The concluding part from our Sunday afternoon at BVB, you can read the segment here.
The air is thick with cigarette smoke, and Tom and I continue to be slack jawed in awe of where we are. “That’s not a handbag” he says to me on one of the few occasions he can pick his chin off the floor.
I must admit I do find the timing of what I first think is a catty, fashionista comment about some ladies accessories a little strange, but then realise it’s another case, as at Bochum, of giant pretzels, so big you can hang them off your arm.
It’s my turn to do the beer run, only I come up against a bit of a hurdle, they don’t take cash. So I go in search of a man who will take my money, and convert into credit on a yellow pay as you go top up card, which will then allow me to get the drinks in.
Interestingly I find as with the “Borusseum” the club museum that Bjorn had told us about, that the same play with words also applies to the ‘bretzels’. Can you see what they did there? As I wait to be served, I’m almost overcome by the noise coming from back inside the ground.
Doing as the locals do, carrying our snacks like the latest Hermes, the stand is a mass of whirling scarves, and even more flags as the players start to come out for the warm up.
“Shit got busy” says Tom. In the short amount of time I’ve been away, it has become chocka block.
When the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (TSG) players come out to the familiar boos and whistles, along with the now familiar German love of a middle finger, one fan in particular gives them both barrels, mounting the railing in front of him, thrusting both digits towards the opposition.
Not content with playing each other on the pitch, the stadium announcer introduces the club’s official FIFA players, who are sitting on a couch in front of a TV on a little stage way down the front.
A drum somewhere in this heaving, living eighth wonder of the world in front of us is quietly thumping away.
Now, with less than a quarter of an hour to go, everything starts to gather more and more momentum. Flags seem to be appearing from everywhere, including on the side of the pitch as people like pikemen get into position with them rolled up resting on their shoulders.
It feels like one power ballad after another, every supporter seems to know the words and belts out the lyrics. The Ultras are clapping above their heads in time with the drummer, who could do a fine job on a Roman Galley.
What always motivated this trip was not really the football per se, you can watch that anywhere, football is football unless you perhaps go to see one of the ‘greats’ who are particularly awesome at it, but it was the supporters and atmosphere that was the biggest draw for us.
As the opening bars of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ start, the next few minutes are ones I will have difficulty ever forgetting.
80,000 people, scarves out above their heads, flawlessly sing a song that is not in their first language, the whole pitch is now covered in people whose choreographed flag flying adds to the spectacle, its hairs up on the back of your neck kind of stuff.
I’m not ashamed to say it, I like a bit of Van Halen, high pitched guitar masturbation at its finest, so when ‘Jump’ starts as the team’s appear, well I’m fucking pumped!
I wish I was able to describe quite how much is going on, I think I’m suffering from sensory overload. When the stadium announcer asks for a cheer from each stand, there was never going to be any debate as to which one was going to give the loudest, and I’m almost lifted off my feet.
“Sha, la, la, la Borussia.”
For the first time, we see the lesser spotted Capo, on his perch. He has discarded the megaphone as was the weapon of choice of his contemporaries at the previous two games.
With a bigger stand come more people, your own personal PA system will only do, its yellow and black speakers flank him as the crowd immediately in front of him pogo.
Oh yeah, there is a game on as well.
Behind the unfurled flags, standing to attention, just itching to be brought to life, BVB are both dominant and wasteful in possession all at the same time, on more than one occasion the whole ground grumbles in unison, like a Godzilla sized Eeyore.
If I thought the keg carrying beer sellers at Essen had a tough job, the “Drink Man” as their badges describes them, are performing a task of biblical proportions, we assist as best we can, lightening his load with a quick tap of our BVB contactless credit card.
With 25 minutes gone, it’s the small pocket of TSG fans at the opposite end, whose flags look so small it’s like someone is waving a handkerchief, who are celebrating when their team finally punishes BVB and scor, somewhat against the run of play.
However, it’s not like they haven’t had a fair bit of possession themselves, with the home team giving the ball away time after time.
Despite the goal, I think the fan to Tom’s left is more concerned about the fact he is flicking the foamy head off his beer “what are you doing?” than the fact his team have gone behind, “it’s the best bit!” he proclaims.
Tom’s neighbour is chatty, and happy to share his opinions. When BVB almost concede again,“this is the Bundesliga, everyone can beat everyone” he tells us, and I must admit with BVB second from the top and TSG flirting with relegation, I think we both thought it was going to be a bit more one sided.
At least though in his beer haze he is still able to be philosophical – “but it’s only a game” he says, shrugging and smiling.
If you wanted the ideal voice to charm Tom into going on a date with, that of the Capo, who he describes as sounding “sexy and gravelly”, wouldn’t be a bad choice. Not quite Barry White deep, a bit more Marlboro reds and straight Jack Daniels, he keeps the atmosphere at a constant level regardless of the score or performance.
Marco Reus almost levels the game, just before half time with a sweetly hit curling free kick, which is up and over the wall, but just a little too close to the keeper, whose slightly overly theatrical outstretched save, pushes it round the post.
“No toilet break for him” Tom notices, pointing at the Capo, who instead of stopping and taking a chance to rest, continues to manage the Ultras as both teams leave the pitch.
We, on the other hand, use the stop in play to take advantage of the free Wifi, and check the football scores from home.
