Simon Zoller
Still living in Cologne even though he plays for Bochum now: ex-1. FC striker Simon Zoller Photo: Frederik Löwer

Simon Zoller: “Once you’ve lived here, it’s difficult to leave”

Once Cologne has got you, it's got you! Footballer Simon Zoller doesn't play for Cologne's 1. FC Köln football club anymore but he still lives here. Why? He tells us in the latest episode of the Köln-Clash podcast.

Though footballer Simon Zoller now plays for VfL Bochum, his heart still belongs to Cologne, where he used to play for the 1. FC Köln club and still lives. “Zolli”, his wife, TV presenter Laura Wontorra, and their dog have made Cologne their home and, as you’d expect, they live a stone’s throw away from the 1. FC stadium.

What does it take to make Simon Zoller happy? Tinned ravioli and Kölsch!

Relationship with sports journalist Laura Wontorra

Simon was 22 when he earned himself a place in the Bundesliga and the newly promoted Cologne team. “I played for them for five years and learned an incredible amount during that time,” says the now 31-year-old striker. The first half of his first season didn’t go well and he began to feel the public pressure for the first time. It was also at this point that his relationship with sports journalist Laura Wontorra became public knowledge. It was all too much for him.

In what he now admits was a hasty reaction, Simon chose to escape. Professionally speaking, at least. He was loaned to his old club, FC Kaiserslautern, but wasn’t able to repeat his success there either. So he returned to his adopted home of Cologne six months later, was given a second chance and “converted” it. One of the things that helped him was the open, direct character of people in Cologne, an aspect he misses when he’s away from the city for a while.

“Football isn’t all positive – there’s a lot of pain too”

Simon’s had a lot of struggles during his career. “I had a lot of injuries when I was younger,” he tells us. That led to him having to take lots of breaks. A year ago, he tore a ligament and was out of action for several months. Now he’s back and he and the VfL, currently bottom of their table, have their work cut out. After seven matchdays, they only have one point to their name.

“Football isn’t all positive – there’s a lot of pain too,” says the player. But, who knows, perhaps he might still go back to 1. FC Köln? He’s planning to stay put in Cologne for a while so he’d definitely feel at home there. As Simon says, “Once you’ve lived here, it’s difficult to leave.”

Podcast featuring Simon Zoller on his love for Cologne

One reason for that is Cologne’s pub culture and Simon’s tip for a good place for a drink is Zum Goldenen Schuss. He was a regular when he was with 1. FC Köln and still likes going there now to enjoy an evening out with friends and watch live sport. When he’s out with visitors for a night on the town, he goes to bars like Sixpack. Despite being a sportsman through and through, he enjoys a bit of fun too.

To hear what else he loves about Cologne and what his hopes for his career are, tune in to the episode with Simon and Cologne actor Mirka Pigulla in the second series of the Köln Clash podcast.

Want to hear more anecdotes about Cologne? Have a listen to series 1 of Köln Clash to hear Dr Mark Benecke, Irina Schauch, Melanie Raabe and many more.

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