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Interview with a BVB fan from the USA "You have to choose a team"

15.05.2024, 09:00 Uhr von:  Desperado09 Wiggy
Malachi in his garden. He is 22 years old and has long, black hair that falls curly to his shoulders. He wears white sneakers, light-colored pants and a BVB jersey. His arms are spread out to either side and he is holding a bar scarf

There are Borussians everywhere. Even in the Utah desert. We met one of them, Malachi Ricks, there by chance and immediately invited him for an interview with

There are Borussians everywhere. Even in the Utah desert. We met one of them, Malachi Ricks and immediately invited him for an interview with

Malachi tells us how he came to BVB, how he follows the games and how he imagines a visit to the Westfalenstadion.

Imagine you've signed up for an ultra marathon on the other side of the world. You tinker with your training plan, organize this, arrange that. You share your training with the running world on Strava and, of course, on Instagram. And because you're not just a runner, but also a BVB fan, you have a habit of running past the Westfalenstadion hours before kick-off on match days and, ideally, ending up with exactly 19.09 kilometers on the clock. Of course you know how social media works, which is why you tag the organizer of your run under your running photos. Who knows what it's good for. It goes without saying that you collect likes for it. So far, so normal.

Mid-March 2024: Training is over and the three of us - Sascha, Wiggy and Stefan - are rumbling along a dusty track in our rented camper van to the start area of the Behind the Rocks Ultra in beautiful Moab, Utah. A young man gives us a big grin and two thumbs up and points us to a place to stay for the night.

We get out and chat, in German of course. "Are you the Dortmund group?" the young man asks. We answer in the affirmative. A waterfall follows: "I've been waiting for you all day. I'm always jealous when I see pictures of the runs at the stadium on Instagram. You have to choose a team, but the MLS is no good. So I ended up at Borussia," we hear.

Malachi Ricks, 22, lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but considers the center of his life to be Moab, Utah. There he runs the company Mad Moose Events with his thoroughly running-crazy family and organizes numerous running events in Utah and Colorado.

We decide: first he gets the scarf, matchworn and showered with beer. Later we learn from Malachi's mother, who hands out delicious enchiladas at the finish line, that we were the number one topic of conversation at the family dinner. So the ball is on the penalty spot: of course we have to do an interview (we did this via Zoom after the Leverkusen game)!

Pulisic was gradually growing up back then and was something like our future prodigy. That's how I became aware of Borussia.

Malachi, what did you think when you saw that BVB fans from Dortmund were taking part in your run?

I was really excited to meet someone who shares my love for the club. It's not common to meet soccer fans in the US, let alone Dortmund fans. Meeting someone with the same passion was something special.

The whistle just blew on the game against Leverkusen. Did you see it?

Unfortunately only the last ten minutes. It's always one of those things - the games are in the morning when we often have other things to do. I was so excited! I thought we were going to win and end this Leverkusen streak. But, well, that was also kind of Dortmund style.

How did you get into soccer and Borussia in the first place?

I've never played soccer. But I watched the USA against Belgium at the World Cup in 2014. I was impressed that we could keep up with a team like Belgium. Pulisic was gradually growing up back then and was something like our future prodigy. That's how I became aware of Borussia.

From 2014 of all years, it wasn't necessarily fun to follow Borussia anymore...

Yes, it was a tough time. But I also kind of liked supporting Dortmund because it didn't feel like being a successful fan. The club had the potential, but wasn't a consistent winner. It reminded me of my teams in the USA. It had a bit of an opposition feel to it. And besides, who doesn't love Jürgen Klopp?

We still suffer a bit from this love...

Yes, it feels like the club is still searching.

Are you part of a BVB community?

Not really. I mainly follow soccer on my own. A few of my friends are also interested in soccer and I chat to them from time to time. A few are also Dortmund fans, which is cool. Other than that, I tend to be on my own.

Have you had the chance to watch Borussia in the USA?

Unfortunately, no. I tried when they were here last year, but it didn't work out.

