So how to react when the football club you run the local fan club for and have put so many hours in for over five years and receiving a call asking if you want to attend an award ceremony on behalf of the club at three days notice? Quizzical? Confused? Then overwhelmed to say the least, when you find out later in the conversation that the awards are the FIFA Best of World Football awards, the annual shindig that the world football federation FIFA puts on to honour the best and brightest stars of women and men’s football across the globe. The nominees for awards literally are the biggest stars world football has to offer — all in one room –and a local fan club organiser rubbing shoulders with the good and the great of world football is rather daunting, fantastic, and yes, overwhelming.
Here are just some of the nominees at the FIFA best of world football awards who would be attending:
Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi, Buffon, Kroos, Modric, Navas, Ramos, Iniesta, Suarez, Neuer, Pique,
That list of superstars were there, in addition to even more famed players and coaches, like the ultimate legend of my childhood Diego Armando Maradona, and other legends of the Premier League( my home league in England including Gianluca Vialli, Claudio Rainieri, Frank Lampard along with stars from the stage like Idriss Elba, Sir Patrick Stewart (Star Trek fan favourite) and Hollywood superstar Catherine Zeta Jones and many more in attendance at the London Palladium, the vast glamour palace off the famous Regent Street in central London. This event was a pretty big change from my normal Monday night! My team. Borussia Dortmund, were also nominated for an award in the category ‘best fans of the year’ and our small group of club representatives to pick up the award on behalf of BvB included Eva-Maria, the two Markuses (!), myself and Torsten, elected president of the Borussia Dortmund fan department along with the head of the BvB supporters liaison department, Sebastian.
Having already won the award in 2016 alongside Liverpool FC for the amazing quarterfinal matches in the Europa League and the spectacular rendition of the chants shared between the clubs like ‘You will never walk alone’ I struck up a friendship with the London Reds Liverpool FC fan official club and travelled with 35 BVB fan club members with the Reds up to Anfield to watch a spectacular game of two halves. As an English fan of a German team I have travelled much further than that to support my team but I have always known my club is something special. It was unique to be asked to represent them in this capacity, so I had to get over my nerves to be at the awards last Monday night.
BVB were nominated and hopeful of winning a second consecutive FIFA ‘best of world football ‘fan award; to me not a huge surprise. Borussia Dortmund have the highest average attendance of any football team in the world at 80,000 and the famous fan stand the Suedtribuehne is also widely regarded by almost any fan I have ever met as being one of the greatest football atmospheres in the world. The Revierderby with nearby rivals FC Schalke 04, is one of the top derbies in club football and our Gelbe Wand is a legend of passionate, vociferous, magical black and yellow chants, songs, flags, beers and bratwurst, a real family atmosphere in our home, the world famous Signal Iduna Park, traditionally known by fans by it’s original pre-sponsorship era name. the Westfalenstadion.
It doesn’t take me by surprise that BvB are nominated by FIFA for best fans in the world — but BvB are nominated for none of the above reasons. BvB and its fans are nominated for something altogether more special: Bedsforawayfans. In the midst of a heinous bomb attack carried out on the BVB team bus before last season’s Champions league quarterfinal match against AS Monaco –an attack that as could be expected led to an immediate match cancellation by UEFA the European football authorities and a controversial rescheduling 24 hours after the incident — led to thousands of AS Monaco fans being left stranded with no provision for accommodation. BvB fans, in the characteristic generosity of the people of the Ruhrgebiet industrial area of Western Germany, (where I had the privilege of growing up in during my teenage years), created a twitter campaign ‘Bedforawayfans’ to offer short-term emergency accommodation for the Monaco fans in the homes of local Dortmund supporters. Literally hundreds of the visiting fans were accommodated in a unique and special fan led initiative so they could support the AS Monaco team at the match 24 hours later. Many a fan friendship between the two sets of fans developed that night and for this special and unique act of friendship FIFA nominated Borussia Dortmund’s fans in the World’s best of football awards 2017.
