Dear FC Bayern Munich,
Hallo mein alter Freund , mein größter Feind...tomorrow we meet on our version of the battlefield, the pitch, to engage in mortal combat, going one step closer to deciding who walks away with one of our sport's grandest prizes, the Bundesliga title. You may have a decent lead, but it's not insurmountable, and you are not invincible. Today though, I'm writing this letter to you as a Borussia Dortmund fan who is simply giving credit and respect where credit and respect are due.
For this match's edition of Why We Love Your Club something special was in order, because Bayern Munich aren't just another Bundesliga club, you're one of football's dynasties. Few other clubs have had the longevity and consistent success, in Germany or on the continental stage, as you have; 24 Bundesliga titles, 17 DFB Pokals, five European Championships, five Ballon d'Ors won by Bayern players, and a UEFA cup just to name a few, is an impressive trophy cabinet. There are too many reasons why the world loves Bayern Munich, and yes, even a writer for Fear The Wall can say that.
For instance, who could forget the magic of the 70s? A team derived from youth in the mid-1960's Regionalliga Süd (then Germany's second division) and polished under the tutelage of manager Udo Lattek, it consisted of club and football legends like goalkeeper Sepp Maier, Der Bomber Gerd Muller (Ballon d'Or 1970), and the mastermind himself Franz Beckenbauer (Ballon d'Or 1972, 1976) who would go on to become manager and later president of Bayern. Those three titans of German football, with the essential contributions of players like Left-back Paul Breitner and forward Uli Hoeneß, won a hat-trick of Bundesliga titles (1972-74) and a hat-trick of European Cups (1974-76), the last team to ever do so. And if that wasn't enough, six of the team's starting IX formed the spine of the West German National team that won the 1972 European Championships and the 1974 World Cup.
A lot of teams would have stopped there, when that golden generation petered out and management changed hands, but this is what would make you one of the exceptions to the rule, you kept going. Through an amazing fan base, keen financial decisions, and a "more than a club" philosophy, you were able to build on success. That 1980's team, three league titles and two European Cup finals, was fantastic and saw great players like the free-scoring Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and midfield destroyer Lothar Matthaus leave their marks on the game. That new-millennium side, marshaled by manager Ottmar Hitzfeld was a doozy too, wasn't it? Hitzfeld gave Lattek a run for money as your all-time most successful coach when his team won four league titles in five years and the 2001 UEFA Champions League, edging out a once-in-a-lifetime Valencia side on penalties, (I won't mention the 99' final, that'll always be a fresh wound won't it?).
In 2005 you moved into your current home, the beautifully modern Allianz Arena, which I can of course use words to describe, but think it better for our readers to see for themselves.
The Allianz Arena would become the home to the greatest Bayern side of recent times, and certainly of the 21st century, the one that's still fresh in the hearts of your fans and neutrals alike, and give or take some key players still pretty much together on the pitch, Jupp Heynckes' 2013 treble winning team.
A team that peaked at just the right time, saw off the league title, VfB Stuttgart in the DFB Pokal final, and *melancholy sigh* Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final. The team play produced by that side has become legendary, with attacking talent like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Thomas Muller, all of whom will be on display in our game today.
But most importantly Bayern, besides all your great players and even greater sides, why I, and I hope most of this blog's constituency love you, or at least are grateful to you, is what you've done for the Bundesliga and in particular us. In 2004 BVB was in a real tight spot financially and were struggling to even stay afloat much less pay our players. It was then, for the sake of solidarity and competition in the league, that you loaned us two million euros to help us pay our debts. That went a long way, and is partially reason we are where we are today. Don't go getting a big head though! Our players and our board did their fair share of heavy lifting to get us back to the top, but still, we are grateful.That's not even the only time you've extended a helping hand to the league, you gave similar loans to other clubs, including lower tier FC St. Pauli and even your own cross-town rivals 1860 Munich!
In short, you maybe our most formidable enemy and the only thing that stands in the way of the trophy we crave the most, but hell Bayern, we respect you and in a way are honored to share the pitch with you in what is certainly, the most riveting contest in the Bundesliga this year.
Sincerely, Fear The Wall
P.S. Don't let the mushy stuff go to your head, when we wipe the pitch with you today, we're still going to gloat.