Tales From Section 61

Borussia Dortmund vs. Chelsea : 15 February 2023.

There is no doubt at all that the Footballing Gods – Stadia Division – have been very kind to me in this season’s Champions League trail around Europe. Back in August, I craved a first-ever trip with Chelsea to the San Siro. I was granted my wish. In December, Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park – I prefer Westfalenstadion – was my first choice in the first knock-out phase. Again, my wish was granted.

Happy days.

I would get to see the famous Yellow Wall in a stadium with a huge capacity.

Additionally, a trip to The Ruhr, that industrial heartland of Germany, would help to tie together a theme running through this season’s European match reports. I had best get explaining, or at least reminding everyone, of where I left it last time.

In the autumn of 1987, my two college mates Ian – Rotherham United – and Trev – Leeds United – and I visited a few countries on a three-week Inter-Rail trip.

On Sunday 27 September, the three of us travelled up from Rome on the overnight train to Venice. From there, we zipped across the Po flood plain to Milan to see Inter vs. Empoli in the San Siro. It ended 2-0 to Inter and it was my first-ever game in Europe of any description.

On Monday 28 September, we spent some time in Switzerland and then caught an evening train to Munich Hauptbanhof where, without accommodation, we just slept outside a waiting room; it was Oktoberfest, fellow travellers and revellers were sleeping everywhere.

On Tuesday 29 September, we spent all day in Munich, visited the Olympic Stadium to the north of the city centre, then spent around five hours at Oktoberfest to the south of the city centre. That night, the three of us inadvertently slept all night on a train at Munich Hauptbanhof, thinking that we would be waking up in Vienna; undoubtedly the train was supplied by the German authorities to provide extra sleeping accommodation for the revellers, a fine idea.

On Wednesday 30 September, we needed more sleep in the morning and so caught a train up to Stuttgart, arriving at 9.45am. We had a mooch around, and back at the city’s train station I picked up a copy of the renowned West German football magazine “Kicker”. We caught a midday train up to Frankfurt. In “Kicker” I spotted the week’s football fixtures, and I soon honed in on the Borussia Dortmund vs. Celtic game that was taking place that night. I asked the chaps if they fancied travelling further north to Dortmund to see the game. I was a little wary about asking Trev – he is from Northern Ireland, his brother Gary was a big Rangers fan – but the both of them were up for it.

Excellent.

Two impromptu European games in four days.

I was falling in love with European travel all over again.

It is worth stating that this would be a rare treat for anyone from England at the time since English clubs were banned from Europe for five seasons after the Heysel Disaster two years previously. I was certainly no fan of Celtic, I just craved football at the top level. My thought of attending my first-ever UEFA game – this game was in the UEFA Cup – was thrilling me to the core. I was well aware that former Celtic midfielder Murdo MacLeod was now playing for Dortmund. I remember thinking that it would be a cracking game with a crackling atmosphere. Fantastic.

So, we stayed on the train at Frankfurt and ended-up going to Hagen before our delayed train finally arrived at Dortmund Hauptbanhof at 7.15pm.

The game was due to start at 8pm. It was a frantic rush to locate some left-luggage lockers at the station and then to try to work out how to get to the stadium. I recollect myself barking out “fussball” to passing strangers while looking puzzled with arms pointing in all directions, while Ian took to miming the act of kicking a ball to illustrate our need for help. We must have looked ridiculous.

Anyway, with the clock-ticking, we scrambled on to a subway train and got off at Westfallenhallen around ten minutes later. We were running so late that there were no other football fans anywhere to be seen. On a dark night, we alighted at Westfallenhallen, and I was flummoxed that I could not see any stadium floodlights. We rushed around in all directions at once.

Finally, I spotted two old dears and – my only hope – I approached them.

“Wo ist der stadion?”

They typically replied in perfect English.

“The football match? It was yesterday.”

The three of us fell silent.

Yesterday? Oh bloody hell. We had been rushing around like fools to attend a game that had already taken place twenty-four hours earlier. Snot.

We sloped back to the city centre on a tram, tails between our legs, beaten. We collected our ruc-sacs and I grabbed the “Kicker” magazine to look again at the fixtures, furious that I had been misinformed.

For Wednesday 30 September, it listed Borussia Dortmund vs. Celtic (Di.) and I then immediately realised the error of my ways.

