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sit-in! When the Borussia Dortmund fans went on the barricades



Guarded by the police: the BVB fans' sit-in in Stuttgart.

When Borussia Dortmund lost 1-0 at VfB Stuttgart in September 2003 and thus remained without a win in their eleventh away game of the year, the frustrated BVB fans resorted to a method they had never used in the club’s 93-year history: sit-ins! However, this brought only short-term improvement.

Winning the championship in 2002 was just over a year ago. But things had backed up among the fans of Borussia Dortmund. That was understandable, after all the bad news hasn’t stopped since winning the title.

First there was the direct qualification for the Champions League against relegated Energie Cottbus on the last day of the match in front of a home crowd. A few weeks later that was gone, BVB lost to FC Brugge on penalties after the first and second leg.

The sporting decline was accompanied by the club’s huge financial crisis and the publicly polarizing discussions about a cut in player salaries – especially since the best professionals were hardly on the field anyway, as all the mess was accompanied by a pronounced epidemic of injuries. Dortmund in September 2003 – that meant seventh place in the Bundesliga and eleven away games in a row without a win.

So it’s no wonder that the Dortmund fans went on the barricades after the bloodless performance on matchday 6 at VfB Stuttgart (0:1) and resorted to a method that had never been used in the club’s 93-year history: sit-in! For more than an hour, around 250 of the around 2,000 trailers who had traveled with them prevented the BVB bus from leaving.

BVB fans with a sit-in: “They’re all wimps”

“They’re all wimps,” scolded one and earned thunderous applause for it. “Not 20, but 80 percent should be deducted from their salary,” raged another. Coach Matthias Sammer and sports director Michael Zorc were the first to show themselves to the fans and tried to appease them.

Sammer had already chosen clear words for the completely harmless performance away from home in the press conference: “I can’t say anything about my team because I haven’t seen anything from them. After this performance, it’s very, very difficult to argue objectively.” , said the former master coach and added: “There is no development. The players have to finally understand what they want – first place or seventh. We can’t show a reaction at home and just mess around away. Something like that can happen cannot be offered.”

In front of the seated fans, Zorc expressly made the players responsible: “We will talk to the team,” he promised, and said with a view to the game in the UEFA Cup at Austria Vienna four days later: “In Vienna it can be for the Give players only one goal – make amends.” Sammer also made it clear to the supporters: “I’m ashamed of the performance. Normally we would have to run home, but we have to play again on Wednesday.”

Protest by BVB fans “impressive and logical”

However, those responsible in Dortmund did not get away with that. “We want to see the team,” chanted the fans, who described Sammer as a “poor sow” because some players were spotted too much and too often partying in a nightclub in Essen. It took almost an hour before the professionals, accompanied by police officers and bodyguards, stepped in front of the trailers.

Although Zorc regularly tried to block the microphones of the TV and radio stations from recording the debate, it was clear that the team showed understanding. “I’m sorry that the whole team played shit. We have to apologize,” said veteran Stefan Reuter, who has played for BVB since 1992 and later said to the fan protest: “I’ve never experienced that here.” Sebastian Kehl, on the other hand, was laughed at for trying the industry-standard phrases: “We had a really good feeling before the game. We actually had big plans.”

At 6:48 p.m. sharp, the fans had heard enough and ended their sit-in, which manager Michael Meier classified the next day as “a peaceful demonstration” and “a critical but civilized confrontation.” Zorc also showed “real understanding” after a night’s sleep. Sammer found the reaction “impressive, factual and logical” because the fans “didn’t say anything stupid”.

BVB and administrative football: “We’re not pastors after all”

But how the BVB emergency team, in which only three regular players were supposed to be, managed to turn things around against Vienna, most were stumped in the run-up to the game. “Honestly, I don’t know what I would do as a coach in this situation,” said defender Christian Wörns.

President Gerd Niebaum, who has already described Dortmund’s appearances abroad as “administrative football”, described the situation as follows: The team is “preached and preached” to, but nothing happens – “we’re not pastors”. Zorc was also powerless: “You can say what you want, the team seems to go in the left ear and out the right.”

But not this time, the sit-in had actually triggered something in the players. The last Dortmund squad won 2-1 in Vienna, where Otto Addo scored his legendary goal with a torn cruciate ligament. Four more victories follow and in the league after 294 days at Eintracht Frankfurt there is actually another threesome on a foreign pitch.

BVB fans protest again a year later – but more aggressively

However, these successes only made for temporary positive headlines. At the end of November, BVB were knocked out in Europe after a 4-0 loss to FC Sochaux and missed out on international business again in the Bundesliga with a draw at Betzenberg on the final day.

Those times were the beginning of the end that almost led to bankruptcy. Only a year later, BVB fans protested again, but this time in their own stadium and much more aggressively than in Stuttgart: After a 2-0 defeat against bottom side Hamburger SV, hundreds of angry supporters blocked the stadium gates and insulted the players.

Dortmund fell to 15th place. This time the HSV bus had to wait – the mob only left 95 minutes after the final whistle.

BVB: Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga placements in the noughties

season placement
1999/2000 11.
2000/2001 3.
2001/2002 1.
2002/2003 3.
2003/2004 6.
2004/2005 7.
2005/2006 7.
2006/2007 9.
2007/2008 13.
2008/2009 6.