Cristian Pulisic in close-up. He's running after the ball with his cheeks puffed out. He is wearing a yellow jersey and black shorts. The shoes are red and black soccer boots from Nike. Papadoupolos is out of focus in the background

What would you expect if you had the chance to see the team in the USA?

It wouldn't be the same as it would be on the other side of the ocean, of course. At least the stadium would probably be sold out. It's hard to imagine that in the USA because not even the national team games are sold out. People don't invest that much in the sport or the team. So it would be exciting to be in the stadium with people who are more involved. But I don't think there's a community for that here.

Do you only follow the Bundesliga or other European leagues as well?

As I said when we first met, it's hard to support a US team in the MLS. Since the national team is the main team, you're interested in the players, so you follow the leagues they play in. So I basically watch all the leagues in which national players are represented and follow their development.

Of course, I tend to follow the Premier League because of the language and the marketing. How come you didn't follow Klopp to Liverpool or Pulisic to Chelsea and stay there?

I actually watched Pulisic when he was at Chelsea. But they didn't treat him that well. It's hard to support a club that doesn't treat a player you think so highly of well. I also think the Premier League is a bit too refined. The Bundesliga is more "working class" and more fun. I've always enjoyed German soccer more than Premier League soccer.

You really watch Augsburg against Hoffenheim? Nobody watches that in Germany!

Yes, that's true! But in reality, even these teams could keep up with English teams. After all, Dortmund have to battle with them often enough. Especially Augsburg, who are really annoying, even though they are at the bottom of the table. They come to the "Signal Iduna" and make life difficult for us.

By the way: It's called the Westfalenstadion.

I know! But I can't pronounce it!

Soccer is probably at an all-time high in the US right now and growing, especially with the World Cup and Copa America coming up.

We're already instilling the right name in our kids because they're growing up with the new stadium name. We go to the Westfalenstadion, that's it.

I also only know the stadium as Signal Iduna (he really leaves out the "Park", editor's note).

The CEO of Signal Iduna likes to hear that. He believes that nobody will remember the old name in a few years' time. He's wrong, that will never happen.

I understand that. It would rob the stadium of its history.

How do you monitor Borussia's communication with American fans?

Unfortunately, the existing fan clubs are too far away from me, so I have to rely on social media. That's the easiest way for fans in the USA. It's hard enough to watch a game at 10 a.m. and miss work for that. I think most of us watch the games on our cell phones or check the scores on Instagram. These channels are pretty important for us. There's hardly any TV coverage here either, so you take every opportunity to catch up and stay up to date.

So it's important to focus specifically on the fans in the USA?

Soccer is probably at an all-time high in the US right now and growing, especially with the World Cup and Copa America coming up. If clubs invest in our market, they will be able to get a lot out of it. Players like Gio Reyna reinforce that. Of course I have a Reyna jersey, even though I thought he wouldn't stay forever. European teams can market themselves incredibly well through US national team players.

What do you know about German fan culture?

Not much. I know something about English soccer culture because it always appears in films. German soccer culture is rarely a topic. Of course, I would love to see the yellow wall. There's simply nothing like that here. I imagine that people are very passionate and fully dedicated to the sport.

Is there something like an ultra scene here?

There might be something vaguely similar. There are at least some groups who care a bit more about their team. But you probably still can't compare that with the average fan in Germany.

During the lockdown, BVB fans have shown that Borussia can even function as a club for a while without playing soccer. For example, shopping groups were set up to bring food to older people. Is such an integrative effect in connection with sport conceivable in the USA?

I think something like that exists to some extent in football. But it might not go as far as fans of the New England Patriots, for example, going shopping for other fans. Sport is sometimes a bit poisoned here and there is a rather negative atmosphere. I don't think that's totally absurd, but it would be a big exception.

BVB is a family tradition for us. There's a song that says: "As a child, I came with my father, and he was already taken by his father." Of course, that doesn't work well when teams move and are sold. Is there a sport in the USA that creates as much cohesion as soccer in Germany?

