A lot has been said about the atmosphere in the Bundesliga and the iconic fan culture that has become the envy of leagues around the world. That meant there was only one thing for it, to take a trip out to Germany and catch a game to experience it for ourselves.
It had been talked about for some time – you know how it is, always seemed a great idea but until someone pulls their finger out and organises it, you are not going anywhere.
Well, we actually got ourselves organised and got our backsides in gear – destination Westfalenstadion, more commonly known as Signal Iduna Park, the home of Borussia Dortmund. There was no better choice, right?
Planning the trip itself was simple. The difficult part was getting tickets to a game and when I said we were organised, we missed out on the initial ticket sale for the game against Freiberg – damn it, we really thought we had missed out. Thankfully, an organised system whereby tickets are sold back to the club in the weeks leading up to the game meant that we were successful in securing tickets – it did mean plenty of hitting the F5 button to refresh the browser, but we got what we wanted late one evening.
With tickets confirmed, it was full steam ahead to book flights and finalise a bed for the night. All that was left to do was to sit back and count down the days. We were finally all set for our very first experience of Dortmund, their Yellow Wall and that famous Bundesliga atmosphere.
Our flight took us from Gatwick to Dusseldorf early on match day, a quick journey that saw us touchdown in Germany shortly after 9am. Next was to work out the train system to get to Dortmund which was pretty straightforward albeit quite different to what we are used to in the UK.
There were a few nerves to settle as we had to make sure we hit our connections to get to the ground to pick up the tickets before kick off. We need not have worried, everything worked out perfectly. A short stop off at the hotel to check-in before heading to the ground to savour the atmosphere what was almost three hours before kick off.
As it turned out, the hotel of choice was perfectly placed, a short walk to the stadium and one where staff wore Dortmund shirts all weekend. As it turned out, there was plenty of time to pick up our match tickets, strategically place some Palace stickers, grab a few beers and sample the local cuisine.
The ground itself is impressive. Fans outside were welcoming and enjoying every moment of the build up, long before kick off. A Dormund home game is a big event for the city, it felt like everyone was there, yellow and black everywhere.
Dortmund is the eighth largest city in Germany with a population of over 600 thousand. It is a former industrial city which is like many that has had to adapt to the falling away of the coal and steel industries, recover from being the most bombed city in Germany during the second World War to now thrive as an administrative and commercial hub.
There is a real feeling of togetherness, fans all congregating to see their team on a Saturday afternoon. There was a buzz around the city with bars and cafes full of people wearing yellow and black.
While standing outside the ground, taking everything in, we witnessed the Freiberg ultras being marched into the ground. That was our signal to go find our seats and see what the ground had to offer from the inside. We just had to get inside and see it in all its glory before the home fans started making their way in.
A brief glimpse of inside the stadium was a real tease after going through the turnstiles. That was enough to wet the appetite before walking up the stairs a couple of levels and then seeing the ground upon itself up to us.
What a ground.
What a view.
Luckily for us, our seats were on the halfway line in the second tier. It was the perfect view. To our left, the sight of the ‘Die Gelbe Wand’ almost a quarter full long before the players were due to appear for the warm up. To our right, some of the 5,000 away fans getting ready to support their side for what is one the away trips they must look forward to each season.
Sitting in our seats, with a beer in one hand, a Bratwurst in the other, the sight of the Yellow Wall fill up to almost capacity ready to welcome the players enter the pitch for their warm ups. That was something else, the noise, it made us look forward to kick off that much more.
Throughout the players warming up, fans were in full voice, we could not take our eyes off the Yellow Wall. It was an incredible sight and the game had not even kicked off.
The ground was at capacity long before kick off. The anticipation was immense, no fans arrived late, they were all there to welcome the two teams, and what a noise. It was nothing like we had heard before.
Unfortunately, the entertainment on the pitch did not match up to the support from the terraces. It ended in a narrow 1-0 win for Dortmund, we went all that way to see an Englishman settle a game in the Bundesliga.
Jadon Sancho continued his great run of scoring form for Dortmund by finishing off a great move for the hosts. Freiberg battled and went close a few times in the second half, the fans were nervous and growing restless as the clock counted down, but like watching Palace we thought!
It was a little disappointing to see scoring sensation Erling Braut Haland start the game from the bench but the welcome he got when he came on proved how much of an impression he has made on the Dortmund fans.
After the final whistle we stayed behind to enjoy more of the Yellow Wall, they were not going anywhere. They celebrated the victory with every player going over to them to acknowledge their constant support throughout the ninety minutes.
Although the game had ended, fans were not going very far. Milling around outside, some filling the massive two tiered club shop complete with escalators. Food and drink was still being served and fans continued to socialising long after we had returned to the hotel. We saw fans regularly pass our hotel late into the night returning from the ground.
It was an interesting weekend to be in Germany to catch a Bundesliga game. There was a moment in the game against Freiberg where the game was stopped for 5-6 minutes. The ultras had held up a banner, which of course we could not read as it was in German. What followed was an announcement over the tannoy system a couple of times which infuriated them for several minutes which resulted in the game being stopped. We could not understand it at the time.
That evening we saw the events at Hoffenheim who were thrashed by Bayern Munich, but it was the visiting fans demonstrating against the billionaire owner of the hosts, Dietmar Hopp. We will not go into any more detail, but it is worth looking up – all that is to be said is that fans in Germany frown upon clubs that are fast tracked by money. You only have to hear what fans think about what has happened at Leipzig.
There was a plan to chill out in Dortmund before catching our train but the city is pretty much closed on a Sunday as we found out, but being honest, you would probably not visit the city for anything other than the football. We ended the weekend by taking in Dusseldorf before catching our flight home. A wonderful city to visit where you can get around on electric scooters, perfect for getting to the Rhine and back to the station in good time.
It was a trip that we recommend all football fans make, at least once. The only disappointment is that it highlights just how poor the atmosphere is in the Premier League which makes us want to get back out to Germany as soon as possible!