Borussia Dortmund is my superhero
Schwatzgelb.com tries to provide deeper insights into the fan lifes of fans who don't live in Germany and for whom a trip to the Westfalenstadion is not just a small leap but a very unique story.
Today we speak to Markku Korhonen, a Borussia Dortmund fan from Finland. But Markku is not only a football fan- he made his hobby become his job and so he works... Well, I guess he can tell you better than I...
Schwatzgelb.com: Hello Markku, nice to talk to you.
Markku Korhonen: It´s all my pleasure, it´s an honour to me to chat with Schwatzgelb.de about BVB and myself.
Schwatzgelb.com: Can you at first provide some information about yourself and your job?
Markku Korhonen: Well, I´m Markku, 32 years old and I come from Tampere, second biggest city in Finland, around 170km northwest from Helsinki. I live there with my sweet wife Noora, Amelie the dog and Torsten & Mathilde that are cats. Torsten is named after Torsten Frings, he used to be my favourite player years ago. I have been a BVB for more than half of my life, since I was 15. I have been working with the Finnish Football League (Veikkausliiga in Finnish) for five years. I´m a Communication Director there and I´m in charge of our marketing and communication and our television issues. That´s me in a nutshell.
Schwatzgelb.com: You are living in Finland: How come you became a fan of Borussia Dortmund?
Markku Korhonen: It started in 1993 when BVB played in UEFA Cup final against Juventus. I saw one of the matches on tv. They lost that match 0-3 and 1-6 totally but somehow it just sweeped my legs. Maybe it was the stunning neon yellow jerseys, maybe the mighty sounding name of the club. Or maybe it was because one of my Italy -90 heroes, Stefan Reuter, was playing. Whatever the reason was, it just hit me right there. However, it was virtually impossible to watch or even receive any information about BVB or Bundesliga in that pre-internet era. Luckily they managed to win the league title in 1995 and and I could see them quite regularly in Champions League. In early 1996 they faced Ajax Amsterdam in quarterfinals. Ajax used to be hailed in Finland because Litmanen was there, and the match was shown live in Finland. I didn´t care about Ajax at all, I just wanted to see BVB. They lost 0-2, but that was the final turning point for me. After that match I have followed Borussia from week to week. Nowadays der BVB is crucial part of my everyday life. It makes me happy and angry, cry and shout in joy. It is part of me.
Schwatzgelb.com: Does your job affect your fan-being and if yes, in which way(s)?
Markku Korhonen: To be sure, I have promised to myself that if my job affects on this, I will find a new job. I mean that if I ever notice that I can´t enjoy the game and watching this club due to my job, I have to stop it. It´s a principle. I have also decided that I won´t exploit my job. Because of my job in the Finnish League it could be possible to get connections in Bundesliga and try to sneak free tickets or some vip services in BVB matches. I´m not doing that. I want to buy and pay my tickets, wear my 96/07 jersey and watch my club as always.
However, some funny incidents have happened due to my job. Couple of years ago I was in an EPFL (organisation of European football leagues) meeting. It took place in Bundesliga headquarters in Frankfurt. BVB was playing home on the same day and so I decided to travel to Dortmund and watch the match before flying back home. After the meeting I rushed to the same Bundesliga limo with a representative of the Swedish league. I excused myself and took off the black suit. I wore a BVB jersey under it all day and due to tight schedule I was in a real hurry to catch a train to Dortmund. I told the Swede that I´m going to watch my club playing tonight and took off at the station. I left my stuff there and travelled to Dortmund to see how BVB beat Bremen 3-0. The Swedish league boss seemed somehow stunned.
Schwatzgelb.com: The English Premier League is the best-known football league in the world. How is the Bundesliga perceived in Finland and which possibilities do you have there to see Bundesliga matches?
Markku Korhonen: The English disease roots deep in Finland indeed. Their football has been shown here for ages and English clubs have probably more fans in Finland than our own clubs. Bundesliga is absolutely less known and respected league here but I think it has gain popularity during recent years. People know here that attendances are highest in the world in Germany and atmosphere at the stadia is great. Furthermore, there have been a bunch of Finns playing in the Bundesliga in last few years, like Sami Hyypiä, Mikael Forssell, Petri Pasanen, Jari Litmanen (in Rostock), Mika Nurmela (Kaiserslautern) and Janne Saarinen (1860 München).
One more reason is the possibility to see it on tv. Around ten years ago there was no Bundesliga at all on telly here, but then one channel started to show one or two matches per round. I actually knew people in that channel and tried heavily to persuade them to pick up the BVB matches. Sometimes I managed to do that. However, Eurosport bought all Bundesliga rights in Scandinavia last year and the number of tv matches have multiplied since that. At the moment there are five live matches per round on tv and you can easily watch every match on internet. The price is also quite cheap, the whole season including all matches and match archive cost only 35 euros per year. This season all but two BVB matches have been live on tv here. I can tell you that I feel blessed nowadays.
