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A miracle in Dortmund

“These are the nights for which the game was created”

So read a message from the official Borussia Dortmund account, posted at around 2am local time following their quarter-final with Malaga. Every so often a moment comes around to remind us all why we love football. Why we put up with players earning more than a small country, endless tabloid stories about Wayne Rooney’s hair and the latest exploits of the various fame crazed WAGS. Because when it wants to be, football really can be the beautiful game. On a simply magical night in Dortmund, I was lucky enough to witness a moment of football history. A game which will be spoken about for as long as football is played, and one which the grandchildren of 70,000 people should expect to hear endless stories about in the future. The miracle of Dortmund.

This was my second visit to what I firmly believe to be the best football stadium in the world, having previously travelled to see a 3 – 2 defeat to Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga. Even at this early stage of the season, Bayern Munich were already running away with the title, making the result fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Not so this time around, with Dortmund preparing for one of their biggest games in decades. I had watched the first leg on television, Dortmund spurning several good chances in Spain and having to settle for a goalless draw. A place in the last four of Europe’s elite competition was right in the balance, and the excitement was noticeable from the moment I arrived in Germany.

Dortmund have won many friends around Europe this season, and it was obvious that the fans saw this game as a real chance to cement themselves as one of the world elite. BVB came through the ‘group of death’ featuring Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City, playing some stunning football along the way. While Borussia Dortmund are wonderful to watch on the pitch, the main reason they have found so many new admirers is due to the incredible supporters they boast off of it. These fans were in fine voice in the main square of Dortmund several hours before the game, with a large travelling support from Malaga adding to the atmosphere.

Malaga is home to a large number of English ex-pats, with many of these included in the away fans. A large St. George’s Cross was hung in the centre of both sets of fans, while several of the songs sung by Malaga had an English influence. The Great Escape theme tune was belted out from the confident (and fairly intoxicated) Malaga supporters. Little did they know that in a few hours time they would witness one of the greatest escapes of all.

After enjoying the build up with the German essentials of an oversized beer and a currywurst, I headed to the stadium with a couple of hours to spare. While in English football many fans are still finding their seats ten minutes into the game, the stadium was filling up by 7pm, almost two hours before kickoff. I was standing in the block directly next to the world-famous Sudtribune, offering the best seat in the house for the fanatical support shown by Dortmund’s most hardcore fans. From the pattern on the seats it was clear that another display (known as a choreo in Germany) was planned, with what looked like a giant yellow love heart.

Kick off approached, and a rendition of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ in perfect English caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. This was followed by the now extremely familiar Champions League theme music, and the unveiling of the Sudtribune’s latest work of art.

The Sudtribune builds from this…

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To this

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The atmosphere which was created is difficult to do justice with words alone, this was noise far above anything I have ever experienced. It was so loud that a UEFA steward was offering out earplugs, an offer which was perhaps unsurprisingly universally rejected. Westfalenstadion at it’s best is football heaven, who in their right mind would want to block that noise out? This is a little taster of the pre-match atmosphere, I strongly recommend you turn the volume down if using headphones, as I  will not be held accountable for any resulting deafness.

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Despite the sensational backing from the fans, Dortmund were slow to get going on the field. The last time the club had reached the last four of the Champions League was 1998, and the enormity of the occasion seemed to be getting to a couple of the players. Passes were misplaced that would normally have had pinpoint accuracy, and despite Lewandowski going close with a lobbed attempt, he probably would have been better off going for power. Despite the slow start, Malaga did not seem to be taking advantage of the opportunity Dortmund were offering them. Until, out of nowhere, they scored.

A clever move from Joaquin gave him enough space to have Malaga’s first shot on goal, and he did  not wait for a second invitation. His shot from just outside the area beat Roman Weidenfeller, and he was engulfed in a pile of blue and white shirted bodies. The players of Malaga celebrated right in front of the Sudtribune, with a number of fist pumps and celebratory gestures directed at the home supporters. It kept the Dortmund fans quiet for all of five seconds, before they began to roar their team on again. Not to be outdone, the Malaga away end was busy going absolutely berserk, with fans clearly tumbling to the ground as they celebrated wildly.  The away goals rule meant that the game would now definitely be decided within 90 minutes, and Dortmund needed at least two goals to progress.

