...and what a year it has been... part two
"Welcome to matchday number 35 of the season 2010/2012" was the comment of our netradio commentators when we played our first game of this season against Hamburg in January. When we were in the stadium on that fifth of August we could hardly believe what we saw on that pitch. Surely we were at least a bit concerned about how our team would continue without Nuri Sahin. With Gündogan, Perisic, Leitner and Löwe we had gotten some great new players but still, we all knew that Sahin played a big role in our game. It seemed as if our concerns were absolutely unnecessary. We played, as Nobby and Boris had pointed out in the netradio, as if nothing had ever changed. The result was a 3:1 victory at home against Hamburg and we could barely believe that we would continue to be as happy as we were the previous season. 2011 promised to continue being a wonderful year. However, it came differently.
After this amazing start, the road to success continued to be a bit bumpier. Our next opponent was Hoffenheim and despite the many reasons why we should dislike Hoffenheim in general, I know that I will always hate to play there. We simply always seemed to suck. 1-0 for Hoffenheim was the score after the game, and the Bundesliga had a scandal more. The acoustic irradiation affair made its way round the Bundesliga. Apparently some workers had set up a tool that was supposed to drown the evil chants against Hoffenheims boss Hopp from our side, unfortunately forgetting that this could have health consequences for our fans. A scandal was born and of course no one knew anything and two workers from somewhere or nowhere turned up and took the blame. Right. Another reason to never ever find any sympathy for that artificial team.
A victory against Nuremberg helped us to recover a bit but nevertheless the road continued to be bumpy. A painful draw against Leverkusen that granted Goetze his first red card, two defeats against Hertha at home and Hannover away and the Champions League didn't really go as we had planned as well. We had certainly woken up from our dream. I could summarize our Champions League games but I think we all remember how the games went. But here is the thing. The reason why I think we can be absolutely happy to be Dortmund fans. We had a difficult start. We had come out of the greatest season ever and our expectations were high. But let's take a look at what we have gone through, and at other teams for example. Do we really want to be like Bayern Munich? To know that we are the greatest team anyway (or so they think) and that only victories are accepted and even more expected - a season without a title? Impossible. I do believe that it is exactly this that should make all of us happy to be a Dortmund supporter. We are witnessing something great here. A team that is growing. Growing together, growing up, from whichever angle you look at it, we are part of a journey that could be the greatest ride of our lives. Sure - we had an amazing season last year, but we watched the team outgrow themselves, pushing it to the limit and they will do the same in the Champions League some point. When Klopp arrived, we didn't win the Bundesliga straight away - no, it was the outcome of three years of hard work and effort. And that is what makes this team so great. You know they will always try their best, we all know the character of this team. It will be amazing to watch them grow in the Champions League, to see the process they will be going through, and they will receive the deserved reward for this. We only need to be a bit patient.
But as things seemed to go downhill in the Champions League, the Cup and the Bundesliga were going uphill. The game against Mainz was the turning point for us in the Bundesliga. After a terrible first goal against us where Piszczek played a great tragic role, it was exactly him who redeemed us in the last minute with the shot for the 1:2 for us. Finally a victory again. Then started what I call our "let's do something for our goal difference". Great victories against Augsburg, Cologne and Wolfsburg were the beginning of us climbing up in the table again. A hard worked for victory in Bremen was incredibly important as well and after a draw in Stuttgart we were facing one of our biggest opponents of the season again: the ever almighty Bayern. Or so they think. Funnily enough, in contrast to the last game in February those in charge for them were incredibly quiet this time. Maybe they still remembered what had happened last season and thought it would be better to keep their mouths shut this time. The calm before the storm? On the other side, the journalists did what Bayern apparently forgot to do - create a fuss. Where ever you looked, everybody claimed that Bayern was so angry because of last season and they would want to make up for us and it was only a matter of how high the score against us would be. It was a nerve-wracking game. But in the end the right team outgrew themselves again. They ran, they fought, they did everything necessary to take those three points home: and our Borussia did it. We won through one goal by our youngster Mario Goetze.
The next weekend would then be the cream of the crop. A Derby victory against Schalke, Bayern lost against Mainz and here we were: number one again. At the top of the table. Where we totally deserved to be. It didn't stay that way. Two draws against the surprise of the season Gladbach and against Kaiserslautern resulted in the final victory against Freiburg. At the end of the first half of the season that left us on table position number two, with Bayern on one. Are we unhappy? Most certainly not. No one expected us to march through the Bundesliga again like we did last season, but we all proved that we are not done yet. That this journey has just started, that Bayern will not march through to the Bundesliga Championship like almost everyone had predicted before the season. We are still out there and we are eager.
The final highlight of this year was the Cup game against Düsseldorf away. Now, we all know that we are not really the greatest team when it comes to cup-games. Hibernating in the cup? Almost impossible. But it seems that miracles actually can happen. With one man down after 34 minutes, we managed to hold a 0:0 for 120 minutes. Then came what all of us had dreaded: the penalty shootout. I know that people were leaving the stadium exactly then, saying "penalties? We will not make it anyway. Not gonna watch the shootout in pain" ...and how wrong they were. Once again, our team outgrew themselves. They kept their nerves and scored with every single shot. Weidenfeller saving one of Düsseldorf's shot was the moment of the night. We did it. We moved onto the next round against Cup sensation Holstein Kiel. What a perfect way to end the year. I will never ever say again that our team does not know how to shoot penalty shots.
Looking back onto this year 2011, what can we say? Well, it has been amazing, with all the downers and the difficult moments, we can be incredibly proud of our team and one thing is certain: 2012 is going to have a damn hard time to be as amazing as this past year has been.
Thank you Ballspielverein for 12 months of utter joy, and to all of you, a bit late, happy new year. Let's make this year our own again and support our team to wherever the road may take us.