Why winning a title is not important - A look back
Only just over three years ago Borussia Dortmund was trying to avoid relegation. They were lucky and even managed to win the Derby against Gelsenkirchen. It was one of the most celebrated Derby wins of all time. Fast forward to today: Borussia has been going through a long draught and all of a sudden is back on the map. We have finally won another Derby but so much has changed in Dortmund, the word "Meisterschaft" is being passed around but why is that? And why is winning a title not as important as seeing our team play. Let us look back and find out.
"We could have done a big step out of the relegation battle. The performance was not that bad and especially in the first half we could have taken the lead". A lot of could haves in our match report on April, 15th 2007, BVB had just lost 0-2 at home to Werder Bremen and was in deep troubles. Roman Weidenfeller - Philipp Degen , Christian Wörns , Christoph Metzelder , Dede (43. Nuri Sahin) , Marc-Andre Kruska , Florian Kringe , Tinga , Steven Pienaar (61. Nelson Valdez) , Euzebiusz Smolarek (72. Kosi Saka) , Alexander Frei – the players fielded in this match would go on to spare us relegation and give Borussia one of its biggest Derby wins of all time on May,12th 2007. But that was all there was to this miserable season which saw three coaches (Bert van Marwijk, Jürgen Röber and Thomas Doll) trying their luck at the Strobelallee. The latter of them banned Dortmund legend Lars Ricken from the team and punished Florian Kringe for reading a book in the sun but of course turned fate around. During the summer break he got rid of youngster Nuri Sahin, who under Bert van Marwijk was one of the rising stars, another one, David Odonkor, had been passed on to Betis Sevilla, before the season, after miraculously featuring in the German World Cup campaign in 2006. Christoph Metzelder, the highly talented spokesperson, signed with Real Madrid and Steven Pienaar, after an unlucky season in Dortmund, went on to Everton.
On April, 13th 2008 Borussia Dortmund travelled to Munich. The schedule matched us against the other cup finalist just six days before both teams would meet again in Berlin. Our starting line up: Marc Ziegler - Philipp Degen , Mats Hummels (46. Robert Kovac) , Christian Wörns , Dede , Sebastian Kehl , Tinga , Nelson Valdez (73. Jakub Blaszczykowski) , Florian Kringe , Alexander Frei , Mladen Petric (46. Diego Fernando Klimowicz) – the team went on to get beaten 5-0 by Bayern. Conceding four of the five goals within the first 22 minutes, after that Bayern took it slow and only scored once – Andreas Ottl put his name on the scoring sheet, which also had the names of Luca Toni (brace), Podolski and Zé Roberto on. On April 19th a hard working Borussia team, inspired by the Dortmund fans, who on that cold April Saturday had travelled to Berlin 20 years after winning the cup for the last time, took Bayern to extra time but in the end lost 2-1 to the Hitzfeld XI.
That very day, while waiting for kick off, rumors of a new coach flooded the stands of Olympiastadion. ZDF had the exclusive information that Jürgen Klopp was to take over from Thomas Doll after the season. This, of course, was not confirmed, until the season had finished. A new era was beginning. And it was not easy to adjust to this era at first. Jürgen Klopp said he wanted to "floor it" from the beginning and swapped Mladen Petric for Momo Zidan. The fan boards were boiling with indignation. We had the youngest defense, just lost our star left back Dede with an ACL rupture and now had passed on our most consistent forward to league rivals Hamburger SV and got Momo Zidan, who only ever harmed anyone while sporting the Mainz 05 jersey, a counter-attacking team, in return. Nuri Sahin was back in Dortmund after winning the Dutch cup with Feyenoord, but he was still only a promise for the future. 11 Freunde magazine ran a feature on the young Turk from Meinerzhagen. It was headlined "The Graduate". They quoted his U14-coach Lars Tiefenhoff, who said: "Nuri is still a driven man, a player trying to make the next big step towards a big career. Time will tell, if he can make that step or not". "I dream of playing in England for three or four years. And towards the end of the career have a few seasons in Turkey. But before that, I need to pay back Borussia at first", said Nuri Sahin, who had turned down offers from big Turkish clubs that summer. He believed that his time in Dortmund was not over yet, even if Jürgen Klopp had not had any big plans for him in pre-season. A pre-season which he started injured. On October 2nd 2008 Nuri Sahin scored from the spot in the penalty shoot-out against Udinese. Borussia Dortmund lost that penalty shoot-out but still 11 Freunde said "if you looked closely, it was not a shy teenager walking back to his team mates after he had scored but the seasoned pro Nuri Sahin. His future has only just begun". And so had Borussia's.
