Accessible, top-flight football a little more than an hour by air from London? Welcome to the Bundesliga. Words JURIS GRANEY
There were many overnight converts to football when Australia made the World Cup. Not only did I jump on the bandwagon, I was also the reckless driver, staying up late and drinking beer before going to work. Of course, once they were knocked out, I went back to real life and my staple diet of every other football code other than soccer (oops, I mean football).
To say my interest in football is tepid is an understatement. However, a stadium crammed full of more than 81,000 fans at one of the biggest matches in the German Bundesliga competition has changed all that. Friday night football has never been so good and I can thank BV Borussia Dortmund (BVB) for my new passion.
After arriving at the snow-covered Westfalenstadion (corporately known now as Signal Iduna Park), a 20-minute walk from Dortmund Central Station, we beat the crowds by getting there two hours before kick off, a smarter move than trying to get into the stadium just before the game. In comparison to the only massive football stadium I have been in – the Melbourne Cricket Ground – the Westfalenstadion is tall and tight with every seat offering obstruction-free viewing.
We are stationed behind the BVB goals and, considering their form throughout the season, I’m prepared for a goal onslaught, given the opposition is powerhouse FC Bayern Munich. It is to my disappointment, then, that the first goal of the night goes to BVB because we are at the wrong end of the field (I don’t show my despondency to the hysterical crowd).
The most amazing sight is not the perfectly manicured pitch; rather, it’s the mass of 13,000 convulsing chanting fans, dubbed the Yellow Wall, who forgo the luxury of seats and instead stand for the entire match. In their rabid fervour, they inadvertently create rhythmic formations that make even the best Mexican Wave look like a piss-poor attempt by amateurs. Spine-tingling? Maybe. Give you goosebumps? Definitely.
I picture myself as an opposition keeper standing there for 45 minutes trying to blend into the white goalposts, net or even the lush green pitch. For a fleeting second I think there might be a market for a green and white jersey before Bayern’s Oliver Kahn saves a certain goal and goads the crowd. Not long after, though, BVB’s Alexander Frei slams one past him and karma takes hold.
The stadium, used at the last World Cup, is nicknamed the Opera House of German Football for good reason. The Wall erupts as one voice with the German equivalent of ‘he’s an arsehole, he’s a wanker, he’s a son of a bitch’. It reverberates perfectly around the stadium.
There are plenty of sullen faces when Munich’s Daniel van Buyten levels the score in the 25th minute and again when Roy Makaay scores just before the break. Trailing 2-1, many of the diehard fans think it’s over. That is until Frei pops his second and a bloke named Tinga scores to give BVB a memorable 3-2 win.
I profess my love of BVB to many of the crowd and, although overjoyed I have fallen in love with their team, they generally want to share the joy of the win with fans who have followed the team for longer than 90 minutes.
My newly acquired yellow and black, dinky-di scarf is worn all the way back to London, much to the ire of security staff at Cologne/Bonn Airport, who I discover to be diehard Munich supporters.
And the best part: it’s often cheaper to fly to Germany and watch a match then it is to get a ticket to a Premier League match here in the UK.
• Juris Graney travelled to Dortmund with easyJet, who fly to Dortmund from Luton, and nearby Cologne from Gatwick, with return fares from £47
When too much football is never enough
Borussia Dortmund v FC Shalke 04, May 12
I thought the match against FC Bayern Munich was going to be the match of the season, but apparently BVB and Shalke really don’t like each other, so this will be a ripper. It’s also the last home game of the season for Dortmund and as such, should provide a fantastic atmosphere.
FC Koln v Kickers Offenbach, May 13
Catch nearby Cologne’s last clash at their RheinEnergie Stadium. It may not be as big but the Cologne fans love their football equally as much as the Dortmund supporters. The stadium is 5km from the city centre.
Some handy football phrases in German
Where’s your white cane, ref?
Wo ist Dein Blindenstock, Schieri?
Get up, you big sook!
Steh auf, Du Weichei!
If he scores this goal, I’m leaving now
Wenn er jetzt ein Tor macht, geh’ich
I have had too much German beer, where is the toilet?
Ich hatte zuviel deutsches Bier, wo ist die Toilette?