It seemed as if BVB had needed to fall behind to really start playing, and they showed the first signs of the magical football they are capable of in the following minutes. A succession of corners were forced, with Mario Gotze and Marco Reus showing why the future of German football is so bright. These chances came to nothing, but Dortmund and Reus were not to be denied for long. A breathtaking assist from Reus set Lewandowski free, and the Polish marksman made no mistake. He has found the net in his last ten Bundesliga games, and will surely spark a bidding war should he follow through with his intentions to leave the club.

If an element of doubt had begun to creep into the mind of the Dortmund supporters, this was soon erased by Lewandowki’s equaliser. The ground erupted in joy and relief, with the Sudtribune bouncing up and down in unison as scarves were twirled in the air. The goal came just five minutes before half time, helping to lift both the team and the supporters before the interval. It also lead to an extended version of ‘Auf Gehts Dortmund’, which is certainly one of the greatest football chants I have ever heard live. Perhaps my favourite thing about the attitude of German football supporters is how seriously they take their role as the ‘twelfth man’. If the side are losing or not performing well, they take it upon themselves to improve their own performance. There is none of the booing or hurling abuse for a misplaced pass, just pure, unquestioning love for the team.

So with the score level at half time, it was Malaga who were 45 minutes away from reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League. An accomplishment which would be made all the more incredible by the fact it was their first time in the competition. Their fans were certainly relishing the prospect of a European giant killing, helping to ensure that the entire stadium was alive with noise. The singing continued throughout the break, with the fact that the players weren’t actually on the pitch not having any impact on the atmosphere.

BVB ran out for the second half attacking the towering Sudtribune, as if the inspiration of reaching the semi-finals was not enough, they were now faced by 20,000 devoted fans bouncing up and down, waving flags and singing non stop. Whether it was the motivation of the Sudtribune or the words of coach Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund looked like a different side in the second half. The fluid passing, tracking back and retaining possession which has made them much of Europe’s second team was back, and they threatened to tear Malaga apart with this new-found confidence. However, it took a simply stupendous save from Weidenfeller just seconds in to the half to allow this transformation to take place.

It was that man again Joaquin, and he must surely have thought he had doubled his tally. Somehow, the Dortmund stopper was able to keep the ball out, with the save celebrated like a goal by the yellow shirted masses. It was unquestionably the best save I have witnessed live, and deserves to be recognised in the history books alongside what would take place in injury time. It would also prove to be Malaga’s last real chance for a long spell, as Dortmund took control. The black and yellows came closer and closer to beating the La Liga sides’ goalkeeper as Willy (yes, that is his real name) faced a barrage of Borussia attacks. Two saves in particular left Westfalenstadion stunned, as he denied both Reus and Gotze with his legs in the space of a few minutes. Both efforts seemed certain to end up in the back of the net, with the fans ready to go wild on both occasions, only for the ball to somehow stay out. Gotze’s effort with ten minutes to go looked as if it was going to creep into the corner, eventually inching wide much to the disbelief of the home crowd.

At this stage at a game in England, many home fans would have made an early exit. Old Trafford the night before had seen many Manchester United fans head for the car parks in the aftermath of Sergio Aguero’s strike, not waiting to see if their side could force a late goal as they have done so many times before. This was not the case with Dortmund, as the fans somehow managed to increase the volume further still. The corner from Gotze’s chance came to nothing, and there were just nine minutes left for Dortmund to find the goal to send them through and save the tie. This still seemed manageable with BVB in control of the tie, but then came the moment which would surely send Malaga to the last four.

Such was the desperation of Dortmund’s attacks it was inevitable they would be susceptible to a sucker punch, and so it came. Former Arsenal man Julio Baptista rolled the ball past the helpless Dortmund keeper, with the ball appearing to be heading wide until Eliseu made sure.  The Portuguese winger  looked suspiciously offside, but the protests were to no avail. The goal stood, and Malaga celebrated as if they had won the trophy itself. The players ran to the away end and began scaling the fence to celebrate, as the large traveling section celebrated their moment of glory. For many Borussia Dortmund fans, it was too much to take. The girl stood in the row in front of me collapsed to the ground in tears the moment the ball reached the feet of Eliseu, and hers were not the only tears to fall from the eyes of heartbroken home crowd. They had played so well, won so many friends, beaten some true giants of Europe, and now the dream was over.

All belief seemed to be gone, until an inspirational moment from the Dortmund goalkeeper. He ran to the halfway line to lift his teammates, urging them on and waving his arms to inspire the crowd to give them one last push. The fans responded, with the BORUSSIA BORUSSIA chants still extremely loud, but lacking in real belief that a comeback was possible.