A year after losing 5-0 to Bayern Borussia faced FC Köln at home. It was April, 11th 2009 and Borussia walked past Köln quite easily. "If you eliminate the first 20 minutes of the game it can be said that Dortmund played a neat game and deserved to cash in the three points. Voices now whisper the words Uefa Cup, but the coach and the players well said that we should do our best at every game and then see where it takes us", said our match report. It was the third win in a row. Borussia went on to win seven matches in a row but then, after Frei missed a header early on in the game, lost to Wolfsburg and gave the European Cup away in the last match against Gladbach. Whether it was hard luck down to a bad call in Frankfurt which gave Hamburg the point they needed to overtake us in the dying seconds or whether it was down to coward football we played in Gladbach, is still undecided. Borussia missed Europa by a few minutes and sold Alex Frei to Basel. In return they signed Lucas Barrios of Colo Colo. Barrios had been linked with other Bundesliga clubs like 2008/2009 hot shots Hertha BSC but when push came to shove he decided for Borussia and against playing European Cup in his first season in Europe. Barrios had been a mercenary in South America playing for seven clubs in six years. He scored an impressive 37 goals in 38 matches for his last team Colo Colo but that was in Chile and not in Germany. Borussia paid 4.2 Million € for Barrios, swapped right back Rukavina, who had only been a sub after Owomoylea got his act together, with Sven Bender from 1860 Munich and also grabbed Dortmund boy Kevin Großkreutz on a free transfer from RW Ahlen.
On one of the coldest days of the year, Borussia celebrated its 100th birthday with a 1-0 win of SC Freiburg on December, 19th 2009. Part of the capacity crowd was a young Japanese lad called Shinji Kagawa. Kagawa, then a player for Cerezo Osaka, a second division team in Japan, was travelling Europe to find out what the future had in store for him. That day he knew where this future woud take him to. "I want to find out what happens here when temperatures are normal, if they do something like this when it's minus 14", said Kagawa that day and just a few months later signed a contract in Dortmund. The transfer fee was 350.000€. Borussia, who had some problems in the back end of the season, still managed to qualify for Europe at the end of the season. They finished fifth and the fans were warming with the idea of returning to Europe. During World Cup only Nelson Valdez, Lucas Barrios and Neven Subotic featured for their countries. During the final stages of the World Cup they were already back in Dortmund, or on their way back to Dortmund. Paraguay with Valdez and Barrios lost to Spain in the quarter finals, Subotic's Serbia did not make it out of the group. The Dortmund squad was adjusted over the summer. Nelson Valdez, who was nicknamed Nelson Goaldeath by quite a few fans, was sold to Hercules Alicantes in Spain and Robert Lewandowski, Lukas Piszczek and Mario Götze, who only had a few minutes the season before ,were brought in as regulars for the upcoming season.
We all know what has happened ever since pre-season. We qualified for the group stages of Europa League, we made it to the next cup round and ever since losing to Bayer Leverkusen in the first match of the season have won every single league game. We are currently on seven wins in a row and still counting. With a win over Hoffenheim next Sunday the team could set a new club record with eight straight wins. We are comfortably sitting on the top of Bundesliga, and looking down on the likes of Bayern, who are 10 points behind us and whom we beat 2-0 just the other week; and our arch-rivals from Gelsenkirchen, who not only trail 16 points and have been destroyed by us but also seem to make the same mistakes we did in the early noughties without getting the reward of a Bundesliga title. We have dominated and humiliated our opponents, we have outplayed them, and we have shocked them with last minute goals and have a hungry team. Obviously media now jumps the bandwagon and declares us title favorites, stating reasons why our team can go all the way this year (the hardest-running team of them all – up to 120 km during the match, the most skilled team, the best holding midfielders, the best full backs etc...) and maybe all of this is true and maybe we can go all the way with this team that has made us smile oh so many times during this young season. But this is not what it is all about. Looking back those three and a half years, looking back to the loss against Werder Bremen, we not only have replaced a whole team and have another coach, who has brought a whole new mentality to the club, we have also gotten rid of the could and should haves and are just riding the wave as it comes.
Football maybe is about winning championships and titles, being a football fan and a supporter of a team however is about enjoying the performance the team puts on every week. Looking back all those years makes the performance we get this season in the Westfalenstadion or away much more precious. It might be the time to dream, but it is also the time to sit back and enjoy the ride. Wherever this ride may take us.