A Bundesliga Experience

By Euan Burns//@burns_euan

Hertha Berlin and Borussia Dortmund played out a thrilling match in the Bundesliga’s Saturday evening fixture.

Dortmund won the game after Marco Reus’s 93rd minute strike, but they twice fell behind to a resilient Hertha team.

The scoring got under way thanks to former Chelsea man Salomon Kalou pouncing on a Roman Bürki mistake after just four minutes. It only took 10 minutes for Dortmund to hit back after Thomas Delaney’s strike took a wicked deflection and bounced agonisingly into the net.

This sparked a period of pressure for Dortmund, but it was Kalou who scored next from the penalty spot to put his team 2-1 up before half time.

Dortmund flew out the traps in the second half, with Zagadou heading in an equaliser after 47 minutes. Almost the entire half consisted of sustained Dortmund pressure, and it felt only a matter of time before they scored the winner.

A flurry of chances were missed by the yellows, but it was Hertha who thumped the post after a quick counter-attack. Hertha’s task became even harder after defender Jordan Torunarigha was sent off for two yellow cards on 85 minutes.

Dortmund finally got the winner their play had merited when Reus swept in a cross from the left into the bottom corner, breaking Hertha hearts. In a foul tempered final few minutes, substitute Vedad Ibisevic was sent off for Hertha for angrily throwing the ball at Bürki’s head.

Whilst the action on the pitch was thoroughly entertaining, it was the action in the stands that I was most looking forward to seeing. Both sets of fans did not disappoint.

The Olympiastadion was a cacophony of noise. The main difference between a game in England and this game in Germany is that the chants and noise levels weren’t heavily affected by what was happening on the pitch. It was constant singing and jumping, regardless of where on the pitch the all was.

The Hertha fans were being led by a man down at the front with a microphone who seemed to spend the entire game facing his fellow supporters starting chants for everyone to join in with. The abundance of flags never stopped waving, and even when the winning goal went in, there wasn’t the same feeling of stress and aggression that you feel in English stands.

In the very rare moments that the lead fan kept quiet, you could hear the Dortmund fans at the other end of the pitch. This is deeply impressive considering the size of the running track surrounding the pitch and the very open stadium which allows noise to escape.

It’s common for the hardcore support for each team to be at opposite ends of the ground, and then the middle becomes quite mixed. This seems almost unimaginable in England as we create such a hostile atmosphere. When Dortmund scored, to me the two sides of the ground seemed to cheer louder than when Hertha scored.

Something that every fan would like to see at the moment is Jadon Sancho playing live. He didn’t perform to expectation in the first half, with Dortmund struggling to put together any real flowing moves. However, he was blistering in the second half. His movement was reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United, as he switched wings regularly, and also popped up down the middle on occasion. He was very unlucky not to score, and eventually got his rewards by setting up Marco Reus’s winner with a lovely outside of the boot cross.

A novelty I was very much looking forward to was being able to have a beer in the stand. There’s something much more friendly about the whole experience when you don’t feel like you’re constantly suspected of hooliganism. Something I didn’t realise was that people are also allowed to smoke in the stands. Either that or the stewards aren’t very vigilant.

It was quite incredible to watch a game of football in the historic Olympiastadion, looking across at a spot Adolf Hitler has made speeches from in the not-so-distant past. There is something quite eerie about the watching football in the stadium where black athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, much to Hitler’s annoyance. The stadium is quite something to look at and is easily accessible on the U-Bahn from the city centre.

There was an interesting moment of solidarity between both sets of fans, when Dortmund unveiled a banner saying “4 leagues, 4 champions, 4 newcomers. Regional league reform now”. This is a reference to the recent dispute’s fans have been having with the German Football Association. There was then a mutual chant by both sets of fans. I could only work out the words “scheisse” and “DFA”, but I could get the idea.

I can highly recommend going to see Hertha Berlin play live, especially given Hertha plan to move stadium by 2025.

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