Diehard German soccer fans support Dortmund in London

Borussia Dortmund fans filled up the visiting fans section one-hour before the match (Fernando Shan/Medill Reports)

By Fernando Shan
Medill Reports

The English soccer team Tottenham Hotspur packed home ground Wembley Stadium with not only local Hotspur’s fans, but also thousands of German Borussia Dortmund supporters in a February  Champions League Round of 16 clash.

Borussia Dortmund, current Bundesliga (German Division One soccer league) leader, started the Champions League elimination rounds against Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in London. This matchup drew enormous attention in the soccer world, even though both teams had several injuries. The leading scorers for each team, Marco Reus from Dortmund and Harry Kane from Tottenham, had both suffered injuries.

In the black and yellow “away” fan section for Borussia Dortmund, fans filled every seat one-hour before kick-off time despite the February cold. Traveling German fans came fully prepared for this trip, bringing customized scarves, black and yellow flags and several drums to support their team and team spirit.

As the time ticked closer to kick off, German fans began to increase their decibels both inside and outside the stadium. The sounds of “Heja BVB” chant swirled up into the air.

Dortmund supporters are well-known for their loud, loyal cheering. At their home stadium Signal Iduna Park, the south stand that is also known as “the Yellow Wall,” is an iconic image in the Bundesliga. The zealous German fans brought their tradition to Wembley Stadium.
In anticipation for the first of two matches in this round, Dortmund fans exuded excitement.

“Tonight’s match is the first leg in the Round  of 16. Of course, it’s a big day for our Dortmund fans. More importantly, it’s in Wembley Stadium. It’s an amazing feeling to be here in this stadium. I don’t want to miss this trip,”said Jan Wallis, a 19-year Dortmund fan.

For most of the German fans, this was their first time visiting Wembley Stadium, though they were familiar with this prestigious soccer field. In 2013, the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) Champions League Final took place at Wembley Stadium between German teams Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the first all-German Champions League Final.

“We played here six years ago in the Final. Although we lost in the Final, that was a great memory. I wasn’t here last time, so this time I hope I can bring some good luck to our team,” said Wallis.

Unlike other soccer stadiums, the section where away fans sit was filled to capacity before the team came out to warm-up. The away fans were more passionate than home fans, continuing to cheer louder than the home fans for the entire game. Meanwhile, the home fans just began arriving at their seats when visiting supporters were already banging drums and waving black and yellow flags.

German soccer fans cheering for Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium in London (Fernando Shan/Medill Reports)

“I have supported Borussia Dortmund for 15 years. We love our home stadium, so we want to bring the energy from Germany to England.” Said Jonas Repp, a current college student from Frankfurt.

UEFA Champions League matches take place on weekdays. Therefore, the loyal German fans prioritize their team rather than going to their jobs. Some of the fans asked for a day off, while others even skipped classes.

The distance from Germany to England is only a two-hour flight. The average round-trip airfare is around 150 Euros (about $170). The total expense on the trip is acceptable to the loyal Dortmund fans.
“I am getting used to travelling with the team if the flying time is within two hours. Every time I travel with the team, I am proud of myself.” Said Wallis.

The demand of the tickets for this Champions League match exceeded supply, especially for visiting fans. Because of security concerns, only 3,000 of 90,000 seats were available for visiting supporters. With the high demand for spots among Dortmund supporters, a lottery process opened to every member of the Dortmund fan club a month before game day.

“I was lucky to be selected and paid 57 Euros for the ticket,”said Repp. “I rarely travelled with the team because I am still a student, but this time I would like to enjoy the feeling of Champions League, especially the theme song of the Champions League.”

In the end, Borussia Dortmund met defeat 0-3. Although the English team took an early lead in the second half, the German fans never gave up during the match. They didn’t blame the team’s performance when they conceded the goal. Fans certainly celebrated when their team won each tackle. Visiting supporters were vocal from the beginning to the end.

“We were just unlucky, especially the first goal. We believe our team will have a huge comeback in the second leg because it will be at our home stadium.” said Wallis.

Photo at top: Borussia Dortmund fans filled up the visiting fans section one-hour before the match (Fernando Shan/Medill)