To some of you, it may not be news that I have been residing in Dortmund for a while now. Schnitzel, a staunch Bayern Munich fan, experiencing the football culture of a city that has little to offer aside from football. A city that has become synonymous with one of German football’s biggest clubs. A city that houses the world’s fiercest, loudest, and most passionate fanbase.
Watching a football game at the Signal Iduna Park is a religious experience. It is akin to a football pilgrimage, not least due to how ridiculously difficult it is to get tickets. Borussia Dortmund fans and club ultras ensure that the entire stadium is sold out well before every matchday. I had to wait for three whole months before I managed to get a ticket to a game. And the stadium atmosphere never disappoints. The Yellow Wall is a spectacle unrivalled in world football, and something I believe every football fan should experience at least once.
With the hopes of an entire city (in fact, most of the Bundesliga fanbases in and around the Rhine-Ruhr area were rooting for the Black and Yellows) riding on their shoulders, and Bayern Munich leaking points like that old tap near the garage you still haven’t fixed, the stage was set for Dortmund to salvage what had been a disappointing season thus far - crashing out in embarrassing fashion against Chelsea in the Champions League and getting eliminated early once again in the DFB Pokal.
Thomas Tuchel did a very bad job, and there are no two ways about it. This might sound harsh, but the coach did have enough time to make some changes. In fact, he didn’t even have to change a lot. The Bayern machine was steamrolling opposition in the UCL and the Pokal before his entry. Fast forward two months, and Bayern is out of two competitions and clinging on for dear life in the Bundesliga. This was the Bayern side Dortmund had to usurp. The weakest the club has looked in ages.
The Bayern fan in me wanted my club to win the title no matter what. However, pardon me for thinking that losing the title to Dortmund wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Bayern’s club management had lost the plot, and I believe that some issues will continue to linger, for reasons I could discuss at a later time. A trophy-less season could accelerate needed changes. More importantly, though, I wanted it for the Dortmund fans.
The entire city was buzzing. Everyone was talking about it; people were lining the streets donning their jerseys and scarves with pride. Flags were waving, hearts were racing with excitement and cautious optimism, and there was a lot of beer everywhere.
Dortmund is a city with a population of around 600,000 people. It was predicted that in the event of a title win, the resulting victory parade would involve 400,000 people. Absolutely BONKERS. That is how much a title would mean to these fans. They have been longing for this moment. And I’m not going to lie... I was planning to take part in the procession too. The energy and passion these people have for the club is insane. I remember meeting an elderly gentleman at a pub during a screening of the home game against Gladbach and learned that he’s third-generation in the familial line of BVB fans. He has two grandchildren, who support the club with what they call “Borussia fever.”
He told me, “Borussia is a feeling. I have supported this club since forever, and my family will continue this tradition. Of course, it is hard to bet on them winning the Bundesliga, but this is the closest we’ve come in years, and all I have is hope.” And at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to see Dortmund clinch the title. To give all these families what they’ve been longing for.
Boy oh boy, was I not ready for the utter disappointment that followed.
I had planned to visit the city center for the victory parade with a work colleague that day. I wanted to witness an entire city celebrating. We had a watch party set up, and everything was going perfectly well up until the commencement of the game. What I did not expect, was to be let down so horrendously by the Dortmund defence. Conceding two goals inside 30 minutes during a title decider? Yikes.
I didn’t even wait to see the game till its conclusion. I changed plans, and we wished to leave the city and spend the night in Düsseldorf. Because sad as it sounds, I knew deep down that Dortmund was going to bottle it. I didn’t even have to check the score; the expression on people’s faces on my way to the train station told me everything. That level of crestfallen is what I’d call “rock bottom.” There was little to no light in their eyes, and all cheer was lost. I felt so gutted.
This felt like a massive injustice to the fans. The team had one job, and they had their fate in their hands. They simply couldn’t deliver when it truly mattered (once again). I felt so pained by my surroundings, that I decided to travel over the weekend and take some time off just to distract myself. Football is certainly not everything, but when it means so much to these people, results can liberate you, or crush you.
However, I can tell you this with certainty: the fans will continue to show up at games, continue to scream their lungs out for the club, and continue to keep the flame of hope burning. As Borussia Dortmund continues to find new ways to disappoint, the fans continue finding ways to hope, to dream, and to keep the passion thrumming.
Jude Bellingham is gone, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens might be next. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that the club is deemed a “stepping stone” by many players. The fans still clinch their jerseys and touch the club badge with pride. The Signal Iduna Park will continue to be sold out for every fixture. And that is why I dedicate this piece to the Dortmund fanbase... a family that I respect and admire.
This city will always hold a special place in my heart and memories, and clubs like these are an important reason why the Bundesliga will never lose its magic.