Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Borussia Dortmund won the Champions League in 1997.
Borussia Dortmund won the Champions League in 1997.

Borussia Dortmund can recreate the magic of 1997 at Wembley

Dortmund could inflict more final hurt on Bayern Munich tonight, writes Ian Hawkey.

How good were Juventus in the mid-to-late-1990s? Daunting. Rather like Bayern Munich over the last four years, they had strung together a sequence of repeat appearances in the Uefa Champions League final.

The 1997 edition, in Munich, would be the second of three on the trot for the Italian club. They arrived there as title-holders.

"We looked at that Juventus as an All-Star team," remembers Michael Zorc, now general manager of Borussia Dortmund and a senior player with the last and only previous Dortmund side to appear in club football's most important final.

"They had big names like [Didier] Deschamps and [Zinedine] Zidane, and Christian Vieri up front. The weekend before, they had just won Serie A."

Dortmund, meanwhile, had just conceded the Bundesliga, their property since May 1995.

"In the lead-up to the final," remembers Ottmar Hitzfeld, the Dortmund head coach of the time, "the media was full of negative stories, going on about the fact we had lost matches against Duisburg and Bielefeld rather than about our wins against Auxerre and Manchester United."

Indeed, Dortmund's progress in Europe had been as impressive as their spring form domestically had seemed erratic.

They defeated Auxerre 4-1 in the quarter-finals and imposed two 1-0 defeats, home and away, on United, in the semis.

The United ties, in particular, gripped a 29-year-old central defender, watching on his television in Mainz, where he played in Germany's second division.

He was absorbed especially by the duel between United's most charismatic footballer and celebrated Germany and Dortmund centre-back, Jurgen Kohler. The studious watcher? His name was Jurgen Klopp.

"I followed that whole Dortmund season really closely," says Klopp, now head coach of Dortmund. "Kohler versus Eric Cantona was a fantastic contest.

"Come the final, we all saw Juventus as the best. And they had Zidane. Before the game, Dortmund were given very little chance."

Hitzfeld, though, had prepared an ambush. From a cross by his hard-working Scottish midfielder, Paul Lambert, Karl-Heinz Riedle put Dortmund in front. When Riedle added a second, Juventus trooped into half-time stunned.

Across the Ruhrgebiet, an industrial region of concentrated football passions and rivalries, belief grew in an unexpected German triumph.

"That cup win was big for everyone around where I grew up," says the current Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

His memory may be blurry and little rose-tinted, given he was only six at the time, but he reckons even in Gelsenkirchen, his hometown and the nest of Schalke, Dortmund's fiercest local rivals, a Champions League victory softened neighbourhood enmities. He believes it still can tonight.

"I have had Schalke fans coming up to me and saying they hope we win at Wembley," smiles Gundogan.

In 1997, Dortmund triumphed 3-1. Alessandro del Piero, a Juventus substitute pulled a goal back and a Dortmund sub, Lars Ricken scored the Yellow and Black's third from long-range.

Ricken's was a fairy-tale contribution. Born in Dortmund, 20 years old at the time, he had been on the pitch for 16 seconds.

Ricken was very much the kid of that squad, Zorc points out. Riedle, Kohler, Andreas Moller and Stefan Reuter had won the World Cup with West Germany seven years earlier.

"To be honest, there are not a lot of parallels between then and now, because 1997 was the end of an era for that team," says Zorc.

"For this current, young side, the final should be the beginning of something." Klopp will not be shy of using, as a carrot, footage and anecdotes from Dortmund's other Champions League final.

"It is an inspiration and because of that, the Munich final will play a role in our preparations," he says. "Everything that gives us a positive feeling is helpful.

"Juventus were the best team at that time. Bayern Munich are one of the best teams, maybe the best team in the world at this moment. We are the challenger.

"If we win, we will not be best team in the world but we will have beaten the best."

And if that happens, Bayern, three times losing finalists in the 16 years since Dortmund's glory against Juve, will feel this prize really, eerily does have something against them.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 The seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament was kicking off at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday with plenty of excitement in store. Ravindranath K / The National

In pictures: IPL 7 kicks off in Abu Dhabi

The first match in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, was held at Zayed Cricket Stadium amid plenty of colour.

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike qualifies Al Jazira for last 16 of Asian Champions League

A dramatic late goal gave Al Jazira a 3-2 victory at Al Rayyan of Qatar in the Asian Champions League (ACL) on Wednesday night and it was just enough to push Walter Zenga’s side into the knockout stages.

 Zayed Cricket Stadium had not witnessed so electrcic an atmosphere before Wednesday evening. Pawan Singh / The National

Packed house gathers in Abu Dhabi for Indian Premier League opener

In less than half a day, Zayed Cricket Stadium witnessed the force that is Indian cricket, with the sound drowning out the controversies that have dogged the Twenty20 tournament, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks down after being defeated during the Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on April 16, 2014 in Valencia, Spain. David Ramos/Getty Images

Plenty of life still in Barcelona, says Gerardo Martino

Barcelona coach maintained his side can still return to their former glories after they were beaten 2-1 by a Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

 Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton, left, and Nico Rosberg at the official press conference following qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

F1: Toto Wolff says Mercedes have all the right ingredients in place

With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the wheel, Mercedes have so far dominated the first three grands prix going into this weekend’s fourth round in China.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, left, reacts as Manchester City's manager Manuel Pellegrini looks on during their English Premier League football match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on April 16, 2014. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. AFP PHOTO/Andrew YATES

Poyet says ‘I am sure that Luis Suarez is going to be happy’ after Sunderland draw at Manchester City

Sunderland’s survival chances remain slim because now they face Chelsea away at the weekend but manager Gus Poyet insists they are not trying to benefit Liverpool or his fellow Uruguayan, Luis Suarez.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National