Südtribüne – Borussia Dortmund v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – Part One

Beautiful Game Dortmund 5Although I am a big fan of the Western themed concluding part of the Back To The Future saga, I can however appreciate that the third part of many trilogies can fall a little short.

The Godfather and Star Wars being fine examples, but waking with a fuzzy head again, my feeling is that today is going to be a little bit more time travelling train, than weird shit at the Vatican or tiny furry tree dwelling teddy bears.

Within walking distance of our hotel there is everything you could possibly want, including a sandwich shop that puts any Upper Crust or similar such station eatery horror show you get in England to shame.

Freshly made offerings help overcome the countless local beers we guzzled last night, in a pub that looked straight from the pages of a Hans Christian Andersen story after eating a steak the Flintstones might have struggled with.

Opposite the central station and our morning entertainment before heading off to the game is the German Football Museum, its glass fronted, angular design is hard to miss, and far too close to ignore.

We are not the only ones who have had the same idea, black and yellow is everywhere, fans of all ages displaying their support every which way they can. One car owner has gone as far as fitting a Borussia Dortmund (BVB) shirt over the driver’s seat, to match the BVB seat belt covers.

The Germans eye watering national football history, can justify a museum all of its own, and this is what the first large room is dedicated to, every so often the lights would dim, and a highlight from one of the many finals, would play out on one of the screens dotted around the room.

Memorabilia and artefacts of all kinds fill cabinets and cover walls. One favourite of mine was an Oliver Bierhoff shirt, a player I was a huge fan of growing up, watching his exploits on Football Italia on a Saturday morning.

Into the Kino, which is one of the few words of German I remember, it means cinema, a short film is showing the events of the most recent victory in Brazil. As fantastic at football the likes of Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Philipp Lahm are, when asked to do a segment to camera or segway between videos, their skills are slightly lacking.

One particular bit of ‘World Cup winners banter’ between Hummels and Müller, which I think is along the lines of ‘we are enemies at our clubs, but for our nation we are friends’ breaches the language barrier with its overwhelming awkwardness, and we with everyone else in the darkened room, let out a sigh.

Next along, and perhaps the most impressive are seven up lit cabinets, displaying four World Cups and three European Championships. It really does feel very special to be in the presence of them. Seeing the 1996 European Championship trophy, I get a flashback to one of the saddest days in my young football life, all with the Lighting Seeds playing in my head.

“A hell of a lot more yellow and black” says Tom as its BVB shirts galore at the station, this time there is no discussion what train we have to get on, and we are lucky to find a seat before it quickly resembles a commuter train from Japan.

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We cross paths with two other English guys on a similar trips to ours, also on the way to BVB and who are able to shed a little light on the mystery broken glass on the coach, that followed our near death experience on the first day.

Such was the sudden and violent manoeuvre the bus driver had to make to stop us crashing into a wandering car, one passenger ended up putting his elbow through a glass door.

From behind a line of bare trees, running alongside the railway line, we get our first view, from ground level at least of the Signal Iduna Park, its yellow stanchions jutting out from its grey body.

It’s very clear, that it is not a pretty stadium, it’s not going to win any style awards. It’s huge mass is not very inspiring, but you never judge a book by it’s cover, unless it’s written by Jeffrey Archer.

As all our mothers told us, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and there is one specific part of the inside in particular, that we are most excited about seeing.

Before we get off, an older Irish chap we had chatted to, says something I thought only people doing bad impressions of your typical Irishman would say “enjoy the craic!”.

Up a long slope from the station, along a sticker plastered pathway, we arrive at one entrance to the ground, not far from us a noisy group are getting off their coach.

A high fence at the end of the approach is closed and heavily manned with people in high viz jackets. On the other hand the food, beer, and merchandise stalls, either side of us, are raring to go.

Being inquisitive sorts, we pass what feels like the obvious options, walk down a short narrow tunnel and on the other side find a table filled courtyard, each one with a yellow and black umbrella.

White single storey buildings surround us on three sides, and on the fourth is not quite what we were expecting, a high dive and a couple of murky looking swimming pools.

As we look a little closer, studying our surroundings the banks of lockers, the Neptune mural on the wall above our heads, it dawns on us that this is the local outdoor swimming baths, right next to one of Germany’s largest football stadiums.

There are two options for food, either the stainless steel trailer, with its vat of bubbling soup, grill with burgers, next to a bucket full of boiling sausages, or chips, endless piles of chips.

We opt for the sausage, “buon appetito” says the vendor, the micro bun seems simply there to give you something to hold it with, so you don’t look like a total heathen walking around with a huge bratwurst in your hand, but the chips are calling us from their white paper tray, like mayo covered sirens, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them soon.

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Fans of BVB will clearly come from far and wide to support their team, going by the jacket of the man in front of us who is a member of the “Dortmund sailors” a Hamburg supporters club. They it seems will also wear anything black and yellow, literally anything.

One man is sporting a spiffing pair of yellow trousers which have a hint of the Rupert the Bear about them. With the cold weather there is also an eclectic mix of hats, and we discuss which is our favourite and which we might go and buy on this chilly day.

My choice does not go down well with Tom “I hate bobble hats”, his I think “is a little bit too yellow”, one person has a Bert from Bert and Ernie one, and takes the prize for best head wear, but sadly I doubt we can pick one of them up from the official shop.

Having demolished his sausage, Tom decides its “chip time”, encouraged by the two guys who just passed us eating away. The queue is long, the lady a little surly, but that has probably more to do with my poor German, than any disparaging judgement on what I’m sure is normally a gleaming personality.