Di. Dienstag. Tuesday.

“Fackinell. Sorry lads.”

I still believe to this day that Trev wasn’t too bothered about not seeing Celtic play.

We had a giggle and wandered around Dortmund in search of food. Back at the station, a forlorn and inebriated Celtic fan from Glasgow spotted us and shared his tale of woe in an accent so thick that it needed subtitles. He had missed his bus and only had 2 DM to his name. I advised him to hitchhike to Zeebrugge. He approached a policewoman for guidance, and she looked at us and said :

“This man does not speak English.”

We had to interpret for him.

His passport was on all full view, poking out of his back pocket. I warned him to look after it. Ian and me gave him a few Deutschmarks, and he went on his merry way. We wondered if he ever made it home. Later that night, we boarded a train to Hamburg to continue our tour of European cities and German train stations in the dead of night.

My little tour from 1987 – Milan, Munich, Dortmund –  was now being replicated in 2022 and 2023, but over four months instead of just four days.

It was time to go to Dortmund again.

When the date of the away game was confirmed, I was busy at work and so missed out on all of the cheap flights. I also found it difficult to get flights with good timings. I therefore decided to go about this European trip a little differently. PD, Parky and I would be going by train.

The only problem was that PD was unable to obtain a match ticket. He decided to travel along for the ride anyway. I booked an apartment in the Hafen – “harbour”, Dortmund has inland docks, a little like Salford – district near the city centre.

The days clicked down. West Ham United away on the Saturday, a middling performance at best, was followed by a busy day on the Sunday as I wrote up the match report and fine-tuned the packing and planning for our four days away. I enjoyed a good night’s sleep. I presumed that I would need it.

Monday 13 February 2023.

I was up at 6am and collected PD at 7.30am and Parky at 8am. We made our way up to London on the M4, stopping at Reading Services for a Greggsfast. I dropped the boys off at Hatton Cross tube station and then drove a further mile or so to my allotted JustPark bay outside a block of flats. Both PD and Parky walk with sticks these days; their mobility is always an issue on trips to football. I am in awe of how they cope with the pain that they endure on these football trips, bless them. Parky, however, in his rush to get in my waiting car, had forgotten his trusty stick. He would have to share PD’s.

The tube from Hatton Cross to St. Pancras was as easy as you like; twenty-three stations on the Piccadilly Line, no changes, within the hour, bosh.

Our Eurostar train left St. Pancras at just after 1pm. This was only my second-ever trip on the Eurostar; Paris St. Germain in 2004 was the first. The journey to Brussels took just two hours. We changed trains at Brussels Midi, a train station that has undergone a metamorphosis since I last visited it in the ‘eighties. The slower Thalys train left Brussels at 5.37pm and stopped at various stations en route to Dortmund. Both trains were decent. It was certainly a relaxing way to travel. I bought a couple of bottles of 8.5% Duval beer for the three of us. I had not had a single alcoholic drink since my weekend in Glasgow in early December, but I enjoyed every drop of this new beer. We arrived on time, of course, at Dortmund Hauptbanhoff at 8.38pm.

We hopped into a waiting cab and made our way to our digs on Gneisenaustrasse. I entered the numbers on the front door keypad but soon noticed the door was ajar anyway. We scrambled up two flights of stairs to our apartment, number four. I entered the number time and time again, but the lock wouldn’t release. While we were struggling to contact the owner by text message, six fellow-Chelsea fans that Parky recognised from The Shed came down the stairs from their apartment eight. What a small world. I then realised that our apartment was number ten – not four, the ghost of Dortmund 1987 haunting me again – and we had to mount another three flights of stairs. Bloody hell. At last we were in.

It was about 9.30pm, time for a drink. I had highlighted a bar that was a few minutes away – “Bar Wikinger”- and had passed this info on to some friends from Northampton. On the way there, we stopped at a small bar for a single beer, but the place was full of cigarette smoke and we sensed a bit of an atmosphere from some locals. PD chatted to a Serbian who was a fan of Partizan Belgrade and, of course, I mentioned Petar Borota. Further down Schutzenstrasse, we dived into the far more appealing “Bar Wikinger” and were given a far warmer welcome.

Pete, Brian and Dale – the friends from Northampton – were at a table, drinking glasses of “Kronen”, the local brew.

“Found it then?”

