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Dortmund’s yellow wall of sound

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SOCCER-GERMANY/

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.

Transfer deadline day live blog

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We’re following all the deals as they happen on the final day of activity in the transfer market. Comments always welcome…

Schalke get Ruhrpott Raul but Spain may have the last laugh

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GERMANY/Raul’s decision to join Schalke 04 in Germany rather than one of the English sides interested in taking him will have plenty of Real Madrid fans scratching their heads, I suspect. “What is he doing going to the Bundesliga when he could have gone to la Premier?” I can hear them ask. ”What a step down after playing for Real in the Best League In The World (TM)!” “And where is this Schalke place anyway?”

So pretty good news for the Bundesliga then, eh? It’s rare for a player of Raul’s considerable reputation, and even more distinguished salary, to choose Germany over England and he hasn’t even gone to Bayern, the one big beast of the Bundesliga.

Bayern 2 Berlin 0

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SOCCER-GERMANY/As much as Berlin enjoys hosting the German Cup final every year for the badly needed economic stimulus the 75,000 fans bring to the city, watching Bayern Munich celebrate titles on successive Saturdays in Olympiastadion while at the same time knowing their only Bundesliga side, Hertha Berlin, have been banished to the second division might have been just a bit too painful.

Berlin will be the only European capital without even a single club in the top domestic league. It must be hard to imagine Berlin being such a soccer wilderness for those  in places like London, where Chelsea just won a domestic double, or other capitals with stacks of top teams to follow.

Fate of Hamburg’s Labbadia hinges on Europa League

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SOCCER-GERMANY/Hamburg SV coach Bruno Labbadia’s job has been hanging in the balance for weeks. But any development on that front was put on ice when Hamburg advanced to the Europa League semi-finals against Belgium’s Standard Liege on Thursday.

There is no denying, however, that Labbadia has underperformed at Hamburg, desperate for some silverware after a title drought that stretches back decades. After a very good start to the season, they imploded after the winter break, admittedly, in part, due to major injuries to key players including strikers Mladen Petric and Paolo Guerrero.

Not much ‘typically German’ about this Bayern Munich team

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SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/What did Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson mean when he criticised Bayern Munich players for what he said was their attempt to influence Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli after Rafael Da Silva fouled Franck Ribery?

“They all rushed towards the referee,” Ferguson told British TV, complaining about the second yellow card that got his right back sent off. “Typical Germans.”

Should fans have the right to buy into their clubs?

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SOCCER-SPAIN/BARCELONA-PRESIDENTInteresting story in the Guardian this morning, saying Britain’s Labour government, if re-elected, are ready to unleash plans to give fans the right to buy their clubs when they come up for sale, and to insist that current club owners give up a stake as high as 25 percent to their supporters.

If we can leave the politics aside (there is an election on the way, and the opposition Conservatives have said acting now, after 13 years in power, makes it a pre-vote gimmick) do you think this is a good idea?

Sun, money, good football … who wouldn’t fancy Spain?

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SOCCER-GERMANY/Franck Ribery will likely choose Spain if he decides to leave Bayern Munich, we learned from a Sport Bild interview this morning, and I guess few people reading another of today’s big football stories, this time in France Football, would blame him.

While the Frenchman highlights the nice weather as the motivating factor behind his “tendency” towards Spain, others in his position might be swayed by the following list of the game’s top earning footballers:

No name calling just yet please, say Leverkusen

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So they lost their first match of the season and dropped back three points from the top.

Big deal says Bayer Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes after their 3-2 loss to Nuremberg on Sunday. He is quick to reject any of the tags that Leverkusen have had to deal with for much of the past 15 years, like “Neverkusen” and “Vizekusen”.

Robben teaches Germans to love long johns

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Germans used to laugh at soccer players who wore long johns in the winter, belittling anyone who opted not to play in shorts as a light-weight. Germans even have a derogatory name for the thermal underwear: Liebestoeter  (passion killers).  SOCCER-GERMANY/

That was before Arjen Robben scored two goals and led Bayern Munich to three straight wins in his woolly grey long johns. They may make him look like a 19th century grampa getting ready to get into a cold bed. But they’re “hot pants” as far as Bayern are concerned.

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