sauerbier to compete alongside several fantastic players, including Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos, both of whom were in South Africa with the German national side this summer. The experience he gained from his youth career has proved immensely valuable in the Ivy League.
Lions head coach Kevin Anderson has been pleased with Sauerbier’s start, but hopes that he takes his accolades humbly.
“I think he’s doing a good job,” Anderson said. “His international experience is certainly helping our team and helping him. He’s in the right places at the right time, and that’s equating into opportunities based on what the other players are doing. It’s a good start, and we’re very happy with where he is.”
“What’s exciting, though, is that he has the ability to do more, and we’re hoping he can create more opportunities for himself and for the team,” Anderson added. “I strongly believe the successes of a few come from the hard work of many, and that’s held true throughout the season. A lot of the guys contribute intangibles behind the scenes, which are just as important to the bigger picture of the team—and while we’re all happy for Henning, obviously, we mustn’t let it overshadow the work of the team.”