When I realized that my time in Dortmund would overlap with the Revierderby, I knew I needed to attend no matter the cost/effort involved. I was fortunate enough to secure a ticket in the away fan section and all that was left to do was wait for the actual matchday to arrive.
In the days leading up to the match, I received word that this particular game was being categorized as “high risk” meaning there would be certain restrictions in place (e.g. no beer at the match) and an additional police presence (e.g. a special train escorted by the police). In all of my American naiveté I thought “Oh, this is no big. I’m totally desensitized to the police.” What I failed to really grasp was how BVB/Schalke fanbase relations had disintegrated over recent weeks. I know...what rock was I living under, right?
The day before the match, BVB released further details for fans traveling to the match, including multiple train times to/from Dortmund Hauptbanhof as well as info on buses that would take fans to/from the Gelsenkirchen Hauptbanhof to the Veltins Arena. It certainly seemed straightforward enough, so come matchday I set forth on my journey (documented on Twitter).
So, yeah...remember that whole “police presence” thing? Damn. I think I’ve only ever seen that number of police officers on TV or the movies. Once I arrived at the Dortmund Hauptbanhof, officers three deep lined the path to the platform where the “special” train would be departing. You know the trains in Tokyo with the professional pushers who shove people on to get the doors to close? That’s what this reminded me of. Cars filled to the gills with fans who’d been pregaming with a minimum of two officers per car.
The train ride really was quite pleasant...everyone was in great spirits and the train conductor even made an announcement expressing optimism that BVB would secure three points. Once we arrived in Gelsenkirchen, the police activity only intensified. I must confess that it was rather intimidating! But ‘twas nothing to many fans who kept singing boisterously as we made our way through the station toward the buses. Did I mention already just how many police officers were there? Seriously! It really had me wondering where they came from because there’s no way Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen have that many officers on the payroll.
Anywho! I made my way onto a bus for the journey to the arena and it’s more of the same...singing, drinking and police. I started chatting with a fellow passenger who was surprised to learn I was visiting from the States and wondered what on Earth I was doing on that bus. I replied simply with “For Borussia Dortmund!” He was quick to point out that this is not typical for traveling to away matches and was only so because “we hate each other.” The convoy of buses wound through the streets of Gelsenkirchen with a police car between each one, sirens and lights blazing. I kept thinking “It’s like we’re the President and the Polizei are Secret Service.”
At last, Veltins Arena! Entry into the arena was a breeze and I located my seat with plenty of time to spare. Soon enough, the match began and I finally got a true taste of that legendary BVB fan passion. When we scored our first goal and the scream ripped it’s way out of my lungs, I reflected that finally I was in a setting befitting of my zeal. So what if I didn’t know all of the chants and cheers...I learned several on the spot and my new favorite is set to the melody of the Pippi Longstocking theme song.
By now, we all know how the match ended and it was almost otherworldly to experience that yo-yo effect, I associate with being a BVB fan, in person. Out of the many football matches I’ve attended, a couple stick out for the atmosphere being “electric” and it should surprise no one that my very first BVB league match tops that shortlist.
With the conclusion of the match, it was time to depart and we all lamented the missed opportunities on the pitch, but I was quickly distracted by the body crushing crowd trying to leave at the same time. The ensuing bus ride and walk through the Gelsenkirchen station (I use the word “walk” very loosely as basically hundreds of fans were moving in unison and it felt more like crowd surfing, but in a scary “this is a disaster waiting to go viral” kind of way) was reminiscent of Elaine being trapped on the subway only not so humorous and with lots more police.
Those brief, yet harrowing, moments only added to the adventure and is something I’m sure to never encounter again. I don’t think it truly sunk in that I attended the freaking Revierderby until the next day. In fact, even as I’m writing this it still seems like a dream! I can picture it now, I’ll be like that old lady in Titanic recounting this tale whether the listeners are interested or not.
If I can leave you with one takeaway here, it’s that if you have the chance to travel to an away BVB match...DO IT. Police escort or no, it’s an event you won’t soon regret.