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FTW Roundtable: ‘Inside Borussia Dortmund’ Review

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What did we think about the Amazon doc?

Inside Borussia Dortmund Premiere Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images

While everyone was thinking about the upcoming match against Leverkusen, the Amazon documentary series Inside Borussia Dortmund released it’s fourth and final episode, wrapping up the month-long series into the Rückrunde of the 2018-19 season.

We here at Fear The Wall have been watching from start to finish, and are ready to give our own critiques and praises of the show. We’ll be talking about favorite moments, least favorite moments, things that were talked about that you had no idea happened, something that wasn’t talked about enough, and anything random that should be mentioned.

Nick Kapatos

I’ve thought for the longest time that a documentary series about a football club similar to the HBO series Hard Knocks would be insanely popular or successful. The production quality across the board from the sights and sounds, to the camera quality and angles used, to the interview subjects, and especially the level of access given. A criticism from this year’s Hard Knocks with the Oakland Raiders was that there wasn’t a lot of behind-the-scenes content. Obviously not every organization is going to give outsiders access to things such as roster cuts, scouting, or every backroom meeting, but I’m glad Inside Borussia Dortmund was willing to lay it all out there for us to see while still keeping things interesting.

Favorite moment: It’s Jurgen Klopp by a mile. I was shocked to see him appear on my screen, and then I was giggling like an idiot at the story of him waking up in the back of a truck after the 2011 title win, and then even more over the adventure he and Watzke took to get to the title parade. It’s part of the reason why I love Klopp so much and would at the very least commit a few crimes to get him to manage Dortmund again or the USMNT.

If the stuff with Klopp wasn’t included in the show, I’d have said the segments detailing the history of the club, both good and bad. As someone that hasn’t been following BVB very long, it was cool to see their beginnings, triumphs, financial collapse, and rebirth, and I’m sure it would be equally cool for someone who has followed the club for much longer to witness.

Least Favorite Moment: Much of the second episode. It featured the draw against Hoffenheim, the draw with Nurnburg, and the losses against Tottenham and Augsburg. Re-watching those games made me want to crawl out of my skin simply because those were all games we should have won or at least not lost so badly. The Bayern debacle in the third episode was up there, but the matches shown in episode two were one after another and it just made me angry again to not come away with a win in any of them.

Incident You Had No Idea About: Reus and the how he’s come back from injuries. I knew that Reus was very injury prone prior to becoming a full-on Dortmund fan, and after the last couple of seasons I noticed that he was missing less time due to injury. It was nice to finally get a reason for that through interviews with Reus himself and physiotherapist Thomas Zetzmann. I’m sure the kind of injuries Marco has been through would be enough to make any normal person or any lesser player hang them up, so it’s great to see that Reus isn’t like most players and that he found a way to limit the major injuries and even improve as a player.

Something That Should’ve Been Talked More About: I wish they would’ve had more interviews with fans or members of the Südtribune. I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that Dortmund has some of the best fans and supporters in the world. I’d have loved to heard from the fans themselves what makes going to a match at Signal Iduna Park so special.

I’d have also liked to hear more about the transfer of Christian Pulisic. He’s the reason why I (and I’m sure many other American Dortmund fans) began following and supporting the club, and his rise through the ranks of the youth set-up to the first team was amazing to follow. Sure he became more of a sub throughout the 2018-19 season, but it still would’ve been nice to have something on a player that was liked enough to get a send-off in the final home match of the season.

Miscellaneous: A couple of things...

  • I know it’s something most people laughed at or rolled their eyes over, but I loved hearing of Favre’s desire for players who run and his later explanation for it. It’s something that has become even more important in the modern game to have players that can play both sides of the ball and are willing to sprint back into defense. We saw that in the game against Augsburg when Paco raced back from the other side of the field to help break up an Augsburg counter.
  • The brief segment on player scouting with BVB Chief Scout Markus Pilawa and Zorc was interesting. It was cool to hear what goes into looking at prospective players, both internally and externally, and what they want from a Dortmund player. As someone who goes maybe a little overboard in scouting and signing young players in Football Manager, I could understand the risk of signing such young players while attempting to develop and grow your own players in the youth system as opposed to splashing big cash on older, more experienced players. It’s a nice reminder that for every Sancho or Schmelzer, there are hundreds of players that came to the club through transfers or the youth system that haven’t panned out.
  • Speaking of the scouting segment, the player Pilawa was looking at was José Juan Macías, currently at Club León on loan from Guadalajara. Based on his scoring production at León and this highlight video, he could turn into a very good player down the line.
  • Reus being almost named Dennis is hilarious. “Dennis Reus” kind of rolls off the tongue, but it’s not as fun to shout as “Marco Reus.”
  • The moments focusing on the bombing of 2017 were pretty surreal to watch. I had a cursory interest in Dortmund at the time of the incident, so to get more details from those who experienced it personally (even the bus driver) was good to see, even if it was a tragedy. It really hurts to see the more experienced players still dealing with the bombing years later but is understandable, as you don’t really get over harrowing experiences like that so quickly. I’m married to someone who experienced something incredibly traumatic, and things don’t always return to normal, so to see these people play in front of thousands of screaming people every week for months on end is simply extraordinary.
  • This series really made me like Burki even more. How he’s progressed since the bombing, his outlook on the club and life, and especially how much he loves the club and wants it to succeed is an amazing thing to see. His bluntness over the team’s inability to defend set-pieces and their fragility late in games was nice to see.
  • The end credit song? Banger.