“Easy. Our apartment isn’t far away.”

“Oh right. Number 93?”

“That’s it.”

“That’s where we are.”

Yes, Chelsea World is a very small world indeed.

“Took us ages to get in. Problems with the key pad.”

“Us too. Mind you, we were trying to get into apartment one. Ours was actually four.”

“Four?”

“Yeah.”

“Fuck me, I’ve just spent ten minutes trying to get into your flat.”

We all howled.

We spent around two hours in this cosy bar and it was a lovely relaxing start to the trip. It seemed that the Chelsea support was going to be split between Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Cologne and Bochum. I had tried my best over the previous few months to see if there was anything of note in Dortmund but it looked to be a rather dull city. Our view was always this though: “we’ll find a bar, we’ll be alright.”

We were at the eastern edge of The Ruhr, the huge urban area of over five million people that formed the epicentre of Germany’s industrial growth in the last century. Some cities are more famous than others – Dortmund is probably the most famous – but they bleed into each other from west to east.

Duisberg, Oberhausen, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Bochum, Dortmund, plus other smaller cities such as Mulheim, Recklinghausen and Hagen.

I had only visited this area once before for a Chelsea game, a tedious 0-0 draw in Gelsenkirchen against Schalke in October 2007. For that trip, the five of us – Alan, Gal, Daryl, Rob and I – stayed in the fine city of Cologne and travelled up by train, free with match tickets, to the odd city of Gelsenkirchen. I remember that the main street in Gelsenkirchen resembled that of a small provincial town in England. We were then bussed up to the impressive Veltins Arena which lies just south of their old stadium. The game was nothing special but we would end that season’s trail in Moscow for the final. Gelsenkirchen was an enigma really. Schalke were a massive club in their prime, but the city itself seemed to be of no consequence. At the time, I likened it to Wolverhampton; its football club was and is still massive but the city itself is a nondescript part of a larger urban sprawl. We later drew Schalke in the Champions League campaigns of 2013/14 and 2014/15. I did not rush to return.

All five of us would be in Dortmund sixteen years later.

Chelsea also played Besiktas of Istanbul in Gelsenkirchen in December 2003. These are our only appearances in The Ruhr in recent memory.

I was itching to tick off this famous new ground.

The trouble with all the German stadia though, just like many modern stadia, is that they all tend to look the same these days, especially after the refits for the 2006 World Cup. I remember the huge variety of stadia on show for the World Cup in West Germany in 1974; the massive banks of terracing at the old stadium in Gelsenkirchen, the Bedouin-tented roofs of Munich, the huge curved terraces at Hamburg, the cramped Westfalenstadion in Dortmund, the oval stadia in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, the massive and historic Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

These days, everything seems two tiered and uniform.

But if I think of The Ruhr, and its cities, I always think of their football teams. Doesn’t everyone?

MSV Duisburg.

Rot-Weiss Essen.

Schalke 04.

Vfl Bochum.

Borussia Dortmund.

It felt like we were right in the heart of a football-mad region with local rivalries intertwining throughout the decades. I was certainly well aware of the intensity of the Borussia and Schalke derby, the most intense in Germany. This was a football heartland and we were balls deep inside it. The day had been fine. I slept well.

Tuesday 14 February 2023.

There was a gentle start to the day, which had only been loosely planned by myself. We all knew that we would be ensconced in a bar, or bars, for large parts of it.

Outside there were stunning blue skies. Tall dockside cranes were visible in the distance from our balcony ad the morning sun reflected off the painted walls of nearby buildings. We set out at just before 10am, and walked a few hundred yards to Hafen U-Bahn station. We bought day tickets for eight euros, but I couldn’t seem to operate the validation stamper next to the vending machine. One station along, a guard asked for our tickets and questioned why there was no date. Thankfully, he realised that we were visitors and asked us to exit at Leopoldstrasse to validate our passes. We narrowly missed out on a sixty euro fine apiece. Phew.

We alighted at Kampstrasse, right in the middle of Dortmund. A quick bite to eat and a much-needed coffee set me up for my next two hours. While PD and Parky had a mooch around the city centre, I flew down to the stadium, recreating the infamous “phantom match” visit of 1987.

The journey south only took eight minutes. I again alighted at Westfallenhallen, but now much modernised from the little halt of years ago.

I chuckled “wo is der stadion?” to myself.