Schwatzgelb.com: How and with whom do you follow the matches of Borussia?
Markku Korhonen: I usually watch the matches at home, because all sport bars are full of Premier League. My matchdays are really long and full of my own conventions. Whenever BVB wins a match I go to swim on a next matchday. I mean swimming in a lake, not in some indoor pool. There is a public sauna by the lake nearby and they make a hole on ice for swimming. Before the last match in Frankfurt prior to christmas, there was -24 degrees. There you are standing in snow and then jump into dark water. I can tell you that it is cold! But it´s a nice pre match habit and makes you feel warm afterwards, I recommend.
After relaxing, swimming and a sauna session I concentrate on a match by listening the album „God Hates Us All“ by Slayer. I started to listen to it in 2003 and been doing it since that. I always listen to it on cd, mp3s make Dortmund lose. Furthermore, I always listen to the songs in the same way, first only parts of them, then a bit more and some chosen ones in the end. Normally I don´t listen to Slayer or that sort of music. It just fits here, it makes your pulse rise and let you concentrate on evening´s main issue.
During the matches I´m usually 100% concentrated, aggressive and fairly nervous. I shout and swear lot, celebrate the goals ridiculously loud and usually sing „Wer wird Deutscher Meister“ or „Der BVB ist wieder da“ loudly in the end (hopefully I have reasons to continue that till the end of the season). The wins over Bayern and 5-0 against Kaiserslautern made me to sweep tears. The loss against Frankfurt ruined my weekend and made me feel down for days. I like to watch the matches alone because most visitors seem to watch more me than the match. They also try to chat about other things and in my opinion you can talk about the match only while it´s on.
Schwatzgelb.com: Coming back to your job or even better your employer: How is the situation of football in Finland? If you had to rank the most popular sports, where would you see football and does football have any significance in everyday life?
Markku Korhonen: First of all, I have to tell something about Finns and the way of life here overall. Finns seem to differ from almost all other Europeans in some sense. For some reason Finns aren´t proud of their roots and local issues. People support their hometown, local team and their local boys only when they win something big. Before that nobody believes in them and afterwards it´s sure that they can´t win anymore. When BVB was in trouble, fan stood behind its´ tradition, respected it and united even more. In Finland many people would have turned their backs at that moment. They wouldn´t have believe that one day the club could be back at the top. This mentality runs deep here. We believe and can be proud of Manchester United. But we don´t believe in our local football club, we don´t want to be part of it. Sadly, I´m partially similar. I am a fan of a foreign, quite big football club. I could have been different however, I could have become a real fan of some local club back in the nineties. The problem is that how on earth I could have been a part of some club because there would have been only a handful of others there. There is no tradition of being a fan here.
For football this all means that our clubs don´t have that many real fans. Many people say that it is because the clubs aren´t doing enough. That is partially true, many clubs do next to nothing for their fans. However, that is not the whole reason. What did BVB do to gain more popularity some seventy, eighty, ninety years ago? Close to nothing probably. I think that people took the club as their own, because they were proud of being from Dortmund and needed symbols to show that. Even hockey clubs that are traditionally bigger and have more supporters than football clubs suffer from that mentality in Finland. If a succesful hockey club faces problems, many people will turn their backs right away. Not all but many, and they will come back only after they start to win again. In this sense I´m probably different than a regular Finn. The situation in the league table doesn´t really affect on my relationship with BVB. If they are in trouble, I´m probably more keen on it.
The status of football is interesting in Finland. If you see the numbers of players it´s by far the most popular sport here. There are twice more licensed players in football than hockey. Half a million Finns play football weekly, that´s 10% of the population. In media and television football is also the number one sport. Despite that football is not part of everyday life. People play it but don´t really live it. They watch some Champions League but no domestic football. They like Manchester United and Barcelona at the same time but don´t love either of them. Football seems to be more a matter of entertainment than religion or way of life.
Schwatzgelb.com: In September 2010 the fans of Borussia Dortmund started the „Kein Zwanni für 'nen Steher“- campaign. How is the ticketing situation in Finland and what do you think about the campaign?
Markku Korhonen: If I was from Ruhrgebiet and a BVB fan since my early years, I would probably think definitely same way. However, my point of view here is a bit different and maybe a bit poisoned because of my job. In my opinion, the tickets are still relatively cheap in Germany. Nowadays you can´t really do anything with twenty euros and some 60 euros for a seat in the main stand (the price that I payed last time) is a lot of course but still somehow understandable. I´m of course different than local fans. I have to travel from 1500 kilometres away and that cost me several hundreds anyway. There is no that big difference between 20 and 60 after that.