Paul Johnson

I really liked the documentary series. It’s always nice to get an inside look on a sports team, especially one you follow. Last season was a rollercoaster ride too, so they picked a good season for it. I especially enjoyed the time spent looking back at BVB’s history as well. It was good additional context.

Favorite Moment: Somewhere between Denis ‘The Menace’ Reus and Klopp talking about getting lively and waking up in the bed of a truck. He really is an immensely likeable guy.

Worst Moment: Hearing the players talk about the effects of the bus bombing. It’s clear that the bus bombing had a greater effect on the team than everyone realized. It seems a little ridiculous that we haven’t given them more allowance for the effects of such a traumatic event, but I guess this is the reality for athletes. We expect so much of them, and don’t allow them to be human beings. The focus on the attack throughout the series is deserved, and it is eye-opening.

Some other thoughts:

  • I thought the whole squad came across really well. There’s a lot of really likable people in this team (I tend to find this is the case watching any documentary series like this).
  • Favre is such a dad.
  • Sancho has a thick South London accent. Good lad.
  • Schmelzer deserves a lot of credit for his mature approach to losing his spot in the starting lineup. He clearly isn’t pleased about it, but he has accepted it and is trying to do what he can to help the team in other ways.
  • Burki seems frustrated with the mentality of the team, and he’s probably right to be, but it’s interesting to see that he is such a vocal critic of the way the team handles things. I suspect he might be a difficult personality in the dressing room. Not because he was vocal, but because he was vocal in such a public way! He seems like the kind of guy that is a leader among the players, but is very vocal about issues with the management (Hummels seems similar).

Brett R. Bobysud

Favorite Moment: Jurgen Klopp describing how he woke up in the back of a dump truck the morning after the 2011 title parade.

Least Favorite Moment: Having to relive losing the title in the second half of the season. Yeah, it was just a coincidence that they were filming the series at that time, but it still sucked to see it again.

Incident You Had No Idea Happened: Sammer’s critical and accurate punditry causing an “incident” after Dortmund stunk up things against Augsburg.

Should’ve Talked More About: The overall matchday atmosphere from a supporter’s perspective. Take us inside the Yellow Wall, talk to fans, show us how the insane choreography is planned and carried out, examine the club’s anti-racism campaign and the progress that has been made in that regard.

Miscellaneous: I don’t think a lot of more recent Dortmund fans fully realize just how close the club came to financial ruin 15 years ago. For all intents and purposes, Dortmund pulled a Leeds at practically the same time Leeds itself did.

Everyone who supports BVB owes Dr. Rauball, Watzke, and Treß an insane amount of gratitude for saving the club and helping to make it what it is today.

Sean Keyser

Oh crap, I didn’t watch it, the article is set to publish soon, and Nick wants me to add something. Time for the good ol’ “didn’t-read-it-but-have-to-improv-a-book-report” act.

If you sat me down and asked me, “Hey Sean, wanna relive every painstaking moment of last season’s title collapse, while getting new insight about the disappointment that each player felt, all while an increasingly melodramatic soundtrack adds to the depressing mood of the documentary?” I probably would have declined and queued up an episode of The X-Files or some other Amazon Prime offering. If you’re still raw about last season, I would wait a bit before catching Inside Borussia Dortmund, at least past the first episode. If you think you can handle the heartache, though, it’s well worth watching.

The level of insight you get is not something you can find in many other places: you’ll hear not only from the players but from management, scouts, journalists, and even medical staff. It’s a fantastic peek into the inner-workings of a football club. To see the way they practice, have team meetings, do video reviews, and even go on team vacations together, was fascinating. It’s the little things, like having dinner in the hotel or watching the entire squad wait on a public platform in the Dortmund Haubtbahnhof. Some “close looks” seem to be even too much, like Marco Reus having a medical examination that feels like it goes on for five or six minutes.

Some moments will definitely bring back frustrating memories, from the more notable ones like the 3-0 blown lead to Hoffenheim and Marco Reus’s red card against Schalke, to the smaller ones like Julian Weigl’s handball against Hertha Berlin and Erik Oelschlägel’s error against Werder Bremen in the DFB Cup. You’ll also relive some of the greatest moments from the season: Paco’s winner against Bayern, the 4-0 clobbering of Atletico Madrid, among others.

One of the best things about the documentary, it turns out, was simply the extra camera angles from each match. Most were filmed at pitch-level and tracked individual players, so that you could see their reactions to certain plays. One thing I took away from the documentary was a new level of respect for Roman Bürki: after Zagadou’s howler against Bayern, Bürki ran up to him three or four times to comfort him. He never seemed to shy away from giving his thoughts on any given match. As somebody who doesn’t watch a lot of individual interviews because of the lack of a language barrier, I gained a much better understanding for his passion for the game and his role in the locker room.

I couldn’t recommend this documentary enough. If you can push through the heartbreak, you’ll get a fascinating look into the mentality of the players and the coaches. You’ll see different sides of players that you haven’t seen before. If you love Borussia Dortmund, you’ll love the documentary.