Methodic. Rigorous. Germany’s labour structures, like the auto industry or the services sector, are well known for pursuing maximum efficiency and technical perfection.
Well, football is the beautiful exception of many of the world’s rules, but when german teams started applying those rigorous principles in their strategy, it didn’t take too long to pay off: youth academies are now extremely prolific, tactical systems are well designed and well executed. Germany has definitely imposed its quality in the game, and today we get to know a good example.
Founded in 1909 by a group of Catholic youngsters that didn’t like the idea of a church-oriented football team, Ballspiel-Verein Borussia (BVB) only applied the famous black and yellow colours in 1913. After playing in amateur competitions for the first 20 years, the abrupt jump to professional status didn’t go so well for them – the expenses with the sports ground and the players’ salaries dragged the club to a deep debt crisis, pushing them close to bankruptcy in 1929. They were saved by Heinz Schwaber, wealthy supporter and former president.
Borussia avoided being church-oriented but couldn’t possibly avoid the Nazi orientation that was imposed with the rise of the Third Reich in the late 1930’s. Shaped to fit the preferences of the government (along with many other clubs, companies and various institutions), they were understandably reshaped after World War II. A three-team fusion was briefly on the table, but Borussia Dortmund managed to remain independent and started disputing the Oberliga West, top division in West Germany.
Steadily rising through the ranks, it was in the 1950’s that the club established itself as one of the countries’ biggest. The first national titles arrived in style: Borussia were crowned champions two years in a row, 1956 and 1957, and three gentlemen that coincidentally shared the same first name ended up as legends at the time – A. Preißler, A. Kelbassa and A. Niepieklo, the three Alfredos. Dortmund won their third national title in 1963, the same year that saw the introduction of a new league structure. That competition would last until today, carrying a name that is nowadays familiar to all the game’s lovers: the Bundesliga.
After the European Cup Winner’s Cup in 1966, Borussia went through a dry spell for most of the 70’s and 80’s. Then, a new generation brought a new beginning, a generation that was largely fueled by the desire to correct the lost final in the 1993 UEFA Cup against Juventus. The quality of play was improving, that was obvious, already among the best in Europe, and the growing process provided the team with enough money and experience to build a winning squad. The rest of the 1990’s would be memorable – back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 95 and 96 and the chance to rewrite history against Juventus in the 97 Champions League final. 3-1, chance taken.
80 years after the first major debt crisis, Borussia Dortmund would face another economic struggle. It looked like the downfall was inevitable: rivals Bayern Munich loaned millions of euros just to help with the payroll (if you follow the transfer market, you know they have been charging it back); players had to deal with a 20% wage cut; even the Westfallenstadion, the largest football stage in Germany (80.478 seats), had to be renamed so the club could get some money on the naming rights deal. Fortunately, the downfall would be avoided and stability would return.
Stability is one of the pillars of success. Nowadays, BVB is a worldwide famous club, emerging again as one of Europe’s greatest powers (definitely the biggest when you talk about attendance – amazing atmosphere and full stadiums every single home game). Borussia’s rivals are Schalke 04 (51 wins, 41 draws and 58 losses as of today) and every game between the two is an uncertain excitement. The club’s major accolades include:
- 8 German Leagues
- 4 German Cups
- 5 German Super Cups
- 1 UEFA Champions League
- 1 International Cup
- 1 European Cup Winner’s Cup
The team has had a couple of rough patches along the way (including this year’s terrorist attack), but the good moments helped some people reach legendary status in Dortmund:
- Alfred Preißler – Borussia’s all-time goalscorer and perhaps the most iconic of the Three Alfredos. 168 goals in 289 games;
- Michael Zorc – unforgettable midfielder who could not miss a penalty. After more than 500 games, he went on to become the club’s sports manager;
- Lars Ricken – Another one-club man whose greatness was limited to his persisting injuries. Ricken provided a memorable goal in the 1997 Champions League final;
- Matthias Sammer – European Footballer of the year in 1996, Sammer won the Bundesliga for Borussia as both player and manager;
- Roman Weidenfeller – The German goalkeeper witness Borussia’s rebirth in the XXI Century and already has 15 successful years with the team’s shirt;
- Jürgen Klopp – A rare breed. Klopp has an incredible ability to mix motivation and tactical proficiency, sparking the team to a whole new level.