Still blue skies, the air warming with each minute, I was in my element. I quickly spotted the yellow roof supports of the Signal Iduna Stadium and headed over. I turned a corner and gulped. Just in front of me was an ornamental garden, with a handful of gardeners tending some plants. But my eyes were set on an array of trimmed trees whose branches resembled, very much to my eyes, those of the Joshua Tree National Park in California, named after the prophet Joshua’s outstretched arms guiding his followers on their journey.

It seemed, quite honestly, too ridiculous to be true, especially after my aborted trip in 1987. Had I found my sacred ground? It certainly fucking felt like it.

In the back ground, a radio station played “Those Were The Days” by Mary Hopkin and I just wondered at the synchronicity of it all. Mary was my first-ever girlfriend when I was three; she just didn’t know it. And that song is my earliest favourite pop song.

It was just a nice moment in time.

With the words of my Welsh princess fading as I ventured south-west, I centered my attention on the stadium. It’s very photogenic from the outside; inside, I was sure of it, even more so.

I loved the old stone entrance building of Borussia’s old stadium, the Rote Erde, just to the east of the modern stadium. They switched in 1974. The Rota Erde still hosts Borussia’s second team. I was only really able to take photos of three sides of the new stadium as the South Stand, home of the Yellow Wall, was difficult to access. I snapped away, loving it all. I chatted to two Chelsea fans – familiar but names unknown – from Lyme Regis and to another fan, a young lad who was on our train from Brussels to Dortmund. Stickers were everywhere. I spent many a minute outside the North Stand, the one where almost four thousand Chelsea fans would be positioned the following evening. I had a quick look inside the club shop. It was impressive. The Borussia font is striking, bold and solid. It works well on many of their product lines. I spent an hour or so at the stadium. It had whetted my appetite for the game in Wednesday. It was now time to wet my whistle in the centre of Dortmund with Parky, PD and a cast of thousands.

I was back in Dortmund city centre at just before 12.30pm and I met up with PD and Parky. We soon bumped into Brian and he told us that he had just left a bar called “Wenker’s Brauhaus” in a square a few hundred yards away. We soon found it, nestled in a quiet corner of Markt Platz, right next to a BVB Fan Shop, and across the way from two other bars that seemed to be mainly serving food.

As I walked into the bar, I spotted a poster on the door that advertised the upcoming game. I photographed it and followed PD and Parky in. I did not come out until ten hours later.

“Once upon a time there was a tavern.

Where we used to raise a glass or two.

Remember how we laughed away the hours.

Think of all the great things we would do.”

We had a ball.

And with a cast that seemed like thousands.

Brian, Pete, Dale, Martin, Noel and Mrs. Noel, Andy, Maureen, Chad and Danny from Minneapolis, Yorkshire Mick, Julie, Burger, Rob, Leigh and Darren, Rob and Paul, Steve, Paul from New Jersey – last seen in Baku – Gareth, Shari and Chris from Australia, Ben and Kyle from Louisiana, Steve, Thomas from Vienna, Dessie.

Chelsea songs boomed out with greater frequency as the day, evening and night progressed. It was honestly lovely to hear “Vialli – Vialli – Vialli – Vialli” sung throughout the night.

Luca will not be forgotten.

We won the ECWC in Stockholm in 1998 with Luca at the helm.

To win another European trophy twenty-five years on would be a fine tribute, but I honestly tried not to think too much about the game on Wednesday.

“Think we might get dicked tomorrow.”

Songs for Tuchel too. This was his town for a while, after all.

At around 11pm we left. The ending is a little vague and I can’t honestly remember if this was the official closing time, if they had run out of beer or if they had decided enough was enough, but out into the streets we poured.

We found a late night café – “Zoros Tacos” – and I voraciously consumed a kebab and fries, with a side order of currywurst. We caught a cab back to our digs. I was adamant that after getting PD and Parky safely up to our apartment I would head over to “Bar Wikinger” for one last tipple. Thankfully, I saw sense and retired to bed.

We were all tucked up before midnight.

How very sensible.

Wednesday 15 February 2023.