At the moment, unfortunately, there are more things that divide us as Americans than things that unite us. It would be nice to have something that unites us. Even in football, you have this division in society. For many, it's a good opportunity to say and do stupid things and drink beer.

Okay, it's no different here.

Hm, here people do it out of boredom and it somehow has nothing to do with the game. Anyway. We have a team in Colorado that is owned by the owners of Arsenal. You can buy tickets there for five dollars. Still, only 200 to 300 people show up. The passion of the people just isn't there.

In our country, most clubs are owned by their members. In simple terms, I can say that as a club member, I own part of the team. We elect the management and determine the club's policy.

Oh, I didn't know that. Is that possible with a season ticket, or how does it work?

No, you become a member of the club and then have a say in what is done. Only to a certain extent, of course.

I don't even think there's anything like that here! That sounds unique. That's probably one of the reasons why I like German soccer. It comes across as if they really care about the fans. You can kind of see that in how the stadium is built, how it's reported, how it's posted on social media. I think Borussia makes a great effort for the fans and puts them at the center. The admins are pretty funny, by the way.

Can you understand why there is criticism of Borussia's involvement in the USA or elsewhere abroad?

No, not at all. The USA is a huge market for sport. Everyone I know who is interested in soccer follows more than one team. I know people who watch Chelsea and Manchester United, and I'm like, "How do you do that?" But that's exactly why it's important that the teams present themselves here and show how valuable it is to choose a team and become part of it. The teams can create a very large and fruitful fan base - and sell more jerseys, thus earning more money and buying better players.

Many fear that Bundesliga games will be played in the USA at some point. We fans would never accept that. We members have written into Borussia's statutes that BVB should play its home games in Dortmund.

Sounds reasonable. But it wouldn't be the same. When an NFL game is played in Germany, for example, a lot of soccer fans also come there and bring their fan culture and an incredible amount of energy to the stadium. I don't think Americans would be able to create a real atmosphere at a Bundesliga game in the USA.

Did you follow the NFL in Europe?

Yes, I'm a Seahawks fan and they've already met Borussia and swapped jerseys. That was cool - my two favorite teams. Unfortunately, the Seahawks have now played in Munich, not Dortmund. But the atmosphere! People were singing the whole time, you'd never experience that in the NFL. You still see videos of the games in Europe because the atmosphere was just so crazy.

I was at an NHL game once and I didn't think the atmosphere was bad.

I think it comes close to the atmosphere in soccer in Europe. It's tighter in the arena and there's more energy.

When I was in college, though, I thought the atmosphere at football was pretty awesome. And I was only at a very small university. College football is pretty crazy.

Yeah, people love college football. I really think college football is the closest thing to what's going on in soccer in Europe. Maybe it's like the Bundesliga with the 50+1 rule and the family tradition. People are very proud of their university, have got to know a community there and associate a great time and lots of emotions with it.

Since you are cordially invited to visit us in Dortmund: Do you have anything like a romantic idea of what a visit to the stadium would be like for you?

I can't really imagine it because it's so far away from everything I know. I think I would go to the stadium with an open mind, look forward to the experience and have a lot of fun, no matter how the game goes. I want to see the Yellow Wall and will definitely take you up on the invitation.

It's exciting that you mention fun in connection with the stadium. We fans here would never say that we go to the stadium because it's fun. You're scared, you're annoyed, you're excited... Actually, it's often not fun at all.

Yes, I understand that!

There are so many negative feelings!

I think I would just be completely blinded by everything. I'm sure it would be different if I lived in Germany and could go to every game. But it really has happened that my day has been negatively affected by Borussia's defeat. I can imagine what it would be like if you put in all those hours, money and energy. Of course you take a defeat personally. But I really want to come. I mean, the opportunity fell into my lap in some mysterious way because out of all the many ultra runs in the US, you picked the one I organize. That's a sign that I have to come to your stadium!

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