More than any one player, winger Kevin Grosskreutz personifies league leaders Dortmund. DW caught up with the Dortmund-born-and-bred winger for a chat about what this club means to his home city.
Kevin Grosskreutz has scored six goals for Dortmund this season
Trying to get anyone associated with Dortmund to talk about title ambitions this year has been a bit like trying engage Bill Clinton in a frank assessment of the pros and cons of marijuana consumption and extramarital affairs.
But Kevin Großkreutz has nearly put an end to the self-imposed gag order where the "T word" is concerned ahead of next round's potentially decisive clash with reigning champs Bayern Munich.
"Now we're going to beat Munich - Bayern are ripe," the 22-year old winger told Germany's Bild newspaper. "We're playing the coolest football, and we're going to show why we're number one."
Not content merely to predict victory, Grosskreutz also got in a potshot at the Bavarian capital.
"10,000 fans are coming along to Munich, and they're going to make it a home match for us," Grosskreutz told Bild. "There's never all that much going on in Munich anyway."
Words spoken like a true football fan. And Grosskreutz certainly is one, as Deutsche Welle found out in an interview conducted before Dortmund's 2-nil win over St. Pauli on Saturday.
From the terrace to the pitch
Grosskreutz (left) has harmonized wonderfully with striker Lukas Barrios
Grosskreutz is that rare exception in the hired-gun world of modern football: a locally born and bred player whose enthusiasm for his team is deeply rooted.
The winger comes from a family of hardcore Dortmund fans and watched his first match live in the stadium - from the terraces, of course - as a small child.
"Dortmund was and still is my life," Grosskreutz told Deutsche Welle. "My dad and I went all over for the matches, to Milan, Rotterdam…Dortmund is equally important to my whole family. I was four the first time I went to the stadium."
But while he began playing football in Dortmund's youth divisions, at the age of fourteen he transferred to Ahlen, then in the third division. By 2006, he was a regular in the adult team and helped his club get promoted to the second division in 2008.
He signed on with Dortmund at the beginning of last season. Dortmund had just finished sixth in the Bundesliga, and signs were beginning to accumulate that the financially troubled club might be able to break out of years in the doldrums.
"I think it's a combination of factors - the manager, coach, the board," Grosskreutz told DW. "Two years ago, we saw things take a turn for the better. We saw the team bringing ever more passion to the game and giving all they had. The most important thing is that everyone identifies with the club. We get along very well off the pitch as well, and that's really what makes a team special. That's why we're doing so well."
Everyone loves a winner, of course, but the passion engendered between Dortmund supporters and this year's squad is far more intense than in the past for seasons between fans and Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and Stuttgart.
A matter of focus
Grosskreutz is an intense player and a passionate fan
By predicting a win over Bayern, who currently trail Dortmund by 13 points in the table, Grosskreutz is essentially saying that his team will win the league. But what do his teammates think about such verbal salvos?
"Kevin wears his heart on his tongue," Dortmund's laconic on-field general Nuri Sahin remarked to Bild. "And he's allowed to do that."
Munich players, who face Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, were doing their best to play down the challenge.
"It's not important what Grosskreutz says or what's coming out of Dortmund," Bayern midfielder Franck Ribery shot back. "We're not even thinking about that match yet."
That remark points up another big advantage Dortmund have over Bayern. The men in yellow can concentrate exclusively on the league title, while the Bavarians are still alive in three competitions and will have to divide their attention.
And Bayern's best player has already admitted that Munich's chances of catching the league leaders are practically non-existent.
"It would almost be easier to win the Champions League," Bayern winger Arjen Robben told the German football magazine kicker. "In my eyes, it won't be possible to win the league."
That title is almost certainly going to go to Dortmund. If it does, no one will be happier than Kevin Grosskreutz, the local lad and fan who's given the team not only some excellent performances on the pitch, but also a bit of champion's verbal swagger.
Kevin Grosskreutz was interviewed by Jana Schäfer for DW-TV's Bundesliga Kick Off. The program airs on Monday/Tuesday.
Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Michael Lawton