Passing 100 of anything - games, goals or years – is always a significant footballing milestone. The magic number speaks of experience, rich tradition and, likely as not, a fascinating and incident-filled history. For this reason, Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund and their millions of black-and-yellow clad fans will feel a burst of pride on 19 December 2009, the day the Ruhr Valley club celebrates its 100th birthday.
Borussia’s extensive list of honours includes six German championships, two DFB German Cups, and triumphs in the UEFA Champions League and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Die Schwarzgelben (the Black Yellows) thus rate as one of the nation’s most successful clubs, and lie fifth in the all-time Bundesliga standings.
Birth of an institution
On 19 December 1909, a group of young steelworkers and miners banded together to form Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund. The term 'Borussia' was chosen in honour of the beer served in the pub where the men used to gather. Why not, thought the founders, name our club after our favourite beverage? Heinrich Unger was elected the new club’s first chairman.
In the course of the 1930s, Borussia Dortmund developed into one of Germany’s best football clubs. However, and in common with a significant number of their rivals, BVB effectively had to restart from scratch in terms of structures, staff and facilities after the cessation of hostilities in the Second World War.
But the recovery was swift, and Borussia made a first appearance in the German championship final in 1949, although that match was lost 3-2 after extra-time to VfR Mannheim. The club went one better in 1956, when Dortmund beat Karlsruher SC 4-2 in the German championship final to claim a maiden national title, which they went on to retain the following season.
Fielding an unchanged line-up compared to the previous year, BVB defeated Hamburger SV 4-1 in 1957 to seal their second title. They made it a hat-trick in 1963, the final season before the introduction of the Bundesliga, with a 3-1 victory against Cologne in the final. Dortmund finished fourth in the inaugural Bundesliga season in 1964.
Growth of a legend
In 1965, and after a previous defeat in the final, Borussia finally added the German cup to their trophy cabinet with a 2-0 win over Alemannia Aachen. The following year brought a major triumph with a 2-1 extra-time victory against English giants Liverpool in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final. Dortmund thus became the first German club to claim European honours, courtesy of a memorable 106th-minute winning goal from Reinhard Stan Libuda, still talked of in hushed tones in Borussia circles today.
The club’s fortunes declined from that peak for a spell afterwards, culminating in relegation from the top flight in 1972. Promotion back to the Bundesliga was not achieved until 1976, but the almost unique allure and passion aroused by the men in black and yellow was evident from the average attendance at the newly-constructed Westfalenstadion: the promoted club were easily the best-supported in the Bundesliga with an average home crowd in excess of 40,000.
Despite that, Borussia ran into financial problems in the early 1980s, and performances on the field suffered accordingly. BVB only preserved their top flight status in 1985/86 by virtue of a relegation play-off victory over second division Fortuna Koeln. The tide turned towards the end of the decade with a 4-1 DFB Cup final victory over Werder Bremen in 1989, a second cup triumph and a first trophy in 23 years.
The 1990s were to prove the most glorious decade in the club’s history. In 1991, the board took a risk on the relatively inexperienced Ottmar Hitzfeld as head coach. By 1995, BVB had won the league title for the first time in 32 years, repeating the feat the following season. Borussia were now mixing it at the top table of European football too, stunningly defeating Juventus 3-1 to win the UEFA Champions League in 1997, and later collecting the Intercontinental Cup with a 2-0 success against Cruzeiro of Belo Horizonte. The Dortmund side featuring the likes of Stefan Reuter, Jurgen Kohler, Matthias Sammer, Steffen Freund and Andreas Moeller also provided the spine of the Germany line-up that won the UEFA European Championship title at Wembley in 1996.
Once again, Dortmund’s ascent was followed by a rapid fall from grace. After the departure of Hitzfeld and a clutch of the club’s best players, the board invested heavily in new stars, only for sporting success to prove elusive. The nadir was reached in 1999-2000, when instead of challenging for the title, Borussia found themselves in an unseemly scrap to avoid relegation.
The roller-coaster ride was set to continue. After Dortmund became the first German club listed on the stock exchange, European championship winner Sammer returned to coach BVB to their sixth German championship title in 2002. Borussia also narrowly lost the UEFA Cup final 3-2 against Rotterdam giants Feyenoord.
Borussia again faded from the limelight in the subsequent period, the one exception being a 2-1 extra-time defeat to Bayern in the 2007 DFB Cup final. However, a look back over the history of the Ruhr Valley outfit suggests that Borussia will be back competing for honours on the domestic and European stage sooner or later.
Signal Iduna Park, known as the Westfalenstadion until December 2005, is Germany’s biggest dedicated football stadium with a capacity of 80,000. The British* Times *newspaper placed Signal Iduna Park top of its list of the ten best stadiums in the world in an op-ed piece published in the summer of 2009.
The stadium was constructed between 1971 and 1974 for the 1974 FIFA World Cup Germany™, where it hosted four matches, and has been expanded since 1995 in a series of reconstruction projects. The stadium hosted six matches at the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals, including the semi-final in which eventual winners Italy beat hosts Germany 2-0 in extra-time.