Karl-Heinz Riedle: Dortmund superheroes can repeat '97 Champions League feat
Ruhr rivals Schalke 04 were in town, schadenfreude-filled minds bent on doing the derby double over Borussia Dortmund and inflicting more misery. What the villainous visitors hadn’t counted on though was the emergence of two vigilantes to thwart their heist. With less than 15 minutes to save the day, Dortmund’s Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang put the hosts in the lead but the show wasn’t over.
Running behind the posts, he pulled a Batman costume out of a bag and put it on, derby hero turned superhero. Marco Reus got to be Robin. A quick bam-pow-kersplat later and the Westfalenstadion was partying to the tune of a 3-0 result, Reus grabbing the final goal. Holy smokes, went the Yellow Wall, Dortmund’s famous south stand - the club had made it into the top half of the Bundesliga table. At the end of February.
Few games in the world match the emotions the Revierderby produces. Except a Champions League final.
No matter. Relief and joy engulfed the fans. “The win over Schalke was huge,” Dortmund icon Riedle tells us. The players twirled as if they had won silverware afterwards. If the intensity of the celebrations startled, then it was only because the club was emerging from a fairly bizarre situation - Dortmund had not been very much like Dortmund recently.
That, and the fact few games in the world match the emotions the Revierderby produces. Except, perhaps, a Champions League final. Especially a Champions League final, after the sensations of winning one. Riedle knows, having scored twice as Borussia Dortmund beat Juventus 3-1 to claim the prestigious trophy in 1997, 31 years after they became the first German outfit to win on the continent.
Here, the former Germany international striker and World Cup winner hesitates when asked about that brace. He cites goals scored to earn promotion to the top flight in an obscure part of the club’s history as well as former team-mate Lars Ricken’s dramatic chipped goal in the same final, humbly trying to deflect praise.
Yes, my goals were the most important in Dortmund’s history.
And then he yields: “Yes, maybe my goals were the most important in Dortmund’s history.” Certainly in terms of significance. Dortmund’s triumph over Juventus served as sweet revenge for the 1993 UEFA Cup final loss, and drew attention to a rapidly modernising Bundesliga that would go on to provide three more Champions League finalists in the next five years.
Those were good memories but that does not mean German football is trapped in a state of nostalgia. The rise and rise of the domestic league and national team has led to fussball conquering Europe and the world this part of the decade.