When we had looked before kick off, both Spurs and Arsenal were losing, but with the full time whistle having gone now, the fortunes of Spurs at least had changed, they have managed to turn things around and win, sadly for Tom, boohoo, Arsenal have lost to Manchester United.
For a moment I forget where I am, and start to rub salt into Tom’s raw Arsene Wenger shaped wound, reconfirming for him how awesome Spurs are, and other such nonsense, all in my Spurs scarf, in the ground of our next Europa League opponents.
I received a few looks, nothing aggressive or threatening, just a glance here or there, which has probably more to do with me dancing about, rather than a blue and white scarf, but revert back to the shrinking violet I am, nonetheless.
I’m a big fan of a raffle or 50/50 and nine times out of ten at the non-league games we go to in England you can win a hamper of fudge or a bottle of plonk, but sadly it’s not a tradition that continues higher up the pyramid at home, but not here.
If we didn’t think football in Germany was awesome enough as it is, the half time entertainment is two people guessing the weight of a ham, like two children guessing how many sweets are in the jar at the School Summer fair, to win a mobile phone.
That voice, that rock and roll voice starts up again “Borussia, Borussia”. It’s absolutely deafening and, perhaps spurred on by the crowd, BVB hit the post in the opening minutes of the new half.
Tom, however, is contemplating his life where you just sound like everyone else – “wish my phone voice sounded like that”.
I think the last thing you would want to do is make ‘The Wall’ angry, 26,000 people baying for your blood, but the referee seems adamant to wind them up with some very strange decisions.
Another subject covered in our German football masters this weekend is if the crowd disagree, the beers starts to fly. One fan just in front follows suit and launches his drink forwards.
Whereas in the last two games this has gone on without even the hint of disapproval from the stewards, a watchful one on our block is squeezing down the line of the beverage hurler, and starts to scold him.
It gets quite heated, and it looks like he is going to get chucked out.
If Tom was not in the loo he would have undoubtedly said to me “game on” when TSG get a man sent off with thirty minutes of the game left.
The angry wall, is now a happy wall, and its wave, after wave of BVB attack, but they are still unable to shake that sloppy tag from the first half.
A team can have all the possession in the world, but when the one you’re up against put ten men behind the ball, it’s a tough proposition, along with TSG playing for time, taking just that little bit longer to get up after fouls, taking an age to take throw ins or goal kicks, the clock is slowly ticking down.
You know a fan is committed when their oxygen tank is in the colours of the club they support and she, along with the other 81, 359 here today, are willing on the team, and will ten minutes to go there is finally a breakthrough.
“Toooooorrrrrrr” people are hugging each other, people are hugging the stewards, confetti rains down around us. Every conceivable thing, that can we waved, swung, whirled or swooshed is above people’s heads, as TSG’s rear guard is finally broken down.
Literally the whole stand is bouncing, not just the hardcore, not just the Ultras, everyone. It’s spread like wild fire, I’m sure I even saw the woman with the oxygen at it.
If you can imagine the atmosphere and excitement of the equalising goal, now try to picture how the place went through the roof, when they went ahead.
Once again my vocabulary struggles to express quite how fucking insane it is when this many people, well over double of what Bournemouth get in their whole ground, and not taking into account the rest of the place, celebrate together the goal that now puts them in the lead.
Once Tom has stopped singing along and dancing with his new best friend to his left, “ola, ola BVB, ola, ola, BVB”, he looks us both dead in the eye shouting so he can be heard “home power!”
I’m not sure how much more of this I can take because BVB only go and grab a third; the man of the moment, African footballer of the year pops up to put the game to bed in extra time.
Both of us are now fully caught up in the moment, like the TSG defense we have crumbled, the BVB spirit has enveloped us, and we join all those around us in shouting the scorers name “Aubameyang”.
With the game over, the win confirmed, a giant bee strides around the pitch, it’s black and yellow so I guess it counts, and what is perhaps my favourite German football tradition takes places, when the team take the time to applaud the fans.
Approaching the Südtribüne, they take each other by the hand, and crouch in a line on the edge of the eighteen yard box.
The fans serenade the players with a low rumbling song, that then drops into a much livelier number, as both players and fans jump, “sha, la, la, la, la” some supporters multi task, jumping and still managing to wave a flag or swing a scarf.
The song fades out and ends with a rousing round of applause, but that’s not quite it.
“Ohhhhhhhhhh”, fingers wiggle out in front of the fans anticipating what the players are about to do, who are still joined in a line “ohhhhhhhhhhh, la, la, la” the players as one raise their arms offering one last salute to what has been a ceaseless and enduring support.
On the way out, we make sure to thank Bjorn again. We also take the opportunity to explore the foot of the now empty wall, which from up high felt so far away.
Now looking at it the other way round, from bottom to top, we have to take a second to try to get to grips with just how colossal it is.
Back at the swimming pool, it’s now dark and the ground is illuminated behind us. We take a seat on one of the empty wooden tables, on it a sticker reads “straight out of Dortmund”.
For anyone who has ever been to a summer festival, the scene adjacent to the diving board is similar to that of when the music has stopped but the party carries on.
The generators of the stalls hum away, people huddle in groups around them, eating, drinking, the air is full of the sound of people chatting, discussing the match.
One group chants to the tune of ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth” which at this precise moment would be just about how we are both feeling.