Two goals were needed in eight minutes, with Malaga looking to run out the clock however possible. Goal kicks took an eternity to be taken, while several players threw themselves dramatically to the ground at the slightest hint of contact. As upsetting as it is when it takes place against your team, time-wasting in this fashion is a part of football and the delirious visitors played the tactic perfectly. Hummels came off the bench for Dortmund, with Gundogan the man to give way. There was no need for defending at this stage of the game, but Hummels had the role of playing long balls in to the box. Lewandowski had a header pushed onto the bar, but Malaga stood firm and the game moved into injury time.

Four minutes to go. Four minutes for BVB to somehow pull off something astonishing and make history. As far as the away fans were concerned it was already over, a tremendous party was going on in the far corner of the stadium, with thousands of Malaga fans bouncing up and down and waving their shirts in the air. They had supported their club magnificently, and were just a few short minutes away from the greatest moment in the history of their club. But, just as football can be beautiful, in the same moment it can be incredibly cruel. One mans finest moment is the darkest hour for his rival, and Malaga’s party was about to come to an abrupt end with a series of events I still can’t believe took place.

91 minutes on the clock, and the time for beautiful football has passed. A long ball into the box missed the despairing head of a Spanish defender, winding up at the feet of Reus after a frantic scramble in the box. With the stricken goalkeeper lying helpless on the floor, Reus rolled the ball into the empty net for the equaliser on the night. 2 – 2 after 92 minutes, but Dortmund’s job was not done. The away goals rule meant that this goal was worthless without another, with almost no reaction from any of the black and yellow shirted players as they grabbed the ball and sprinted back to the halfway line. The fans celebrated the goal for a brief second, before screaming at the team to get the game underway to find another.

Surely there was no time for Dortmund to find the crucial third goal? Despite the equaliser from Reus, I never even considered the prospect that the well organised Malaga would let this slip. All they had to do was win possession, run the ball to the corner and the game was over. But this is Borussia Dortmund. And this Borussia Dortmund side has been trained to fight for every second of the game, chase every ball and work for every lost cause. They poured forward once more, every single player charging into the Malaga half with the exception of the goalkeeper. Schmelzer got the ball just outside the area, but was met with a strong tackle. He took a quick throw in to Lewandowski, who lifted the ball into the box. Time seemed to stand still as a sea of Dortmund players challenged for the ball. For the first time all night, Westfalenstadion fell silent. The ball was stabbed across the face of the goal, where substitute Schieber steered it towards goal. Dortmund prepared to erupt, but a despairing lunge kept the ball out. But wait…the rebound falls at the feet of Santana a yard out from goal. It can only have taken a second for the Brazilian defender to put the ball into the goal, but it felt like a full minute had gone by before he put the finishing touch to the miracle in Dortmund. 3 – 2. 93rd minute.

A second of silence. Had that really happened? And then, bedlam. The only way to do justice to the celebrations are to compare them to an erupting black and yellow volcano. I have never seen joy on this scale, nor do I  expect to ever see anything like it again. The girl who had been crying in despair just eight minutes earlier was now weeping tears of joy, while a fan who must have been at least 80 years old hurled his walking stick to the side and jumped up and down in a way you suspected he had not done for decades. Because that’s what football can do. It can provide you with moments of such joy that for a moment you forget who you are. You are not an individual, but a collective unit. Fans tumbled to the ground over seats, fell to their knees to praise whichever spiritual being they had been praying to moments before, and strangers embraced. It’s likely that many of the people who celebrated that goal together will never see each other again, but it doesn’t matter. They were part of one of the most glorious moments in the history of the club, and the memories born in that instant will last far beyond when the 2012/13 season is just a date in the history books.

Meanwhile on the pitch, there were similarly joyous scenes. Goalscorer Santana was buried under a heaving pile of humanity, as his teammates celebrated what is surely their greatest moment so far. The substitutes and coaching staff were not to be left out, as they sprinted onto the pitch and danced wildly amongst the fallen bodies of the heartbroken Malaga players. Moments earlier they had been dreaming of Wembley, and now their fairytale European run was over. In the space of a few wild moments in Germany, their hopes and aspirations had been shattered in the cruelest of ways. They were the unwilling guests at a black and yellow party, one they wanted to escape as soon as possible.

