Being a preview of the forthcoming match between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04.
Matthias Suuck, the presenter of the Yellow Wall pod, a Borussia Dortmund podcast, once described the rivalry between Dortmund and Schalke as more about the two sets of fans similarities rather than their differences. Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen are two former mining cities in the heavily industrialised region of the Ruhr Valley in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and the traditional support base of both clubs is working class.
The region of NRW is teeming with football clubs of various shapes and sizes but (and this will be argued vigorously, in Cologne and Mönchengladbach) Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 are the biggest. Their derby game is known as the Revierderby and their encounters are among the most highly anticipated in Germany, because both teams enjoy a national (and increasingly international) support as well as local.
What usually tends to be missing from these fixtures is the additional sense of peril in terms of the importance of the result. Given the historical dominance of Bayern Munich you don’t often find Dortmund or Schalke competing against each other for the Bundesliga championship. Moreover, the German FA have failed to contrive an encounter between the two teams in the German Cup since the year 2000, in which Schalke won 2-1. That may explain why this derby remains one of the best supported in Europe, it is not as celebrated outside Germany as the Real Madrid v Barcelona, Manchester United v Liverpool or the Old Firm games.
That being said, the overall improvement in quality of the Bundesliga, following their reconstruction after Germany’s disastrous display in Euro 2000 coupled with the further internationalisation of football via the Internet has raised awareness of this derby as fans seek different narratives to FC Bayern Munich winning all the time.
In their last encounter, earlier this season, Dortmund prevailed in Gelsenkirchen thanks to goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nuri Şahin and Jakub Błaszczykowski in a 3-1 win. The match was not without controversy off the pitch as Dortmund fans threw flares on the the pitch and into some sections of the Schalke crowd. The TV cameras picked up one supporter who had been hit by a flare with had cause mild damaged to his coat.
There is and remains a general uptightness among the authorities in Germany regarding the use of pyrotechnics in football stadiums. This episode did little to persuade them to respect many fans insistence that the pyros are an inherent part of German fan culture which should be accommodated.
This Tuesday, the two team meet again in the evening. This presents a rare opportunity for UK TV audiences to sample the atmosphere of this derby. Often times, the game is played on Saturday afternoons during the TV blackout in Britain. The fact that BVB and Schalke occupy second and third in the table and are competing under floodlights should make for a spicy encounter especially as this is a derby in which both sets of players understand its importance.
Kevin Großkreutz, Dortmund’s almost ever present utility man has stood on the terrace at the Südtribüne at the Westfalenstadion. Marco Reus is also a local Dortmund lad and a win against Schalke will be more than a matter of professional pride. For Schalke, Julian Draxler is from nearby Gladbeck and a Schalke fan. Seventeen year old, Max Meyer and nineteen year old Leon Goretzka are from nearby Oberhausen and Bochum, respectively and their football education will have been informed by the presence of these two great clubs and their mutual rivalry.
In fact fact that both clubs still include local players in their line-ups is part of what makes this derby what it is. It is a quality absent in many of the great European derby games and is something to savour.
Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 kicks off at 7pm UK time on Tuesday 25th March
and will be transmitted on ESPN. See comments