In wider scale the problem is in completely overpriced leagues like Premier League and debt-ridden clubs like all these Barcelonas. They seem to have different rules than for example BVB and it can´t really compete with them. If these Croesuses keep on exploiting their fans or are allowed to gain more debt, the gap will widen more. So, on local level I consider this effort good. Internationally the ticket prices in Germany definitely aren´t a problem.
In Finland expensive tickets aren´t definitely a problem. I just checked out the statistics and the most expensive regular ticket price (excluding vip-tickets) was 27€ among all of our 14 clubs. I think that we have a completely different problem. We have no sold out matches and prices are even too low. That makes a football ticket inferior, it has no real value. There are different worlds in football. Our world in Finland is completely different than the ones in Germany or England.
Schwatzgelb.com: Do you have a favourite club and if yes, what's the club's situation?
Markku Korhonen: Borussia Dortmund is absolutely my club. I also feel sympathy towards some other clubs but they never really caught me. My favourite club in Finland is Kuopion Palloseura, KuPS. They are black and yellow - obviously - and were runners up last season. KuPS is actually one of our most traditional clubs. They have raised a bunch of best Finnish players of all time and used to be a real powerhouse in Finnish football some decades ago.
Schwatzgelb.com: Back to Dortmund, I have heard about „a bicycle story“- do you want to explain on it?
Markku Korhonen: Oh yes, I have travelled to Dortmund in many different ways. I have come there by own car, plane, train and even by bus. However, I did my first ever trip by bike and it took two weeks. I started it in July 2000 and ended in the first match of the season against Hansa Rostock (Heiko Herrlich hit the 1-0 winning goal). I know that it sounds crazy to come to a match from Finland by bike. Many people actually make even longer bike trips every summer, so it wasn´t that crazy in my opinion. What was my reason then? Well, that was my first ever visit in Dortmund and Westfalenstadion. I had been a fan for years back then but flying there and watching the match just sounded too easy. I had to prove that I´m serious in this and this was my way.
The trip itself wasn´t really that hard. I pedalled around 1400 kilometres through Finland, Sweden and Germany but I already had about 3000 kilometres of practise behind me that summer. Best part of the trip was of course the 1-0 against Rostock but there was lot more, too. One night I stayed in a five star hotel and next night I couldn´t find any place to stay in. I tried to sleep outdoors but it started to rain. Then I climbed into a paper recycling bin and stayed there for the rest of the night. Next morning I didn´t feel to fresh but I went on around 90 kilometres in rain. I had no maps and got lost many times. In Hamburg I found my way out of harbour area only after two and a half hours. I saw hundreds of kilometres of beautiful landscapes and met a bunch of nice people. It was worth absolutely worth it. By the way, after each round when Dortmund leads the pack in Bundesliga this season, I make a championship promise. One of them is that if we still sing „Wer wird Deutscher Meister“ after the final match of the season, I promise to come to one home match of the season 2011/12 by bike again. I also promise to write an article about that trip to Schwatzgelb.de.
Schwatzgelb.com: That sounds great! How many matches are you able to watch per Season? Are there any special stories?
Markku Korhonen: Last season I missed two matches but this season I have decided to watch every second of it. Mostly on tv of course but at least couple of them live in Dortmund. I was there in December against Bremen and I am going to be there in a final match of the season too - whatever it costs. Usually I´m in Dortmund at least twice in every season. Three years ago I saw 10 matches live. That was quite hard, basically I had to travel there every two weeks. That sounded so boring that I decided to do it as many different ways as possible. I travelled this 1500km distance by plane, by my own car, by train and by bus through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The train wasn´t too easy. It took two days both ways and I had to overnight four nights in a row in boat and train. I arrived to Dortmund early in the matchday, spent the day by swimming in Südbad, watched how they beat Rostock again 1-0, went to a party of my local friend after the match and hop on to a train by midnight. Not the most relaxing way to travel.
The bus trip was even harder. It sounds weird but there is a straight bus connection between Tallinn in Estonia and Dortmund. It departs at 7.00 and it arrives to Dortmund at 17.00 on a following day. The crazy thing is that the bus doesn´t stop for a dinner or breakfast at all. I din´t know that and had a bread roll and a bottle of water for 34 hours. The bus was full and nobody seemed to speak any language that I´m able to understand. During the night it was freezingly cold there, I was shaking. And all time they drove like crazy on narrow, bomby roads of Eastern Europe. Around 11.00, after 16 hours, I couldn´t stand anymore. The bus left me in Braunschweig. I took a beer and a proper breakfast, and took a train to Dortmund. Thank god BVB won again, it made my misery completely worthwhile.
Schwatzgelb.com: The DfB- Cup final 2008 in Berlin was one of the few highlights in the pre-Klopp-era. How did you experience it?