Regardless the wait is well worth it, and despite them being “fucking hot” as Tom learns the hard way after being a little hasty chucking them in his gob, and manages again to get another condiment stain on his jacket, it’s worth it, and with the beer, they go down so well.

Eager to move on, we can hear the occasional burst of a horn in the distance, we head off, hoping the gates are now open. They are, and the numbers have swelled, “its a sea of black and yellow” comments Tom, more and more fans with scarves around their wrists are making their way in, men in jean vests covered in patches, and one woman in the same get up is carrying a drum almost as big as her.

Whatever country you are in, whatever football team you are watching, the clubs shops sell all the same tat, just a different colour, with a different badge on. The official BVB trailer is no different, even selling a dog bowl, amongst the flags and shirts.

Tom however, adds to his pin collection picking one from the many on offer.

Post pat down, bag search and quizzical look from security when we showed them our flag, our waiting around at this particular entrance has been a little fruitless, because we can’t go any further without our ticket, so need to double back, and go for a walk.

Thankfully it’s not far, and means we get to peek over the fence at BVB’s old ground, with its sweeping banks of terracing and what looks like a wooden grandstand, all in the immediate shadow of its far more modern and younger brother right next door.

It also explains the stone arch, and wrought iron gates we had passed earlier, looking like a set piece from Gladiator, beautiful but totally out of place.

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Standing outside the club’s mega store, a towering club badge hanging on the front, looking calm amongst the throngs of people is Bjorn, who works as a fan liaison at BVB. It is he who we are to collect our tickets from, and after introducing ourselves, he is kind enough to offer a bit of a tour.

Up close now, past the barriers and our second manhandling of the day, the scale of the stadium is astonishing. Walking around the windy concourse, we occasionally get a teasing glimpse of the pitch and the stand inside through wide block entrances.

More than once Bjorn stops, exchanges handshakes with passing fans, before we continue, his position means he is very much a face around here.

He is more than just a corporate staff member, someone clocking on and off. Before taking the position he tells us he used to go to all BVB games home and away.

I say this must be his “dream job”, but he looks almost sternly at me and replies “but you have to think”, think about turning your passion, your love, your obsession into your job, and what impact that is going to have on your experience.

He adds that he can’t always watch the games, like he used to because his job now means sometimes he is required elsewhere.

We are even lucky enough to get a look behind the scenes, as he takes us to where not long from now the team coaches will arrive, and the players and staff will disappear down the respective stairs into the changing rooms below, cameras are already set up, in anticipation of their arrival.

In a bit of a juxtaposition, only a few feet away from us is the entrance of the club’s old ground, that we had passed before, there is something almost poetic about them being so close, one almost merging into the other. I have to admit the stone facade and high metal gate are much more interesting than its new incarnation.

Bjorn is to leave us now, but not before I have our third or fourth Spurs oriented chat of the trip, I guess I can’t be surprised considering the two teams imminent Europa League games. He tells us he will be off to London soon, for a site visit at White Hart Lane, and I ask how the club are feeling about the draw “happy about the city, not the team” surely the mighty BVB are not concerned about little old Spurs.

Tom asks one last question, standing on an open corner of the ground, between two stands the scale of what is behind us is almost hard to fathom “can it get any bigger?” his reply is short, and to the point and
delivered with a smile “we have to have more tickets than Bayern Munich”.

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Opportunities for food, drink and merchandise seem to be everywhere, like a shopping centre and food court all mixed into one, but only selling one brand. I succumb and get us both a beer glass, İlkay Gündoğan is smiling back at us on ours.

It has a little of the ‘hello I’m a tourist’ about it, but lots of ‘locals’ seem to have them, so I don’t feel totally like I have just bought a Union Jack hat, and I’m walking around central London.

One of the more boutique shops if you like, is run by one of the three Ultras groups the club has, there is a considerable queue, stickers are the order of the day, as people hand over their money, and get a handful in return.

A small sign at the bottom of what feels like a never ending set of stairs, points to our block. We can also follow the men whose hoodies display their loyalty to one particular block in the stadium. “That was hard work” says Tom, only ever so out of breath, as I drag myself up the last couple of steps, calling out for a oxygen mask.

Once I have composed myself, there is only one thing to do, and that is to see it with our own eyes, that thing we have watched countless YouTube videos about, read about, looked at God only know how many pictures of and read numerous accounts of other people’s experiences, but we now get to see it for ourselves, the ‘Yellow Wall’, the Südtribüne.

There is not an adjective in my vocabulary that can do this living, black and yellow mountain justice. The landing at the top of our entrance, gives us both a moment not just to take it in, but also to comprehend the fact that in less than an hour 26,000 people, us included, will be standing, safely, to watch the game.

We climb a little bit further and find a spot that suits us, and the view is outstanding. The flags down below, are already going, a small child clings onto his father’s arm nervously, as they pass us in search of a somewhere to stand.

For a 32-year-old brute like me this is mind boggling, for a child it must be a mixture of terrifying and life changingly exciting

Read the concluding part from our Sunday at BVB tomorrow on Back Page Football.

The Author

Beautiful Game

One Spurs fan, Daniel, and one Arsenal fan, Tom, from each side of the North London football divide, in search of the Beautiful Game. We hope that, with the aid of our blog, photos and videos, we will be able to share with you our experiences of different leagues, grounds, fans and atmospheres.

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