Dortmund dreaming despite distractions

Posted by Stephan Uersfeld

"How should I know?" Borussia Dortmund CEO Aki Watzke raged in an interview with German paper FAZ last weekend. For the umpteenth time, he was asked whether he knew about an existing contract, or maybe even two contracts, between Robert Lewandowski and Bayern Munich. "Until today, nobody from Bayern Munich has talked to us about the Lewandowski case."

"Apart from that, I think it is rather disconcerting that the public only talks about which players might leave us only one day after our once-in-a-century game, a 4-1 against Real Madrid, a team that is three times as expensive as ours," Watzke added, referring to the transfer speculation. "I think that is unfair towards our players and our coaching staff."

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It was not the only interview Watzke gave the past few days. Instead of taking a step aside, the German media outlets hyperventilated, and up until today, they have been buying and selling players for Borussia Dortmund: Lewandowski was off to Bayern, Mats Hummels was fleeing to Barcelona, Ilkay Gundogan was also headed to La Liga. Edin Dzeko posted a picture of a plane he signed for Borussia and swapped shirts with Marco Reus, which, of course, meant Reus was using his first chance to escape and sign for Manchester City.

The background noises grew louder and louder, just like at Dortmund's Sudtribune during the Real Madrid game last Wednesday. All the while, Lewandowski's agency started a private war with German journalists, attacking them heavily on Twitter when they were, according to the agency, not reporting the truth.

"When writing his articles, Rockenhaus is most probably in a state of aberration," they commented in a rather impolite way on an article by one of the Dortmund insiders, Freddie Rockenhaus. In Suddeutsche Zeitung, Rockenhaus suggested that Bayern Munich had left it to Lewandowski's agents to get their client out of his Dortmund contract. The rather inspired headline read: "They all go bonkers."

And bonkers they went. Late Monday, a rumor on Twitter surfaced that the German tabloid Bild, who broke the Gotze story a week ago, was about to have another scoop come midnight. Within minutes the network was filled with more rumors, and when nothing happened at midnight, the rumors continued. Meanwhile, other "insiders" claimed they knew about transfers that would turn the world of Dortmund fans upside down.

"We are victims of social media, which I hold in low esteem anyway," Watzke had said in another interview. "Insane things are spread there, they sometimes make you sick. But we will not [be able] get this ghost back in the bottle."

With all of the hysteria surrounding Borussia Dortmund, it is even more impressive what the club has achieved the past few weeks: Storming through the Champions League like there was no tomorrow -- and, of course, for this squad there is no tomorrow -- and conquering the hearts of millions of football fans out there for their performances on and off the pitch during those Spanish nights against Malaga and Real that have already gone down in orussia's history books

There is a work by the late Slovenian poet Dane Zajc, and the first verse read:

"The two walk together / connected, inseparable / one staggers / the other supports him / this one swears / that one whispers verses / into a sea of his own verses / this one falls, that one rises / to lift the other up, to comfort him / sometimes, only sometimes they are one / then they shine, then he shines through them."

Die Schwatzgelben, the Dortmund faithful, have reached "sometimes." They are one. They shine and he shines through them.

And everyone in Dortmund, be it fans, be it the players, the boardroom or the coaching staff, they all know now is not the time to get distracted. They are a mere 90 minutes away from Wembley 2013, going into the return leg against Real Madrid with a 4-1 lead, with a team that has given European football a minimum of 11 new names and -- with Jurgen Klopp -- one of the most entertaining managers in today's game.

Not to mention the Yellow Wall, which after years of staying relatively anonymous in the Bundesliga, has become a household name in football the past few months, with more fans from all over the world desperately trying to fight their way onto the 25,000-capacity Sudtribune -- a place that stands for so many things that are good in football. "Bratwurst, beer and Borussia" have become a trademark in Europe.

The comfortable 4-1 lead from the first leg could take Borussia Dortmund into an all-German final in Wembley in late May, a dream-like prospect for the entire Dortmund faithful. "We are still not the usual semifinalist," Klopp said during his news conference. "We want to act like someone who has dreamed of qualifying for the final all of his life."

Who are the Dortmund fans to not believe the magician's words? Once more, all of the rumors will be put aside for at least 90 minutes Tuesday.

The Zajc poem, however, ends as many good poems end -- on a rather dark note.

"But they fall apart again / this one looks into the distance / that one counts the monsters in his head / this one hopes fragile hopes / that one trembles with fear / they swim in a dark lake / and wave their wartish trunks / in the dark night of his body."

But that is still at least 90 minutes away. "The only way to reach your dream is to do it brave," Klopp said.

And the dream includes an option for another 90 minutes. In Wembley, the home of football, in the Champions League final, against Bayern Munich.

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