What makes football worth following? Clinching the 10th Bundesliga title in a row? See whether Lionel Messi can lead PSG to their highly anticipated Champions League title? Or if Hansi Flick will bring a German national team from the ashes in Qatar?
It’s a question with many answers — all depending on the individual and none of them wrong. Today I asked myself, what makes football worth following in Bochum? The answer is for days like this.
Unless you have a fascination for industrial cities with a predictably grim climate, Bochum is a place you can skip before you kick the bucket. The city, located in the heart of the Ruhr district, was once part of Germany’s important mining region. Like many other cities in the Ruhr Valley, Bochum faced a harsh down-turn as black hard coal mining came to an end.
In 2013, Die Techniker Krankenkasse, Germany’s largest health insurance fund, published a map which showed that people in the Ruhrgebiet take +25% more sick days due to depression, compared to the German average. The main reason for this lies somewhere in the lack of outlook, both economically and personally, in a district that has been described as ‘’problem region number one’’ by the German Welfare Association.
Like in many other places in the world, going to the football stadium serves as a break from normality in the football-crazy Ruhr. But unfortunately for VfL Bochum supporters, their team has never reached the heights of their Dortmund or Gelsenkirchen neighbors. Bochum, who is currently surprising many during their first season back in the top-flight since 2010, has since the early 1990s been seen as a typical ‘’yo-yo club’’. Not good enough for the Bundesliga, but always a challenger in the Zweite.
Therefore, VfL Bochum is a club, that unlike Borussia Dortmund or Schalke 04, savors the chance to play against Bayern Munich on their home turf, fittingly named the Ruhrstadion. It is also a club that expects nothing when playing against one of football’s most successful teams.
Bayern Munich has conceded four goals in one half in the Bundesliga four times before today, the last time being in November 1975. The odds on today being the fifth occasion, must have been very high.
That’s why today served as another reminder of why I love this game. It’s a game where the ‘’have-less’’ always has a chance against the ‘’have-lots’’. Modern football is unfair outside the pitch, but on it, it’s a unique level playing field. A football pitch has always been one of the few societal phenomena where the poor stand a fighting chance against the rich.‘’Zieh den Bayern die lederhosen aus’’ — Take the Bavarians’ lederhosen off — screamed the Bochum supporters in unison, realizing that this Brazilian-inspired Bochum side would become the first to beat the Bavarians since 2004.
A standing ovation erupted when the final whistle blew. Both teams went down the Ruhrstadion player tunnel that is designed to look like an old traditional mining tunnel.
For Bayern, it was a game that they will shake off.
For Bochum, it was 90 minutes that made it all worth it.