Dotted across London are ranks of bicycles for hire and it is one of these bicycles I choose to use to cycle across London from my hotel to the London Palladium theatre, I cycle up Regent Street past the rows of glistening lights of the large store fronts on one of London’s most famous shopping streets, weaving in an out of the traffic amongst the double-decker red buses and the black London taxis and log jammed traffic in the early evening dusk as I turn off at Argyle Street towards Soho, the heart of the entertainment district. As I continue the streets are suddenly lined by barriers on both sides and there are rows of tourists and locals hanging over the barriers three lines thick, There are burly security guards and police on motorbikes every few metres, a road block across the entire street. I have only witnessed this level of security in London during visits by Royalty and heads of state, such as President Obama three years ago or during the Olympic games 2012.
In the midst of the baying crowd and vast security I pull in on my bicycle and am immediately approached by two security guards who are standing in the middle of the road. They inform me that there is a big event on, that stopping is forbidden and I should ‘move on.’ I ask them where to park the bicycle and show them my pass for the FIFA event and instantly their demeanour changes, in a way that almost nothing apart from getting upgraded to a free business class seat from an economy class ticket on a long distance flight provides satisfaction as they realise that you are one of the people they are there for; yes you an ordinary Bloke not a celebrity, a minor guest but an invited guest just the same.
I tie my necktie as I walk three blocks back across to Regent Street with a feeling of special anticipation. As if there is some kind of magnetic pull, the crowds are getting fuller now there must be around 6-700 people lining the streets and they are being joined by a large group of Italian school age youngsters who are asking others in broken English ‘What is it? ‘Cosa sucede qui? (What is going on here?) I reply to them in broken Italian that it’s the FIFA awards but there is no need to elaborate as in that moment the first black shiny limousine pulls up and the crowds start shrieking and calling out as Hollywood actress and Welsh film legend Catherine Zeta Jones, spouse of legendary actor Michael Douglas, appears in her golden dress. By this stage I have passed yet another level of security. the third before I reach the red carpet area and the temple like entrance that has been created around the otherwise pretty drab entrance of the London Palladium theatre. I am asked to move on down the line towards the entrance of the ‘Upper circle’ where I would be meeting my colleagues of the Borussia Dortmund fan group.The main Borussia delegation are seated amongst the A List superstars on the ground floor.
Although this is my first time at the FIFA world football awards, I worked as a silver service waiter and events like this to pay my way through University so I find a way to craftily evade the security to find a place alongside a group of event staff and photographers at the entrance of the venue. Immediately next to me is a correspondent from an American gossip magazine from LA, ‘Lauren,’ who has no clue who any of the football stars are and so I act as a guide to her explaining the difference between Brazilian Ronaldo and Portuguese Ronaldo –yes they both played for Real Madrid, they were both incredible athletes but apart from that these two physically and in terms of that all important earnings bracket that everyone in football now obsesses about have virtually zero in common. I am invested in Borussia Dortmund so I know their players and staff well enough that I would recognise them straight away but amongst the hundreds of people who walk past us along the red carpet (did I mention it is in fact grass green at this event?) , rven someone with a real interest in football like me finds it pretty almost impossible to work out who is the real deal and who is just a copycat of the stars – the place literally brims with attitude, shiny suits and short skirts.
Later, a face I recognize SO well appears and I am like a little boy again — it takes me right back to my earliest football memories as a small portly man with a busy head of curly hair appears — DIEGO ARMANDO MARADONA — I call over to him and get a special photograph.
Having self indulgently consumed not one but two free bottles of mineral water and two ice-creams in the place of dinner, we move through to the auditorium and are seated at the top of the theatre. It is ferociously hot under the lighting and I strip down to my shirt and lose the tie. The excitement builds as the spectacular lights come on down in the auditorium the compere shouts into the microphone ‘make some noise up in the upper tier’ (by compere I mean British Hollywood star and Arsenal Fan Idriss Elba). Suddenly I realise I am in ‘The business end of things’ this part of the auditorium is here to be the football crowd tonight to lend a genuine atmosphere to proceedings, this by the way is confirmed when we get to the latter part of the evening and we find that there is ‘No access with this ticket’ to the VIP after party – suddenly the dress code of ‘smart casual with fan articles’ makes sense and I feel underdressed with only my BVB scarf when I see my colleague Markus #1 has BVB sunglasses, hat and scarf and BVB flag and Celtic flags.
