As big as the color contrast between the jerseys of Ajax and Borussia Dortmund (yellow – black), the similarities between the two clubs are just as great. Ajax’s upcoming opponent in the UEFA Champions League has won the national championship in the past two years in a field of great teams. Borussia Dortmund is – just like Ajax – a club where (preferably young and fierce) talent gets a chance.
Ajax and Ballspiel-Verein Borussia Dortmund, born in 1900 and 1909 respectively, are among the oldest clubs in European football. Moreover, both teams play in beautiful temples of football – the Amsterdam ArenA, and the Signal I duna Pak, still called Westfalenstadion by the broader public. The former Westfalenstadion was built for the 1974 World Cup and, during the tournament it was where the Dutch team played three matches. Brazil, Bulgaria and Sweden were the opponents of the Dutch team, which was a true total football playing football machine under head coach Rinus Michels. The Dutch team reached the finals in that tournament, only to lose to their host, West Germany.
Ajax has played before in the stadium which houses eighty thousand spectators. During the 1995-1996 season, Borussia Dortmund was Ajax’s opponent in the Champions League quarter finals. On March 6, 1996, Ajax posted a clever, beautiful 2-0 win in Dortmund. Edgar Davids opened the score in the eighth minute. The fact that he was playing at all that night was surprising; during the last practice, Davids had twisted his ankle. Louis van Gaal remained hopeful and even expressed it out loud: “I have a feeling that something great will happen against Dortmund”, the star coach said before the start of the game. On a pass from Davids – who played with number 4 that evening, as a central defender – Patrick Kluivert scored the last goal in the final minutes 0-2. Two weeks later, Ajax finished the job in the Olympic Stadium. The only goal of the night was scored by Kiki Musampa. Ajax advanced to the UEFA Champions league semi-finals.
The club from Noordrijn-Westfalen may have been eliminated, but was on the eve of a period of true glory. In the second half of the nineties, the club achieved the two highlights of the club’s history. In 1997, Borussia Dortmund won the Champions League by defeating Juventus: 3-1. As a nice addition, they also won the club world cup. The win of the most important Europacup trumped the victory against Liverpool FC, who had relinquished the Europa Cup II to BVB in 1966. Borussia Dortmund was the first German club to ever win a European Cup. In 2002, Borussia Dortmund faced Feyenoord in Rotterdam in the UEFA Cup final. Thanks mostly to Pierre van Hooijdonk’s free kicks, the UEFA Cup went into the Rotterdam team’s trophy display case.
The athletic parallels and similarities between Ajax and Borussia Dortmund are clear when you compare both clubs’ football philosophies. Seven years ago, the North German club was in danger. Around 2005, Borussia Dortmund faced degradation, also due to a massive debt. The club was nursing a debt of 120 million euro.
This curse also turned out to be a blessing. With a focused policy, this debt has been erased in the past few years. Current coach Jürgen Klopp has played a prominent role in the athletic rehabilitation of the club. Klopp has been at the helm since 2008. Just like Frank de Boer, the coach gives young talents a chance and demands passion and tactical discipline of his players. In addition to play maker Mario Götze and experienced captain Sebastian Kehl, fellow internationals like Kevin Grosskreutz (left winger) and central defender Mats Hummels give the team character. Hummers is being touted as the best central defender in the Bundesliga, the German version of our Eredivisie. Thanks in part to the appealing playing style of the Borussian team, German talent Marco Reus also chose to join BVB.
Show of power and revenge
After 2011, Borussia Dortmund also won the 2012 title with a show of power. Their 9 point lead on their main competitor Bayern München can only be described as colossal. Since Klopp’s arrival, the Dortmund team has enjoyed its status as Germany’s most appealing team at the highest level. In that respect, Borussia Dortmund is the Ajax of the Bundesliga.
Just as fellow pool mates Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund is determined to be outstanding in the Champions League. “This group is a great story”, coach Klopp describes the group in which Borussia Dortmund finds itself. “The anticipation is big, and the excitement, too. This is a great group.” The German champion will want to prove itself in the Champions League and take its revenge for a disappointing 2011-2012 performance. Dortmund has proven to be anything but infallible last season in European play. In a pool with Arsenal, Olympique Marseille and Olympiakos Piraeus, BVB ended a disappointing last.