In celebration of fans, we here at Fear the Wall are continuing to take the time to document how we all came to love Borussia Dortmund. Most of us, and our readership, I would imagine, were not born into family of Borussen and came to fall in love with the greatest club in the world in our own various ways. Here is my story:
I grew up playing the beautiful game in the late 1980s and 1990s. My first exposure to televised football was TNT’s coverage of Italia ’90. I still vividly remember a match involving the host nation cutting back quickly from commercial to show a replay of one of Toto Schillaci’s strikes. Being in 1990s America, the ability to be a fan of a soccer club like one was a fan of the Detroit Lions, was a complete impossibility. It was a void in my life. Like many American fans of the game, my fandom was predominantly focused on the US men’s national team because that was what could be found on television.
Moving out of my parents’ home and started my own life and career in the late 1990s coincided with the explosion of availability of televised English Premier League sides and my family’s love of the game took on a more familiar tribal flavor rather than one surrounding infrequent international tournaments and friendlies. My dad became a Manchester United fan, while my other family members preferred Wenger’s Gooners. I, ever the contrarian, decided to support Newcastle because of Alan Shearer and their uniforms. Little did I know what a special kind of misery that could entail. Of course, prior to NBC Sports groundbreaking decision to provide all matches across multiple forms of media platforms, it was impossible to follow the Toon on a week to week basis, and my frequent stays in places like Hawaii and Germany made it even more difficult to go “all-in” on an emotional basis. Fox Soccer Channel was the first that brought semi-regular club content, though only of the English variety.
In 2008, I watched the European Championship while in Germany on German TV and loved it. And, while never a fan of Michael Ballack, I sympathized with him greatly watching the Spanish side beat the Germans through a Fernando Torres goal in the final.
Then came the 2014 World Cup, when I put a lot of my sporting emotional capital into again supporting the German national side. It was only natural, having married a German and lived in Hessen and Baden-Würtemberg for five years. The emotional high of the triumph at the Maracana got me hooked. Rather than try to pretend to support a team whose owner clearly hates his own fans, I could make a clean break with the Magpies and maintain my stance against band-wagoning with my family.
Supporting Bayern was out of the question. I had always despised them for their arrogance and entitlement. I couldn’t do the easy thing and throw my support behind the German juggernaut to whom championships meant nothing. But, I wanted a club that was recognizable, had players I knew, and weren’t going to treat their fans like Mike Ashley did.
I had loved watching Klopp’s BVB take on Zenit in the Champion’s League that winter and was blown away by Reus, Lewy, Kuba, Piszczek, and Hummels play in that tie. So, I looked for various matches on You Tube and saw several replays at the Westfalenstadion and I fell in love. I was captivated by the fan culture. The atmosphere at the stadium alone dwarfed the comparative libraries of the Emirates, Stamford Bridge, and even Anfield. The passion, love, and full-throated singing for 90 minutes signaled loudly to me that Dortmund was the place to be.
I worked on my German language skills more. I read the history of the club born on Borsigplatz. I learned as many fan songs as I could learn, and I watched every match. I came to fall in love with BVB at a very odd time. BVB was a very hip club at the time. But the signs of decline were there. Götze had infamously defected, and Lewy less so infamously. The flower that was the Klopp era was starting to wilt when I arrived. My first full game live was the infamous, then record-setting 9-second goal by Bayer’s Karim Bellarabi. The opposition had figured out how to weather the gegenpressing of Klopp. But I kept the faith. The trials of that year, the relegation-scare, that dark night at the Westfalenstadion with the whistles cascading at the capitulation at the hands of Augsburg, the exit of Klopp, and then the marginalization of the old guard kind of cemented my sense of belonging and removed whatever whiff of plastic, hipster opportunism others may have wrongly smelled on me.
Looking back on it two and a half years later, with a familiar struggle ongoing I do not regret a thing. I just recently attended my first match at the hallowed Temple and even with a disappointing draw… again on a cold night against Augsburg… my love for Borussia remains the same.
Was auch immer geschiet
Wir stehen dir bei
Bis in der Tod
Und sing’n für dich, für dich Borussia!