I woke with no hangover, not for the first time after a night on the ale in Germany. It was a lazy start to the day, another sunny day, even if slightly cooler than on the Tuesday. Our first priority was to head into the city centre and for Parky and little old me to pick up our match tickets. We headed to the Hauptbanhof, then to the German Football Museum, and said tickets were collected with the minimum of fuss. Here we bumped into a few friends from near and far; Steve-O, Andy, Josh and Anthony from Los Angeles, Andy and Zippy from Trowbridge.

We returned to “Wenker’s Brauhaus” and stayed for another four or five hours. I had decided to stay off the beer this time though; a decision I would not regret. As the day developed, Markt Platz grew busier and busier. There was sulphurous blue smoke from flares and song after song. Paul from Reading bounded in and was happy that after standing equidistant between the three pubs in the little square, he initiated a Chelsea song that took over the whole area. The bar staff were so busy, serving beer after beer.

Duncan had arrived early with his “Weald Of Kent Elite” flag that was draped over the staircase. Ray and Gabi appeared. Fresh faces joined those from the previous day. There was a fine buzz in the bar. Mike from New York arrived, always a pleasure.

Face after face after face.

Alas, there was no lucky last minute ticket for PD, so Parky and I returned him to the digs and then set off again down to the stadium. On the last few miles we got talking to a family of four that were bedecked in the yellow and black of Borussia, but – like us – this was a first-time visit. They were from Brittany in France, and about to help the eldest son realise his dream to stand in the Yellow Wall for the very first time. I said in broken French that Borussia would win 3-0. Others were more confident, but not me.

My old friend Mario, from Italy but now living near Bergisch-Gladbach, has three sons. The eldest, Ruben, is a Borussia fan but was unable to obtain a match ticket. Mario – a childhood Juventus fan – has two season tickets to Bayer Leverkusen which he shares around with his other sons Nelson – on the Leverkusen books – and Valentin. Mario’s mother Hildegard was originally from Oberhausen, a woman of The Ruhr.

We reached a special station – “Stadion” – that was only open on match days and slowly made our way towards the away turnstiles. I noticed that the stadium was served by four stations, all within a ten-minute walk away. Additionally, there were many car parks close to the stadium. Just right.

It was around 7pm. There were two hours to go. I continued my photographic homage to European football nights and to the Westfalenstadion in particular.

We decided to head in. I only had my smaller “pub camera” with me as I certainly did not want to risk my SLR getting confiscated. The steward waved me by. Our £16.50 tickets were scanned. In we went. I found it odd that home and away fans were able to mix on entry and in the wide concourse of the North Stand, so different to home.

It was time to say “hello” to a few folk that we had not yet met on the trip; Alan, Gary, Daryl, Pete, The Youth and Seb, Jonesy, Scott, Luke, the “South Gloucestershire Brotherhood & Sisterhood”, the two Robs plus a few others.

For some reason I was expecting our standing tickets to consist of safe standing. I was rather taken aback when Parky and I climbed the steps of the lower tier terrace to be met with old-style terracing with just an occasional crush barrier thrown in for good measure. We shuffled into a position a third of the way down, in line with the East Stand touch line. It was about 8pm. At the other end, the huge Yellow Wall of the South Stand, already packed to the rafters, looked ridiculously huge. Someone told us that it was packed at 7pm.

There were spasmodic chants from that home end, but nobody else really joined in.

Our terrace filled. I was a little concerned with how steep it all was. Whereas in the move from standing terraces to seated stands in the UK, very often seats were simply bolted onto terraces with a slight rake – and poor sightlines – on this occasion it was the opposite. Steeply-angled stands intended to house seats were now hosting standing areas. The tread of the terrace below me was rather narrow too. I had the feeling that should we score – or go close – we would start toppling over each other. I was a little concerned for Parky and his unstable pins.

But it certainly felt good to be on effectively a free-range terrace, without being hemmed in to one position. I knew that I would be able to shuffle a few feet to my left or right to gain a more advantageous viewing position as moves developed on the pitch. It was odd to see fences in front us though, missing in England since 1989.

At 8.20pm, the PA started to play the triumphal march from Aida and this signalled the start of the pre-match build up proper from the home areas. The noise boomed around the stadium.

Fans were allowed to bring their 2% beers onto the terrace. Our section filled further. We had around 3,800 tickets for this game, maybe split half and half between lower tier standing and upper tier seats. I had heard that many Chelsea were in various parts of the home areas. I think the feeling for many was that this might well turn out to be our last European away for a while, so we were going to show up in numbers and enjoy it.