Following the warm up show, Idriss is back with the first categories of the night. It would be hard to go through each category at a time but it’s hard to imagine the excitement of a regular football fan like me to see stars of past and present troupe on to the stage — legends of my childhood Maradona, Ruud Gullit, Lampard, Zinedine Zidane, later Toni Kroos, the indescribably cool Neymar in a dark red velvet looking suit who virtually floats on to the stage, Messi who is in contrast almost unnoticeable but I am delighted to see that Leo’s priority is the fans -when not one but two people I know including Julian a BVB fan who has friends at the organising committee and my colleague from Borussia Dortmund Sebastian get selfies with Leo Messi during the evening. The Argentininian star clearly has his priorities right.
As we get through the award categories I realize that there is no more time for chatting and celeb sightings as the fan category is being announced, the category for FIFA’ best of world football’s fans ‘of the year. Out and about, I squeeze past the FC Copenhagen group to join the small group of Markus, Markus and Eva Maria and join in their muttering words of encouragement, holding breaths as the announcer prepares to announce the winners, I reach to Markus #1 next to me ‘I know we are going to win it, BVB are going to win it – in German… and the winner is….. “CELTIC FC”
Next to us the group of four representing Celtic, by now are jumping out of their seats as if they had been stung by a viper, cheering and shouting and hugging each other and waving flags. Our BvB contingent try to clap and be happy for them and, if all things be told. I actually am consoled that the winners are the magnificent Celtic FC of Glasgow, a club with which BVB have had a great fan friendship and mutual respect ever since Dortmund became the first ever German team to win a European cup at Hampden Park in 1966, especially as opposed to another nominee, FC Copenhagen. the corporate football club, Denmark’s equivalent to RB Leipzig who however nice their gesture is for which they are nominated use sponsor’s money to hoover up every trophy there is year after year in the Danish Superliga – not my kind of club and , additionally, BVB have a fan friendship with Brondby IF, Copenhagen’s sworn enemies, so they are not the club for me as a Dortmund fan to cheer.
As much as I am happy for Celtic FC I somehow can’t help feeling pretty empty at our BVB not winning. I suppose winning the best fans award two years in a row would have been a big ask. My colleague Sebastian informs me later on that the award had not been widely promoted amongst BVB fans, but I was just disappointed to see the club not win the award for the special help the fans gave the AS Monaco fans.
This opportunity of attending the best of world football awards was to special however and I am very grateful to BVB for inviting me to be one of the fans to represent the Suedtribuehne so I would want to conclude on a much deserved high note – amongst the many highlights were Ronaldo and Messi who managed to go up on stage several times and stand next to each other without even uttering a single word to each other of course Maradona but the ultimate highlight of the night was without a single shadow of a doubt seeing the world football eleven ‘FIFA FIFPRO World 11’ I will list the players and a photo will appear here just to emphasise what an astonishing 11 performers stood less than 60m from our seats:
I would say that the entire affair culminated in that moment when these players marched on to the stage and it was a massive privilege seeing them in real life and all in one place. Whilst I am hugely grateful to Borussia Dortmund for selecting me to be one of the fan representatives at the FIFA best of world of football awards I will always remember this once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the world of football in an intimate way like this but if I am frank it was a very long night with many awards and by the end of the night I was just glad to rip off my tie, roll up my sleeves and get down to the pub with the BVB friends instead of the vacant afterparty rubbing shoulders with the big money sponsors and superstars behind the cordon and the security lines at the FIFA in the Aqua club.
Ben McFadyean, Borussia Dortmund Fan Club London, UK attended the FIFA best of world football awards 2017 with the Borussia Dortmund delegation at the London Palladium