Champions League final: The neutrals' dilemma - which German side to back, Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund?
First all-Bundesliga final pits mega-rich Bayern against down-to-earth Dortmund at Wembley
Friday 24 May 2013
"Football's coming home" will ring around Wembley on Saturday night but the accents will be German. The first all-Bundesliga Champions League final is probably not the scenario the Football Association had in mind for its 150th birthday celebrations, and for the neutral, it poses a unique dilemma: which German team to support at Wembley?
National champions for the 23rd time this season, Bayern Munich are the bookmakers' favourites but British watchers may want to note that more Germans will be rooting for Borussia Dortmund (who finished 25 points behind Bayern in second place). According to a Kicker magazine poll of 100,000 readers and website users, 58 per cent are behind Jürgen Klopp's underdogs. Given how Bayern divide opinion at home, it's no surprise. "It's either you like them or you hate them," says Kicker's Jörg Jakob.
Bayern have a budget twice the size of any of their domestic rivals – roughly one-quarter of German football followers are believed to support a team whose name translates as Bavaria. Bayern's membership scheme will soon reach 200,000 but they limit season tickets to 40,000 to ensure a lot of day trippers at games, guaranteeing better matchday income at the Allianz Arena, a stadium their critics call the "Arroganz Arena".
"The club that has come closest to being an international corporation in Germany is Bayern Munich; Dortmund are in many ways the total opposite of Bayern," says Uli Hesse, author of Tor!, an English-language history of German football. Hesse is from Dortmund, a city of 500,000 people in the industrial Ruhr region, and explains: "There are so many things you can do in Rome or London or Munich or Milan but in Dortmund it's really only the football. It's not that big a city, they had a lot of breweries and steel mills in the Sixties but that's all gone. The relationship between the people living there and the [team] is totally different to what applies in Munich."
Dortmund pack 80,000 into their home stadium for every fixture, with almost 25,000 alone in the Südtribune, the largest terrace in Europe where tickets start at €15.30 (£13). There is much else to admire at the club, with an eloquent, media-friendly coach, Klopp, and young, inexpensively assembled and highly attractive team. "The last two years Dortmund were hugely popular in Germany – not just because they challenged Bayern but also because the football was great, with very interesting characters in the team and a great coach," adds Hesse.
Unlike in the Nineties, when Bayern's excesses earned them the nickname "FC Hollywood", the rivalry between the clubs had been respectful, but Bayern's announcement last month of the £31.5m signing of Dortmund's homegrown star Mario Götze – and pursuit of striker Robert Lewandowski – has changed that. Reviving Bayern's long-established practice of weakening their direct rivals, it also raised tensions and the sides' subsequent league meeting featured a touchline spat between Klopp and Bayern's sporting director Matthias Sammer, a former Dortmund player and coach.
"We are a club, not a company," said Klopp this week as he likened Bayern to a "James Bond villain". Hesse describes Bayern as the Real Madrid to Dortmund's Barcelona yet concedes that the Bavarians have become more likeable under coach Jupp Heynckes. "They have a lot more team spirit, the football is a lot more attractive."
Heynckes, the 68-year-old elder statesman of German football, was the striker in the Borussia Mönchengladbach side who were Bayern's challengers (and the romantics' favourites) in the Seventies. He is expected to retire after the German Cup final on 1 June.
"He is the nice, old uncle," says Patrick Strasser, Bayern reporter for the Munich newspaper Abendzeitung. "It is possible some German fans think he deserves [to win] – it could be the perfect end to his career." It would also ensure Bayern avoid a hat-trick of Champions League final defeats after 2010 and 2012 – indeed Strasser insists losing to Dortmund at Wembley would be even worse than last year's defeat to Chelsea in their own stadium. Whether that is enough to earn many sympathy votes on Saturday seems unlikely, though.
Deutsch for a night: A bluffer's guide
Steht auf, wenn ihr Bayern/Dortmund seid
Stand up if you're Bayern/Dortmund
Zieht den Bayern die Lederhosen aus*
Let's strip off Bayern's lederhosen
(*only if you're in the Dortmund end)
Warum ist das Stadionmagazin so teuer?
Why is this match programme so expensive?
Unsere Bratwurst schmeckt viel besser – und kostet nur ein Drittel
Our hot dogs are much better – and only a third of the price
Zum Glück kommt der Linienrichter nicht aus Aserbaidschan
Thank God the linesman's not from Azerbaijan
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