As a third-generation fan of a certain London football team of varying fortunes, I know obsession when I see it. The face-paint and euphoria, the 100 percent sweat-inducing polyester shirts, the itchy scarves: the whole bright-eyed nine-yards of pre-disaster fandom.
The Borussia fans brought it all horribly back on Saturday last. And there were a lot of them. In terms of effort, they’d won before the game even started: carloads of yellow and black cruising up and down Ku’damm, honking, singing and maybe just celebrating a weekend away from life in the fleshpots of industrial toil? Whole swarms of bees on the pavements outside Burberry. Of the boys in red I saw only two: elderly gents in jeans hanging disconsolately around Adenauer Platz.
Traditionally, Ku’Damm is pre-and post-match cruising territory. But this was something else. Why so many? It got me thinking – and as I thought, I realized that Borussia and West Berlin have quite the love-fest going on:
- Basic underdogism: 40 years of post-war outsider-dom has left its mark on West Berlin. We still warm to the spirit of survival in the face of a dominant adversary.
- Economic subsidy. Whilst Munich blathered on about secession, Dortmund and the Ruhr area got recession. Like West Berlin of old (and new: some of those flagship stores on the Ku’damm have about 1.7 customers a day), the whole area relied on massive government support for an ailing product.
- Is related to #2: Attitude issues. Munich has self-satisfaction and bourgeois values. Dortmund’s industrial history and working class mindset (plus the forthright vernacular) is what West Berlin still aspires to in tone – even if its industries went belly up years decades ago.
- Historical peasantry. Okay, so the Hohenzollern kings and emperors passed down Ku’damm on their way to hunting lodges (Grunewald, Potsdam) but the big palace was in Mitte. Like Dortmund’s position in the Prussian Province of Wesphalia, we’re basically just villagers subsisting on the outskirts of a Prussian power centre.
It took me a while to work all this out and by the time I’d got it all sorted, the game was over. But just in case any of you read Exberliner, please know that historically, sociologically and empathetically speaking, you have a friend. Or to put it differently: “Ich bin ein … Dortmunder.”