The La Liga side were able to pick themselves off the floor to play the last few seconds of the game , but Dortmund were not to be denied now. A successful tackle was made, the ball was cleared with such force that it could well have flown back to England before I did, and the final whistle blew. The triumph confirmed, the wild celebrations started all over again. The Dortmund players charged to the Sudtribune, celebrating in the stands with the fans who just minutes earlier had not even dared to dream of such a scene. Beer flew through the air, scarves were triumphantly held aloft as a seemingly never-ending celebration took place around football’s finest arena.   After a prolonged celebration with the fans in the Sudtribune, the Dortmund players saluted the rest of the stadium, performing several laps of honour and diving into the goal at the North side of the goal to celebrate.

To the eternal credit of the Malaga fans, they clapped the victorious Dortmund squad as well as doing the best to lift their beaten heroes. Due to a ban for financial misdemeanors Malaga will not be in the Champions League next season, it will be a poorer competition without them.

Perfect moments in football do not happen very often, and it is no surprise that fans want to hang on to them when they do. The celebrations in the stadium went on until almost midnight, with the party in the streets of Dortmund going on long after that. After calling it a night in the very early hours, I said goodbye to my new German friends and prepared for the journey home. They shook my hand before going back to their chosen method of celebration, drinking beer and singing out of tune football songs in a fountain.

Many things have happened in the past months to test my love of football, but this was a night to remind me of why it is the greatest sport in the world. Both the Dortmund and Malaga fans went through every possible emotion over the course of the game, ending in the most spectacular fashion. As I walked into the central station, a Malaga fan sat crying on the ground, being consoled by two Dortmund fans, taking time away from their moment of glory to console a beaten rival.

As the club themselves said so well, it is for nights like this that the game is created. Because for all the negative stuff that comes with it, every smarmy football agent that becomes a millionaire and every miserable journey home from a 0 – 0 draw 300 miles away. Football. It’s brilliant, isn’t it?

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As shown in their magnificent pre-match choreo, Borussia Dortmund’s hunt for the Champions League trophy goes on. After a night like this, you wonder if there is anything on Earth which can stop them. Auf Gehts Dortmund…

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The Sudtribune, Dortmund.

One of my long-term ambitions as a football fan has been to stand on the world-famous Sudtribune at Dortmund, the largest terrace in Europe and arguably the most impressive sight in the whole of football. This weekend, I fulfilled that ambition as I travelled to Germany for Borussia Dortmund vs. Wolfsburg, a ticket secured right in the heart of the best stand in the whole of football. This is the story of the Sudtribune, along with pictures and videos to try to go some way to providing an insight into what I believe is the greatest football experience possible.

I arrived in Dortmund early on match day, picking up my ticket from a hotel after listening to a taxi driver tell me the story of how the Manchester City fans the week before had been “the drunkest people he had ever seen” and laughing as he sang the Yaya/Kolo Toure song. At no point during this time did he look at the road, making it hard to enjoy this part of the trip. The game didn’t kick off until 3:30 pm, and with the time around 12pm I decided to go into the stadium early to take some pictures of it while it was empty and watch the Sudtribune fill up.

As I found my way to the entrance of the stand, it was clear that the stand was very much not empty. While the other three sides of the stadium were deserted, the Sudtribune was already 3/4 full and demonstrating their large range of chants. I spotted someone with an equally awed expression as mine and noticed he was wearing a Crystal Palace scarf. The Holmesdale Fanatics are extremely good by English standards, but this was a whole new level. A full three hours before the game started, there was a better atmosphere than during the vast majority of Premier League games all season. Huge flags in the colours of yellow and black waved everywhere you look, while 30,000 scarfs twirled simultaneously during certain stages of songs.

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I was already hugely impressed, but things were about to get a whole lot louder. The Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper ran out on to the pitch to begin his warm-up. This stage of a game is usually greeted by polite applause, but that was not the case at Signal Igunda Park. Earlier this year I was at the Carling Cup Final as Liverpool won their first trophy for several years, and the noise made by the BVB masses for the Dortmund stopper was louder than that which greeted Anthony Gerrard’s missed penalty and Liverpool’s victory. An hour remained until the game began, and the stand was full to bursting and bouncing in unison. Every time the feet of the Dortmund supporters hit the ground, the entire stand would shake.

