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Dortmund’s yellow wall of sound
There are places where football is primarily business and then there are places where football is fun as well as business, with the former taking precedence. Dortmund is such a place.
When Borussia play in the massive 81,000-seater Westfalenstadion then the whole city lights up. Families, friends and couples pour into this strictly-for-football-only stadium, dressed in bright yellow to enjoy an afternoon of excitement. With the second highest average attendance in Europe behind Barcelona last season, Borussia is a club that caters primarily for fans. There could not be stronger proof of that than the South Tribune, nicknamed the Yellow Wall, a 25-thousand capacity standing-only tribune, the biggest of its kind in Europe.
The cheapest ticket price for this extraordinary place? 11 euros.
I was in the stadium last week for an interview with German league officials, who seemed very excited about showing me the Yellow Wall as Borussia took on VfL Wolfsburg.
“It’s time,” they said before the game started, as we comfortably sat in the stands with the fans around us smoking and drinking beer and the stadium slowly filling up. “Time for what?” I asked. “To see the wall up close and take pictures,” they said as they rushed me down the stands, and yes, on to the perfectly trimmed pitch with Wolfsburg coach Steve McClaren giving his players final instructions as they warmed up.
But we did not stay on the sidelines. Oh no, we walked straight on to the pitch as Diego, Edin Dzeko and other top players warmed up. And there it was. This massive tribune, rising steeply, draped in yellow, huge flags and banners swirling in the afternoon breeze. It was indeed spectacular, even awe-inspiring, to see it up close and personal.
These fans had not come to see top European names. They had come to support their team, which had four players in their starting line-up that emerged from their own successful youth academy. No Messi, no Ibrahimovic, no Ronaldo. The 70,000-plus fans had come to see players like Nuri Sahin, virtually unknown Japanese Shinji Kagawa, snapped up from the Japanese second division for 350,000 euros who has already more than quadrupled his market value in just three games, talented Bayern Munich reject Mats Hummels and Patrick Owomoyela. Hardly household names.
At the end they celebrated a 2-0 victory with the Wall leaving happy and content as they would have done whatever the result and whoever the opponents. This is, after all a place, where football is all about having fun.
PHOTO: Borussia Dortmund’s head coach Juergen Klopp celebrates victory against Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, September 11, 2010. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender