Saturday 26th January 2019 15.00
Borussia Dortmund 5 Hannover 96 1 HT: 1-0 Att: 81,385
Hakimi 24, Reus 60, Götze 62, Guerreira 67, Witsel 90 : Bakalorz 86
This was my first big stadium abroad. Until now I’d seen mainly lower tier Spanish games while on holiday, or the odd other game while on city trips. The biggest was probably FC Berliner Dynamo at their wonderful Jahn Sportspark, but none of these were approaching the scale of a Borussia Dortmund.
They have the third largest club stadium in Europe, behind the Bernabau and the Nou Camp, but they have the highest average league attendance of any club in Europe at over 80,000. By the way the BVB 09 stands for the original name of the club – Ballspiel Verein Borussia, founded in 1909. Their full name now is Ballspeilverein Borussia e.V. Dortmund. The e.V. part just denotes a registered association, a bit like Ltd, for sports clubs. They are known as Der BVB or Die Schwarzgelben (The Black and Yellows).
BVB haven’t always been at the top end of German football. It wasn’t until between 1946 and 1963 that they won their first trophies, playing in the Oberliga West, which was a first division that dominated Germany at the time. They reached the national cup final in 49, losing to VfR Mannheim. They won the last German Football Championship in 1963 before it was reorganised into the Bundesliga. It was winning the last ever German Championship they gave them their place among the 16 founders of the new league.
They were the first German team to win a European title, the Cup Winners Cup in 1966, but it was in the nineties when they became one of Europe’s super clubs, winning the Bundesliga for the first time in 1994/95 and then defending their championship the following season. Since then they have won it a further three times and been runners-up five times. They won the European Cup in 1997, beating Juventus and were runners-up in the UEFA Cup in 1991/92 and 2001/02.
In 2000 Dortmund became the first and only club to register on the German stock market.
Very cheap Ryan Air flights to Cologne precipitated the decision to choose Dortmund. Cologne is a great base to visit many big German football clubs. Within a short train ride you have the greats such as Shalke, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Munchengladbach, Dusseldorf, Duisburg and Koln itself, to name a few. Dortmund was about an hour and a half’s train ride, but only cost around €20.
It was an interesting train ride from Cologne through the industrial Ruhr Valley, a dense mass of urban areas with a combined population of over 5 million. It stopped at Leverkusen on the way, whose stadium you could see clearly from the stationary carriage.
Dortmund is Germany’s eighth largest city with a population of just over 600k but is the largest city in the Ruhr. Having come from picturesque Cologne, we knew we’d made the right decision to stay there, rather than Dortmund. The place is not at all touristy and has quite an austere and industrial persona. Not surprising really given its history as a coal mining and steel producer. The Hannover fans might well sing:
Ich will nach Hause, ich will nach Hause, Dortmund ist ein Scheißloch, das ich nach Hause will.
We had a couple of steins in a town centre pub before getting the tram down to the Westfalenstadion named after the Westphalia region in which it sits, trade name Signal Iduna Park, which is also the name of the tram stop. The ground was opened relatively recently, in 1974, and has a capacity of over 81,000 and a famous terrace that holds almost 25,000 safe standing spectators, known as Die Gelbe Wand (The Yellow Wall), famous for its intense, intimidating atmosphere.
The Stadium has an outer perimeter that serves as the ticket entrance. The queues were absolutely enormous for all access points. If you go to a match here leave a lot of time to get in. I reckon we were there at 2.15 but only got to our seat with about five minutes to spare.
We were quite high, to the left of the Yellow Wall, in the corner section. The view was good as the stands are steep and we overlooked the stunning 25,000 full terrace.
Dortmund were still in contention for the title with Bayern Munich, as per usual in recent years. The visitors Hannover 96 were near the bottom of the table. Dortmund had the upper hand in the first half but struggled to find the back of the net.
On 24 a flowing move was swept in by Hakimi for 1-0. The stadium erupted and the floodgates were open. Hannover got swept away in the second half as the interplay in midfield was exceptional and Dortmund added three more goals in a seven minutes spell. The visitors got a consolation back before Witsel smacked in the fifth off the post in the last minute. Curiously there were zero minutes injury time.
It was a masterclass of football from one of the iconic stadiums in Europe