The Wolfsburg supporters had arrived by this stage, a group of around 500 dwarfed in the capacity crowd of 81,000. They did their best to make themselves heard, but it was like trying to prevent a tidal wave with a sheet of kitchen roll. Most fans will proclaim themselves as the best in the world, only Dortmund can say they are telling the truth when they do so. This was the second time I had witnessed their fans, the first being the Champions’ League group stage game against Manchester City. In Britain we are used to away fans being loud while the majority of home supporters are quiet. I had wondered if perhaps the same would be true of Germany and whether the Dortmund fans at home could match the highly impressive away gathering at the Etihad. I need not have worried.

As kick off approached the chanting got louder and louder, imagine the noise of Leeds United winning the Champions League at the same instant Millwall won the Premier League and England won the World Cup and you’d be somewhere close to a realistic comparison. The first name of each Dortmund player was bellowed by the stadium announcer, the surname roared back by everyone in the ground. As part of my research into the trip I had learned that every set of German fans was currently taking part in the 12:12 protest, proposed changes to the way supporters are treated met with an angry reaction. The plans include the kind of thing which English football fans have become familiar with, reduced away allocations, searches for supporters upon entering the grounds and games being moved for television. As a result of these proposals, the supporters of every club agreed to stay silent for the first 12 minutes and 12 seconds of every game.

I did not think this could work in practice. I had witnessed for myself in the summer how difficult it was to persuade fans to protest something they are not happy with, and it is a struggle for many sets of supporters to stay quiet even during a minute’s silence for a former legend or famous public figure. Without falling into the cliché of talking about the organisation of Germans, the preservation of fan culture is clearly high on the agenda of the German public, as the stadium went from a cauldron of noise before kick-off to deadly silent as the first ball was kicked.

Dortmund are an extremely good side, and my own personal tip to lift the Champions League at the end of the season. They began the game quickly; creating several chances which I was certain would break the silence. It was not the case, the BVB supporters staying silent as Wolfsburg struggled to contain wave upon wave of yellow and black shirts. It took just six minutes for Dortmund to take the lead, the superb Marco Reus scoring a free kick from a frankly ridiculous angle. Even this did not break the 12:12 protest, the goal politely applauded like a point at Wimbledon, rather than the mayhem I knew would result from a goal after the protest period had been completed.

Dortmund kept up the high standards of play, almost doubling their lead on at least one occasion. By this stage all eyes had turned to the stadium clock, which was slowly counting up to the magical 12 minute and 12 second mark. I knew it was going to be special, getting my camera ready to record the moment. At 12:02 the crowd counted down from ten, a buzz of excitement rippling around the ground. The count reached “DREI…ZWEI… EINS”. Mayhem followed. The air was filled with yellow streamers, balloons and even more flags that had been on display before the game. The crowd punched the air and screamed “BORUSSIA! BORUSSIA! BORUSSIA!” as if their lives depended on it. Several years ago I worked at an airport and would often hear planes taking off, the noise that made was nothing compared to this moment of madness from the Dortmund faithful. Hopefully the video below will go some way to demonstrating the craziness which resulted from the shackles of support being released.

These twelve minutes and twelve seconds were the last time you could hear yourself think, unrelenting support demonstrated for the remainder of the game and throughout half time. Dortmund hardly ever lose at home, and it is not difficult to see why. As an opposition player there can be few more intimidating sights in football, perhaps behind only John Terry handing your wife his mobile number. It is a wonder teams don’t walk out of the tunnel, look up at the stands and instantly forfeit. However on this occasion, the visitors would be rescued by a crazy decision by referee Wolfgang Stark, a man who is about as popular with Dortmund fans as the Schalke squad.

A shot on goal from a Wolfsburg player was blocked on the line by Schmelzer, the ball quite clearly hitting the player’s leg. Even from up in the top of the Sudtribune I could see it wasn’t a penalty, and clearly the 29,999 loyal Dortmund fans with whom I was sharing a stand would concur. Mr Stark did not see things the same way however, giving a penalty and showing a despairing Schmelzer a red card. If you’ve never stood in the middle of thousands of angry German ultras (and let’s face it, you probably haven’t), it is a daunting and impressive experience. My GCSE in German told me the song they sung in some way involved Wolfgang Stark’s mother; thankfully for those easily offended I could not translate it further than this.

