From bankruptcy to Champions League semis, Dortmund are living the dream

by Pulasta Dhar  Apr 12, 2013 17:59 IST

#Borussia Dortmund   #Champions League   #KickingAround  

Football... bloody hell!

Some roller-coasters are fun, some are simply not. Some make you puke at the end of them, and some make you shriek and screech in delight. For Borussia Dortmund, their Champions League quarter-final win was a good roller-coaster — and probably a ride they'll never forget till the end of their days. And with Real Madrid waiting in the semis, this ride hasn't ended yet.

Football runs in a weird way. You can be champions one minute, bankrupt the other, and champions again — all in the space of hardly a decade. Or, as Juventus have learnt in the past, be champions one minute and then suddenly find yourself relegated.

Yes, Borussia Dortmund are in the semis of the Champions League — but it's hard to believe the magnitude of their achievement because this is the same club which almost went bust in 2005. They may have lost their Bundesliga title to Bayern Munich this season, but finished top in their Champions League group which consisted of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax.

Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus (C) and team mates celebrate after defeating Malaga to win the Champions League quarter-final. Reuters

Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus (C) and team mates celebrate after defeating Malaga to win the Champions League quarter-final. Reuters

Also, scoring two goals in injury time to reach this stage makes it even more special. It shows that this club will fight till the very end — be it off the pitch or on it.

After a glorious era in the 90s and early 2000s, Dortmund hit a major snag. From winning the Bundesliga in 95', 96' and 02' and the Champions League in 1997, they suddenly found themselves floundering to stay alive.

The purchase of Tomas Rosicky (€14.5m), Jan Koller (€10.5M) and Marcio Amoroso (€25m) in 2001 were seen as splurging without proper budgeting.

This sort of heavy spending led to debts of £125 million and the sale of the naming rights of their ground -Westfalenstadion - due to their failure to advance in the 2003 Champions League. It was found out that the club had spent money thinking they would make the Champions League without any guarantee of actually being in the competition.

Football clubs are delicate material and Dortmund had become an example of what reckless decision-making can do. The value of their shares (they went public in 2000 - the only German club to do so) went down by more than 80%.

It was at this crucial juncture of bankruptcy that Bayern Munich loaned the club €2 million to pay player wages — which would later be cut by 20% due to the crisis.. What really helped is the fact that the club plays in the largest stadium in Germany and is home to an average 80,000 supporters every match. They may have sold its naming rights but their tickets remain the most affordable in Europe -- a slap in the face of the English Premier League -- whose ticket prices have soared by more than five times the rate of inflation in England.

And they're not powered by some oil baron or airlines owner or Qatari prince. This is a club owned by their fans - some of whom helped them in dire times -- and the players have repaid them with unbelievable success. Dortmund's is not a story of billions being invested towards inflated transfer sums and player wages. Dortmund's is purely a football story - and there aren't enough superlatives to describe the way they operate.

On the pitch between 2006 and 2008, Dortmund had a tumultuous time. They were threatened with relegation during the 2006-07 season and their star defender Christoph Metzelder left the club on a free. They also went through three different coaches in this period. For Dortmund fans, this was probably the lowest they had seen their club plummet in modern football history.

But with Jurgenn Klopp came a new era. The manager assembled a squad which cost less than £5 million and won the title with them in 2011. Rather than invest in new players, they set up the BVB Academy — now hailed for producing the gems that have driven them so close to Champions League glory once again. The group, made of players like Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan, Marcel Schmeltzer, Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and others are the most coveted youngsters in European football.

They've got one of the youngest squads in Europe and managing director Thomas Treb has been quoted as saying: “It is better to make your suit from the cloth available, rather than spend money you don’t have on a fancy new outfit that falls apart a couple of years later.”

Therefore, despite Malaga doing pretty well in the quarters, the neutrals' hearts were set on Dortmund. It is a club easy to love, and if they find success, very few will actually have a problem with it. It will be a fitting end to their fairytale, and easily one of the many that European nights have produced.

The most exciting part however, is that the climax of this remarkable story is yet to unfold.

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