January 23, 2017

Rise of the Yellow Coach

Jürgen Klopp is gone. Thomas Tuchel is here. How has the city of Dortmund responded?

The Summer of 2015 has certainly been a strange time in Dortmund. For one thing, the city’s weather has been a rollercoaster. One week, people endure heat and West-Germany feels like the hottest place on earth. Another week it seems like autumn arrived early this year. And there is an emptiness that feels like living in a town from a Western movie; there is no World Cup or European Championship. To be honest, the Copa America or the Gold Cup don’t really heat me up. So you have much time to think about what happened last season and what will happen this upcoming season.

In Dortmund, the streets of the centre, the alleyways of the trendy Kreuzviertel, or the working class districts in the north, never loses their colousr: Schwarz-Gelb. Even in the summer, these colors are omnipresent. Shops, streets, restaurants, alleys, and cars – everybody is addicted to Borussia Dortmund and shows it. Echte Liebe is probably one of the best football marketing strategies ever invented. But for the people of Dortmund it is true and not an invention. Nevertheless, the one true representative of Echte Liebe is gone, and at the end of the season the fans had to calm down for a moment, or at least for the summer break.

Visible signs of Klopp love in Dortmund. (Photo by author)
Visible signs of Klopp love in Dortmund. (Photo by author)

They had to think about the end of Jürgen Klopp.

Seven years is not really a long period, compared to a lifetime. But in the surreal world of football, seven years feels like forever. When I thought about the end of Jürgen Klopp in May, the lyrics of Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World” came into my mind. I could not imagine a world without him, without his Pöhler Cap, without his passion, or without his funny press conferences.

So my thoughts went back to the beginning.

Seven Years of More Than Just Football

In 2008, I went with my football friends to Mallorca, Spain. At this point, I was really thinking about quitting my BVB season ticket, which I had since 2003. After my first five years as a regular visitor in the Westfalenstadion, I was more than pissed off with the team, with the whole club, with everything.

However, during one of his first press conferences, Klopp said one word, which developed into the guiding principle of the BVB’s recent Golden Era: Vollgasveranstaltung. You can translate this compound word to something like “fullspeed-event.”

From then on, it felt like the football of Dortmund (almost every time) was a Vollgasveranstaltung. Personally, for me and my football-friends, something else was very important: we simply grew up.

In 2008, we started our university careers or apprenticeships. Other friends, girlfriends, and exams came and went as we fell in love with Jürgen Klopp and our team. And it was (or still is) certainly our team – we are the same generation, the same age. I have the vision that as an old man I will someday and tell my grandchildren, when they enthuse about their current team in the season 2056/2057, that for me there will always be Klopp’s team. This feeling accompanied me during these last years when it felt like some things never change – Angie is still chancellor, my mother still cooks the best pasta and Klopp still ran all along the side-line.

But there was one problem with the Vollgasveranstaltung of Jürgen Klopp.

Initially, other teams were not prepared for Klopp’s creation as Borussia Dortmund celebrated victories beyond (from our point of view) imagination. Then other clubs invented tactics and strategies to counter Borussia Dortmund. The one thing that pollutes the shiny monument of Jürgen Klopp is that he failed to evolved his set up, transforming the now-passive counter attacks into a dominating force, like Bayern Munich.

I think that Jürgen Klopp’s departure was not only emotionally charged; the 2014-15 season was also the first season with both strong headwind, yet the presence of problems reminding us of the dark ages between 2004–07. But last season also could have been the beginning of the evolution so badly needed.

There Can Only Be One

Honestly, the thought of another manager for BVB never occurred in 2012 or 2013 or even last season. Nevertheless, there were discussions about possible candidates. Lucien Favre was always a name, but we knew that he wouldn’t leave his project at Borussia Mönchengladbach. When Pep Guardiola became manager of Bayern, we joked about José Mourinho replacing Klopp with the assurance that this would never happen. The only conclusive candidate that on the one hand was within the realms of possibility, and also a highly promising talent, was Thomas Tuchel.

From 2009 until 2014 he worked as manager for the Nullfünfer and reached a remarkable number of points scored. Only four teams scored more points during this run than Mainz 05: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, and Schalke 04. Mainz 05 also played in Europa League and became known as the most flexible team in the Bundesliga tactically. The renowned newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung dubbed Tuchel “The Nerd of Mainz.” After two seasons with Mainz 05, Bundesliga chatter confidently asserted that Tuchel could develop into one of the most intelligent, promising, and successful (he surely has to proof that) football coaches. And he was the logical successor of Jürgen Klopp. Not just because history is repeating itself, like in Mainz. It just seemed logical.

“The Holy Jürgen”

I have to admit that everybody was very concerned about the future and the continuance of key players like Hummels or Reus. Without Klopp, we feared, they would leave Dortmund, too. But after the news was published that Tuchel would be the new coach, the fear totally vanished. Thomas Tuchel is the right coach for BVB’s evolution from a counter-attack-team to a dominating-team.

Nevertheless, the image of Jürgen Klopp will always stay in the streets of Dortmund. He revitalized the club, he won the Bundesliga throne and almost that of Europe. He is and always will be a hero. If Germans would have the same attitude towards religion like Italians or Argentinians, we would have called him, der Heilige Jürgen (“holy Jürgen”) no doubt.

The new season is the beginning of a new era, but it feels right. Tuchel brings new ideas, new attitudes, and will bring evolution. He even fired the current cook, because the sauce seemed too fatty. The squad still is one of the best in Germany – it has not really changed, and even can even be improved. Gonzalo Castro proved himself as a solid player and will help the team. Ilkay Gündogan, even if his intention to leave the club is considered ridiculous, will find his way back to old strength. And Mats Hummels recently admitted that in 2014-15 almost everything went wrong; he admitted that he had weight problems. Tuchel convinced him to stay.

They will put the pitch on fire like old times.

A Better Atmosphere in the Europa League

The city is sad about Klopp’s departure, but also thirsts for new action. Obviously, many supporters are sad about missing out on the Champions League this upcoming season. But there are also voices happy to experience a new competition in the Europa League.

And let’s speak frankly about the Champions League – it is kind of boring. Many of the clubs are always the same. And then there is always about one exception. For example Atletico Madrid the last two years or Borussia Dortmund before this. Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred the CL due to the financial advantages, but I also think it is a very sterile competitive environment. The atmosphere in Paris, Madrid, London and Manchester is not as fanatic as it used to and should be. Furthermore, the Europa League is an opportunity for the team to grow and for the “real” fans to see interesting matches against attractive and fanatic clubs.

So is everything now new in Dortmund?

No, not everything.

There still are 80,000+ supporters who will give everything for a team that has changed little in off season. Thomas Tuchel brings new ideas. The fanzine Schwatzgelb.de created an interesting film poster appearing right after the announcement of Thomas Tuchel as our new coach. Guardiola, Hecking, Schmidt and Favre are dressed as the Fantastic 4. The title of the poster is: “Fantastic 4: The rise of the yellow coach.”

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Dennis Liedschulte

Dennis works as a journalist and author of fictional novels in Germany. He is a regular visitor of the German Bundesliga. He worked for several newspapers and online magazines and reports directly from Germany for bundesligafanatic.com. Follow at @NummerSieben7

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