The team was announced.

Kepa

James – Silva – Koulibaly – Chilwell

Loftus-Cheek – Enzo – Felix

Ziyech – Havertz – Mudryk

No Mason Mount, relegated to the bench. I had to blink to realise that three of these starters were not even Chelsea players a month ago.

The ground swelled and swelled but I managed to spot a few empty seats dotted around.

Next, a rather unpleasant echo from home. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was played on the PA and was met with the home fans singing along, with thousands upon thousands of scarves being held aloft, and this was met with a torrent of abuse from us, not that the home fans heard any of it.

Then the “tifo” display.

Cameras were poised.

Thousands of yellow and black mosaics were held up in the Yellow Wall; impressive enough. At the base of the terrace, a huge banner :

“And jedes Mal war es wert au Deiner Seite zu steh’u. Die Reise wird fur immer Weitergeh’ni.”

Which translates as :

“And every time it was worth standing by your side. The journey will go on forever.”

Then, a vast topographical map of Eurasia and Northern Africa was pulled up the stand by the spectators. Next up, a vertical lift of an image of an unknown supporter with a “Sud Tribune Dortmund” back-pack and baseball cap, pockets holding beers and fire-crackers.

All pretty impressive stuff.

Fackninell.

The teams strode across the pitch, very Stamford Bridge until this season – I wish we still did that – and the anthem.

We all live for nights like this, eh?

What with my reluctance to be bothered with any international football these days, this would be the first time that I would be seeing Jude Bellingham play football. I had to gulp when I saw him go up for the coin toss, a captain at nineteen. Blimey.

I had spotted yellow and black striped shirts in the club shop the day before, but now Borussia were wearing a different shirt. I was struggling to keep up with it all.

There was a solemn moment of silence for those who lost lives in Turkey and Syria.

The game began.

We must have won the toss because Borussia were attacking the Yellow Wall in the first-half.

My eyes were on Bellingham at the start and he immediately impressed with an audacious flick and then a storming run from deep that had Chelsea defenders at sixes and sevens. But we began well, often threatening on the break, with Mykhailo Mudryk involved in a couple of energetic forays down the left. In fact, much of our play in the first-half involved passes into space down our left. There was space to exploit, but much of it was taken up by the colossal bulk of Niklas Sule. On the right, Hakim Ziyech began quietly.

Our counter attacks were a highlight of the early part of the game.

From a Reece James free-kick just outside the penalty box on fifteen minutes, Thiago Silva lept inside the six-yard box and everyone gasped as he connected. I was right in line with the trajectory of the ball as it bounced down and in.

Mayhem.

Beers were thrown wildly without care, bodies sparked into life, arms were thrust in the air, bodies jumped, we were soaked in “Kronen” and we were one-up in front of the Yellow Wall.

Or were we?

No, the goal was cancelled and we knew not why.

Answers on a postcard.

Fackinell.

I liked the look of the energetic Julian Brandt, the number nineteen for Borussia, whose blonde hair and endless running reminded me of our Conor.

Silva snuffed out a Dortmund attack with effortless magnificence. It was an absolute joy to see him glide over to the far side of the penalty box and calmly tidy up.

The home team managed a couple of shots, but could only hit the side netting.

If anything, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was having the better of a great little contest with the boy Bellingham.

I am still concerned about the amount of times I call him “Rubes” though.

The ball was played out to Ziyech in front of us in Section 61 and I was bloody convinced he would waste time by cutting back onto his left foot, but he surprised and shocked me by cutting the ball back with his right foot – his right foot, I tell ya – into the path of the on-rushing Joao Felix but we all groaned as his first-time effort missed the target.

It was the best chance of the game thus far.

“CAM ON CHOWLSEA. CAM ON CHOWLSEA. CAM ON CHOWLSEA. CAM ON CHOWLSEA.”

The dangerous Karim Adeyemi lazily shot over from a well-worked corner, but Chelsea came again. Kai Havertz, running well into space, set up Joao Felix, who advanced neatly but clipped the ball against the bar.

The best two chances of the game to us now.

“COME ON CHELS.”

One last chance before the break saw Marius Wolf’s effort fly wide.

This was a very decent game. We were playing much better than I had ever hoped. Even Kalidou Koulibaly was playing a blinder. There would good vibes at half-time, no doubt.

