When it was announced that the Bundesliga would be returning after a long 9 weeks, I was incredibly excited about the prospect of live soccer, albeit behind closed doors, even in a league I did not typically follow as closely. While I have been an avid soccer fan for many years, I have primarily focused on my local MLS club and the Premier League; however like most Americans, I have casually followed Dortmund over the years watching the occasional Christian Pulisic performance, always enamoured by the Yellow Wall.
Leading up to the first matches since the season was put on hold, as I am sure many other soccer fans did as well, I read as many articles with a title along the lines of ‘What Bundesliga Team Should You Support?’ as I could find. Ultimately, I decided that turning my casual following of Borussia Dortmund into an all-out fandom would be the closet thing to letting my support occur organically. I typically prefer supporting a club who is focused on youth development (while also winning trophies because isn’t that what sport is about?), has a clear and consistent connection with the fan base, even in an era marked by nation-state ownership becoming more and more commonplace, and plays an attractive version of soccer. Borussia Dortmund most certainly checked all three of those for me, so I knew I would be ready to commit even long term.
As the weekend came closer, the prospect of a Saturday morning filled with live soccer was tantalising. As most new fans do, I spent the days leading up to the match reading/watching anything that I could find about the Dortmund players, club history, and even rivals Schalke to get a better sense of the intense derby which would be the premier match of the weekend. Undoubtedly, soccer fans of other leagues around the world would be joining me in fumbling through all sorts of Bundesliga content pieces gearing up for the weekend ahead. With the weekend kicking off with the Revierderby, I hoped that the day would be filled with excitement, but above all; I hoped the return of live sports would be a slight return of normalcy and a signal of hope for my own country’s eventual re-opening.
As I watched Dortmund dominate Schalke 4-0, I expected to be ecstatic, but what I felt was hard to put into words. It was surreal to watch some of the best players in the world play the game without any semblance of intensity generated from the usual 80,000 fans in the stadium. To me it felt much more like a pre-season friendly, where the result did not matter, than one of the most heated derbies in the world. While watching the other games, I was unsure how I felt. There was finally live soccer, which I was thrilled about, but it was very difficult to attribute any meaning to the games, even though in my head I knew they mattered.
Before the matchday kicked off, I knew the behind closed doors soccer would feel weird, but I expected that since the return ignited my new desire for the Bundesliga, I would be glued to the screen eager to learn more about the intricacies of the various teams in the league as the games unfolded. Maybe this is just me, an amateur Borussia Dortmund fan lacking the knowledge required to fully grasp the details and drama of a typical Bundesliga matchday.
Or maybe it is just simply that soccer in 2020 is not what I am used to and even the more senior fans were left wanting more. That answer, while likely somewhere between the two, is likely to come as time goes on. However confusing the weekend may have been for me as a new Bundesliga convert, the beautiful game has returned, and I for one am excited and ready for the journey supporting the black and yellow.