While professional footballers will always be expected to score a penalty, having to do so in front of an angry Sudtribune is perhaps one occasion where a miss could be excused. The Brazilian Diego made no mistake from the spot however, levelling the scores with a calm penalty which sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. Manchester United or Arsenal letting a lead slip at home would surely have resulted in a mixture of silence and anger; however Borussia Dortmund continued to back their team without pausing for an instant. Even as the Wolfsburg players ran to celebrate in front of them (greeted by a shower of beer), the chanting began again as the home hordes urged their side to somehow find a way to win and keep up the pressure on their rivals as they attempt to win a third Bundesliga in a row.

Five minutes later, Wolfsburg were celebrating again, as yet another Brazilian found a way to beat the Dortmund keeper. It was a superb strike, but there was more than a hint of offside in the build-up and once again unimaginable levels of fury were directed in the direction of the match official, who was probably wishing he was somewhere far away. These goals in the 36th and 41st minutes put Wolfsburg in a commanding position to take an unexpected victory, making the extra man count quickly. Half time arrived without any further goals, with a steward rushing on to the pitch to hand the referee Stark an umbrella. I was confused as to the purpose of this, until he reached the tunnel area and several litres of beer were poured in his direction. Having seen just how much Germans loved beer the night before, this was no small sacrifice.

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The end of the 12:12 protest had been the most memorable moment so far, but half time was to provide perhaps the most unexpected. Small children on the pitch at half time of a football match has become a familiar sight for those who attend matches, with the overawed youngsters usually taking a couple of quick penalties or passing the ball to a mascot in some kind of over-sized animal costume. Not in Germany. Not in Dortmund.

The children waved to the Sudtribune, and began one of the strangest and yet extremely joyful things I have ever witnessed. They began to sing “Jingle Bells” in perfect English, as the Dortmund fans linked arms. As they reached the chorus, the entire stadium joined in with familiar Christmas tune and bounced up and down. Minutes earlier the stadium had been wishing all sorts of unfortunate accidents to occur to the referee, and now 30,000 people were bouncing up and down and singing about Santa. It shows that while Dortmund fans dearly love their team and want to see them win, they have not forgotten that watching football is supposed to be fun.

Despite being 2 – 1 down and down to ten men, Borussia Dortmund came out the better team in the second half. Attacking the yellow wall, how could they not? The pressure applied and the unwavering support soon had a reward, a foul in the  box giving one of the many talented Polish players at Dortmund a chance from the spot. Blaszczykowski made no mistake, scoring the second penalty of the game and levelling the scores. Unimaginable scenes. The stand shook so much I felt as if it would surely collapse, beer went flying through the air, flags waved and small flares were ignited, although they resembled sparklers rather than the more visually impressive but more dangerous Italian version. I have a video of the goal, but honestly a thousand cameras could not really do it justice. Borussia Dortmund scoring a goal at the Sudtribune is an experience every football fan should have once.

Sadly the Dortmund fight back could not last and I did not get to witness a winner which would probably have sent the stadium into orbit. Indeed, it was Wolfsburg who were to have the last laugh. The ten men of Dortmund were caught out with just over 15 minutes remaining, Dost breaking free and finishing calmly in a one on one situation. With BVB desperately needing a win to keep up with Bayern Munich I thought this could be the stage the support quietened, but instead the opposite happened. They rallied their team for one last push, declaring their Echte Liebe (true love) for Dortmund. A goal never came despite frantic activity in the box and the frenzied home fans urging their side onward to claim at least a point.

One thing which was notable was the fact that not a single Dortmund fan left their seat as the game moved into injury time. Football stadiums in England often empty with 85 minutes on the clock, especially if the home side are not winning. No danger of that here, as the wonderful Dortmund fans applauded their side off the field despite losing to the team in 14th place. With no offence intended to Arsenal, you cannot imagine the same happening at the Emirates should they dare to lose a game. The Dortmund players walked over to the Yellow Wall at full-time, clapping the fans and raising defiant salutes. They may be a mile behind Munich in the league, but they aren’t giving up.

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Meanwhile in the far corner, the Wolfsburg players celebrated a famous victory. The players linked arms and raised them several times, each one drawing a louder cheer from the fans who had made the journey. There is real respect between players and fans in Germany, something which is badly missing from the average out of touch Premiership footballer.

I left the stadium feeling as if I had had a religious experience. I knew it was going to be good, but it was beyond all of my hopes and expectations. German football is an example to us all, that being a football fan does not have to mean a life of suffering. I believe that the money in football means it can no longer be called the beautiful game, but Borussia Dortmund are certainly a beautiful team. If you are a football fan and get the chance to go, do it. It may just be the best thing you ever do.