Off the pitch, the Yellow Wall were in fine voice, but the other three sides of home support were pretty quiet. As I looked around, yellow and black favours were everywhere. They love their scarves in Dortmund, the little darlings.

In contrast, our section was a zone of defiance to shirters and scarfers.

The second-half began and we were treated to a fine strong run from James from deep that resulted in a foul and a free-kick on our right back by Emre Can, who used to be a footballer. From the resulting free-kick – on film – James forced a great save from Gregor Kobel, flinging himself to his left in the Dortmund goal.

A rampaging Adeyemi down their left set up Brandt but Kepa was equal to it, saving low. Soon after, the darting Mudryk set up James whose snatched shot was saved well again by Kobel.

This remained a good game. I was involved with every kick.

On sixty-two minutes, a corner from our right was met full-on with a header from Havertz, but his effort was way off target and Felix headed it back, but Dortmund cleared. From here, the home team broke with the speedy Adeyemi collecting the rugged clearance inside his half. We all feared danger. He teased the last man, Enzo, for what seemed a lifetime, and clipped it past him. I immediately thought that Kepa would get to it, but no. Another touch took the ball past Kepa and the attacker brushed it in from an angle.

Bollocks.

On seventy minutes, two substitutions.

Mason Mount for Mudryk.

Marc Cucarella for Chilwell.

Although we had played well, there were still murmurings of discontent and frustration in our section as we lacked that elusive cutting edge.

Koulibaly capped a decent performance with a barnstorming run up field, and would see a shot cleared off the line by Can, who I wished Couldn’t. Later, a typically finicky run by Havertz into their box ended when he was cleanly tackled. One last chance fell to Enzo, centrally, but his rising shot was well saved again by Kobel.

It ended 0-1, but we all agreed that the tie was absolutely still alive.

The gate was 81,000 and it seemed implausible that it was so huge.

Parky and I quickly moved to the back of the terrace, and were soon out. We joined the end of a short queue at the U-Bahn and were soon heading back into town. We were the sole Chelsea supporters in a carriage full of young Borussia fans. They were making a racket, but were pleasant enough. We shook hands with a couple as we left. We grabbed some late night sustenance at the Hauptbanhof, inadvertently bumped into Foxy for the first time, then caught the U-Bahn back to Hafen. We were back at around 12.30am.

Thursday 16 February 2023.

I was awake before the alarm was planned to sound at 5am. This would be a long old day. We caught the U-Bahn at Hafen at 5.30am and were soon tucking into a coffee and a breakfast roll at the city’s train station. Unlike in 1987, this time it was an inebriated Chelsea fan to seek my assistance at the Hauptbanhof as I directed him onto the next train to Dusseldorf.

Our train left at 6.50am.

“A decent trip but you wouldn’t come back to Dortmund in a hurry would you?”

It was a relaxing three-and-a-half-hour trip to Brussels – the cathedral at Cologne never disappoints – and we then enjoyed a quick meal in a restaurant opposite the Midi train station. In the gents’ toilets, I spotted a “Weald Of Kent Elite” sticker.

Chelsea here, Chelsea there.

We reached St. Pancras at about 2.30pm, and we were back in sleepy Somerset at about 6.30pm.

Another Chelsea European away completed, thoughts now focussed on a much more run-of-the-mill day out at Stamford Bridge for the visit of bottom-placed Southampton.

Saturday 12 February 1983.

This particular tale concludes with a mention of a game from forty-years ago. After three consecutive losses to Derby County – twice – and Wolverhampton Wanderers, we played at Blundell Park against Grimsby Town. Sadly, our fourth loss in a row followed. Kevin Drinkell scored twice for the Mariners with Alan Mayes scoring for us, all goals coming in the first-half. The gate was just 6,711. Things were getting desperate. Whisper it, but relegation was looking a ridiculous possibility.

Who knows, maybe if we had the much-maligned Alan Mayes playing upfront for us in Dortmund in 1983 we might have nabbed a point. Mind you, he’s sixty-nine now.

Onwards.

3 thoughts on “Tales From Section 61

  1. Great story as always Chris, luv reading your stuff, what’s your view on the Potter situation, we re losing patience apart from Pete who sensibly tries to explain away issues !

  2. Pingback: Tales From Section 61 – Chelsea Supporters Club

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