Dortmund's punishment for the trouble that marred their match with RB Leipzig is justified, says DW's Joscha Weber. It's also a chance for the real fans to stand up for their football culture.
It is a feeling that cannot easily be described, the ground beneath you starts to shake and the vibrations keep on getting stronger until it turns into a quake. Hundreds of tons of concrete tremble as 25,000 fans, including men, women and children, jump up and down and sing with joy - bringing Europe’s largest stand to life. Those who have experienced the vibration, the noise, the passion and the emotions at Dortmund’s south terrace, know why this place is appreciated by football fans and is considered such a cradle of fan culture.
However, that culture is now in danger - and that's not because Borussia Dortmund will have to play their next league match against Wolfsburg with an empty stand. Of course, the decision to close the 'Südtribüne' will hurt a team which has such a strong connection with its fans but it will not devastate them. And any club regularly participating in the Champions League will has no problem paying a 100,000 euro fine. The real problem is that some of those that jump and sing in the southern stand and call themselves “fans” in the first place.
Dortmund's hooligan problem
The truth is that the majority of Dortmund supporters are peaceful football fans who go to the team’s stadium to enjoy the game. On social media at the weekend, thousands of them expressed their disapproval towards the banners shown during the match against RB Leipzig. For these fans to be punished is clearly unfair.
What is also true is that Dortmund has a fan problem. A small but loud minority of radicals has been hiding among the real fans, offending visiting teams, physically attacking other fans and sometimes shouting out extreme right-wing slogans. These so-called “fans,” who in reality are hooligans, are a double threat: they damage the image of one of Germany’s most popular clubs and divide the team’s fans.
Many supporters have distanced themselves, while others show solidarity. During the game against Leipzig, there was no opposition from the match-going fans towards the banners, that only came later on social media. One explanation for that is that many fans felt too intimidated by the radical groups in the south stand to act against their actions. It's also worth pointing out that the stadium’s security personnel should have been better equipped to stop people from bringing in fireworks, weapons and banners filled with insults. The closure of the south stand is now a chance to change things.
Time to reclaim the south stand
Peaceful BVB fans now need to fight for their football culture. They need to work together with the club and do more to isolate and exclude violent groups like “0231 Riot” or ”Northside.” All eyes are now on Dortmund – and rightly so. If the club do not act now to solve their hooligan problem, they risk having to play in an empty stadium next or even worse. But it does not have to come to this. It's time for the real fans to reclaim the south stand.