Markku Korhonen: That was the season when I visited there ten times. I came to the Cup final by car and spent a week there with my wife. She was very happy to come along but not too glad about how I looked. Before the Cup semifinals I made promise to go the final with so called Vokuhila mit Schnauzer. Well, I had traditional vorne kurz, hinten lang haircut with moustache. Oh man, I looked miserable!
I was going to buy the ticket on internet but my local friend, Henning, told not to do that. Let´s ask the club first, he said and send an e-mail to them saying that a crazy finnish fan would like to buy a ticket. The club allowed me to buy one for a regular price and I'm still very grateful for that. So I had a ticket but my wife had to wait outside. She was quite shocked when she saw that black and yellow army of 50 000 in Berlin.
On that cup final night we stayed on a ferry between Rostock and Helsinki. I turned 30 years that night. That was actually my excuse for travelling there so often. I told my wife that these are my very last moments of being young and I need to spend them this way, pendeling between Finland and BVB. She bought that. Nowadays I need totally new excuses. Too bad that I didn´t receive a cup victory for a birthday present back then.
Schwatzgelb.com: Can you tell us something about your relations to Germany? Which role does the Fan Club „Goldener Oktober Unna“ play?
Markku Korhonen: First time I faced Goldener Oktober happened in 1995 or 1996 maybe. That happened when I used the internet for the very first time, it was a new issue back then. I opened some Altavista, Yahoo or other search engine of those days. The first thing I did in the web was to write „Borussia Dortmund“. The engine found lot of pages. The second one was the official BVB site (really poor back then) but the first one was the homesite of Goldener Oktober. I opened it and started to read their away trip stories and watch photos. All Bundesliga action that I could watch on tv was a weekly magazine on Deutsche Welle, so I started to follow BVB by their own site and Goldener Oktober´s site. I continued that for years.
Then, in the summer of 2000, I was going to visit there for the first time. Back then, you couldn´t just order the ticket via internet. It was really hard to get any ticket information at all. I decided to turn to Goldener Oktober for help. I sent an e-mail to Henning Schlüter, one of their main guys, and told my situation. He responded by sending a scanned picture of the ticket he had bought for me. Now, after a decade, I still meet them regularly whenever I´m visiting Dortmund. I am really grateful to Henning and other guys in their group for their assistance and taking me along. They are great lads!
How I find Germany overall then? I like it, I like it a lot. There are many great things in Finland, like swimming in frozen lakes in wintertime, but many good things in life are better in Germany. Beer, food, housing, cars and many other things are cheaper there. The best club in the world plays there. Distances to other places in Europe are completely different there. And it´s not that dark in the wintertime, you can´t really understand how grim it´s up here in late November before snow falls. I can read German well and I probably could start to speak it too if I just practised a bit.
I spent my exchange student year in Köln. I didn´t study at all but concentrated fully on BVB and football overall. I spent there half a year and saw 53 matches live, of which almost 30 were BVB matches. Me and my wife have planned to move to Germany some day in the future. Our destination will probably be Köln area, because she´s a teacher of Finnish language and there´s a faculty of Scandinavian languages in the University of Köln. That is one of my biggest dreams. Not moving to Germany or Köln, but being in a situation where I´m able to go to every single home match and at least a few away matches too.
Schwatzgelb.com: Okay, it's time for the season forecast: Who will take the title?
Markku Korhonen: This one is easy: Deutscher Meister wird nur der BVB. It´s definitely not done yet, but I believe in it, you guys believe in it and the team believes in it - therefore it will be ours. Many people say that you shouldn´t sing before you really win. In my opinion you have to let yourself sing, delight and dream on it. That makes you only stronger. If the championship comes it will be special for me. In 2002 I couldn´t watch that many matches and follow everything tight enough. I rejoiced of course, but after all these years and efforts this one will be so much bigger for myself.
Schwatzgelb.com: Although Borussia is dominating the Bundesliga at the moment, what happens if Dortmund won´t make it?
Markku Korhonen: Well, there won´t be any single competitor coming from behind. I don´t believe that anymore. Only way to miss the title is to lose it by yourself, lose the track completely. After that there will be a bunch of others coming fast towards. To be sure, I just don´t know what will happen if that really strikes. I have dreamed about this so much now and invested heavily my very own soul capital. It would be a monstrous issue to deal with. Just horrible. Anyway, you can´t think about that too much. I dream about the championship every day and so it grows bigger all the time. That way it becomes more real day after day.
Schwatzgelb.com: I'll come to my last question now, but at first I need to explain the situation: You've met Simon (member of the editorial of schwatzgelb.de) in a Tapas Bar after the match against Bremen where you celebrated the victory together. His question is: Who was best at drinking this night?
Markku Korhonen: There´s one who always seems to beat the others: Henning, Mr Henning Schlüter.
Schwatzgelb.com: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
Markku Korhonen: As I told previously, it´s all my pleasure. Borussia Dortmund is my superhero and who wouldn´t like to talk about that!