Raphael Framberger joined FC Augsburg when he was just nine years old. Despite suffering several injury setbacks along the way, Framberger refused to give up and has since become a first-team regular. The defender takes a look back on his career and his journey to the Bundesliga.
While lying in a hotel in Wolfsburg at the end of January 2017, Raphael Framberger had to take a moment to collect his thoughts. Just a few weeks earlier, he hadn’t really had much contact with the FCA first team, despite being named in a few matchday squads two years ago as an 18-year-old. Back then, he would have to wait to make his first Bundesliga appearance and as time went on, he drifted further away from the first team.
“That was a difficult time,” he said, with a look back on the 2014/15 season. That season, Framberger occasionally trained with the FCA first team before returning to the U23s and even helping out the U19s on occasion. He also suffered various injuries in that time, which continued to plague him. However, even back then, the Augsburg native was already accepting of the fact that at that age, he would have to cycle through the reserves and wouldn’t be a first-team regular straight away. “That was completely normal at that age,” he said, although his career would take a swift turn in early 2017.
In December 2016, Manuel Baum took over as head coach of FCA, after working his way up through the FCA academy. Baum clearly remembered Framberger. “After that, it went very quickly,” said Framberger, who wasn’t originally slated to take part in the first team’s winter training camp. “Manuel Baum called me two, three days before training camp to let me know that I could participate. That’s when I was finally able to rejoin the first team,” Framberger said. The defender was given the opportunity to showcase his skills and also benefitted from a spot of luck, as the team was dealing with injuries to several players ahead of their opening Rückrunde match against VfL Wolfsburg. “I’d been expecting to play all week. During our final training session, the coach told me that I’d be playing, as long as I didn’t do anything stupid before then,” he said.
Framberger behaved, and was rewarded with a spot in the starting XI against Wolfsburg. The night before the game, he was lying in the hotel running things through in his mind. “I thought about it a lot and was nervous,” he said, but his excitement at getting to play eventually won out. With the support of friends and family, who told him that “I could only win,” Framberger was eventually able to drift off to sleep. The following day, he delivered an impressive performance on the pitch.
Augsburg went a goal down to the Wolves, but managed to equalise through a lucky goal from Halil Altintop. FCA found their way back into the match, and were eventually rewarded with a second from Dominik Kohr, with Framberger providing the assist. “That was unbelievable! I never thought that it would go like that,” the 24-year-old said about his first-team debut. Being able to crown his debut with an assist was also a bit of a surprise for him. “I rarely provided any assists with the U19s or the U23s. You couldn’t have dreamed up a better debut,” he said.
Over the weeks and months that followed, Framberger became a first-team regular and was always part of the matchday squad, provided he was healthy. He has since made 29 Bundesliga appearances, but has been plagued by injuries along the way. “I never thought that things would go the way they have. It took some time before I felt comfortable calling myself a professional footballer,” said Framberger, who added that his easy-going character was likely of benefit during his development as a player. “I was never obsessed with having just one goal in mind that absolutely had to work out. As long as you have fun and have the talent needed, then you should believe in what you want to achieve.”
That was already his mindset back in 2004, when he joined the FCA academy as a nine year old from his hometown club, Cosmos Aystetten. Both his father and brother, Daniel, had also played for Aystetten, with Daniel having also made the move to FCA. “That’s how the club knew that I also played football,” Framberger said about his move to Augsburg. At the time, the FCA first team was playing in the third-division Regionalliga, with the Bundesliga still a far-off dream. Framberger wasn’t thinking about a career as a professional, and was just happy being able to train surrounded by talented players and in the midst of a familiar setting. “That was important to me. It was a privilege that I was able to drive home everyday to visit my family and that my friends lived relatively close by,” he said.
His teammates may have changed since those days, but his surroundings have remained relatively unchanged since his Bundesliga debut in 2017. “I’m still in touch with a few friends from my youth academy days, and they still live in Augsburg. If we have time, then we chat or we play video games together,” he said. Having become a regular starter in the Bundesliga and doing so in his hometown are two achievements that Framberger is especially proud of. “It’s nice to be so connected to the city,” he said. “This is the only life I know, and I’m not opposed to it staying like this.”