- Liverpool and Dortmund were awarded the inaugural FIFA Fan Award in 2016
- * * The clubs were recognised for their joint tribute to victims of the Hillsborough disaster
- * * Club officials reflect on the positive impact of the accolade
Last year’s inaugural FIFA Fan Award saw supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund share the first edition of the accolade. Ahead of their UEFA Europa League match at Anfield in April 2016, the two sets of fans sang the Reds’ unofficial anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” together to remember Hillsborough victims on the eve of the 27th anniversary of the disaster.
Before the award is presented for the second time at the upcoming The Best FIFA Football Awards™ in London on 23 October, FIFA.com caught up with the representatives of both teams who attended the inaugural ceremony in Zurich to find out what the accolade meant to them and the effect it has had on their clubs.
"This was the first time that FIFA's recognised the important role that football fans play in the game. It was a great honour for Liverpool to be nominated alongside Borussia Dortmund for the FIFA Fan Award," said Susan Black, Liverpool’s director of communications. "At the event in Zurich both clubs agreed that should we be selected as the winner, the award would be dedicated to the 96 victims who lost their lives at Hillsborough. It was a moving moment when we were both announced as the award winners."
"It was very well received within the club,” recalled Torsten Schild, chairman of the BVB Supporters Association, when asked about the club’s nomination. “We were delighted to be nominated, and it felt very fitting to dedicate the award to the 96. As well as singing together before the match itself, there were two days of events in the run-up to the game. The people that helped all this happen were delighted to be recognised in this way. I think it’s fantastic that there’s an award for supporters."
The clubs are equally pleased that football fans can now count themselves among The Best the beautiful game has to offer - and not just by receiving the Fan Award, but also by playing a role in the voting process. "It's only right that the voices of supporters are heard," Black said. "Fans are such a big part of any club and the voting process for this award was very straightforward, so it was easy for fans to have their say."
With former BVB coach Jurgen Klopp now in charge at Liverpool, and with both sets of fans already holding anniversary events to celebrate Dortmund’s 2-1 victory over the Reds in the 1966 European Cup Winners’ Cup final, the two clubs already shared a strong bond, but their latest accolade has still had an encouraging impact, as Schild explained.
"Since the Fan Award, the link between our supporters and officials has become even stronger," he said. "After the Borussia Dortmund team bus was attacked [last spring], we immediately started getting emails to ask how we were doing.”
Meanwhile Black is hoping for another competitive meeting between the two teams this season. “Both clubs are in the Champions League this year so there’s a chance we'll play each other again," Black said. "There will always be a special relationship between us and Borussia Dortmund."
Schild believes the FIFA Fan Award was “a win for everybody” and that the other two shortlisted candidates also deserved recognition. “What the Icelandic fans did throughout the entire [EURO 2016] tournament was absolutely fantastic, and Den Haag’s teddy bear idea was a very powerful gesture too,” he said. “All of the nominees spent two days together in Zurich and got on extremely well.”
After all, that is what football, and the FIFA Fan Award in particular, is all about.