A trip down memory lane. Back to the year 1995. Two local lads have helped Borussia Dortmund to an historic Bundesliga title – the club's first in 32 years. They have become part of Black & Yellow history. They are Michael Zorc and Lars Ricken.
When Borussia Dortmund won the last German Championship final on 29 June 1963, beating 1. FC Cologne by a 3-1 scoreline, Michael Zorc was approaching his first birthday. By the time the Black & Yellows next won the title 32 years later, he was the club captain and top scorer with 15 goals that season.
When Borussia Dortmund returned to the Bundesliga on 23 June 1976 courtesy of a 3-2 victory in the second leg of their play-off with 1. FC Nuremberg, Lars Ricken hadn't even been born. He only took his first breaths 17 days later. In the title-winning side of 1995, he was the second-youngest player – and the scorer of the final goal.
Both played for TuS Eving-Lindenhorst during their childhood and youth, and both spent their professional careers at the same club. Nobody has made more competitive appearances for Borussia Dortmund than Michael Zorc's 571. Lars Ricken made 407 appearances. Zorc was captain of the Bundesliga-winning teams of 1995 and 1996, while Ricken scored the "Goal of the Century" to seal victory in the 1997 Champions League final against Juventus.
Between them, they have spent 72 years at BVB! Michael Zorc has been responsible for the senior squad since 1998, Lars Ricken for youth football since 2008.
Our interview is scheduled to take place at a meaningful location: the place where the final battle was won back on 17 June 1995. Questions have been prepared, but asking them is hardly necessary. Michael Zorc and Lars Ricken have been a well-rehearsed team for years.
Do you still have any memories of the days leading up to the big season finale?
Ricken: There was a huge sense of euphoria in the city, because everyone presumed that Bayern would beat Bremen or at least get a point.
Zorc: But Bayern had not had a particularly good season. Werder were our rivals. I still have vivid memories of Matchday 33. We were almost dead and buried. Bremen must've been popping champagne corks at half-time, because we were behind in Duisburg.
Ricken: They were practically German champions, as they were ahead against Karlsruhe.
Zorc: But we managed to turn the game around. Stefan Reuter didn't score all that many goals, but the two he got that day were hugely important.
Going into the match against Hamburg, you needed to win by two clear goals so that even if Bremen managed to get a draw in Munich, it wouldn't matter. What was the coach's team talk like before the game? What was the mood like within the team?
Ricken: Ottmar always had this calm way about him and told us that we should focus on our game. We were very confident: if we could win the game by two goals, then we would be German champions. We led 2-0 within a relatively short space of time and Bremen quickly went 1-0 behind in Munich.
Zorc: Andy Möller scored our opening goal with a trick free-kick, a low shot around the wall. And Lars wrong-footed the goalkeeper – Golz, wasn't it? – with a header to make it 2-0. I can still vividly remember the explosive atmosphere in the stadium. In the final quarter of an hour, we simply passed the ball back and forth between ourselves. We'd sworn to ourselves: no more mistakes! Let's get this over the line! And in the stands they were dancing and celebrating. I experienced something similar a good 15 years later, but not as a player. I was the sporting director in 2011, when we first won the Bundesliga with Jürgen Klopp and Nobby was shouting "Mach mich auf, mach mich auf" ("Switch me on, switch me on") after Cologne had scored against Leverkusen.
Ricken: You didn't have social media or smartphones in 1995. Several spectators had radios with them and were listening to the WDR conference. One or two sections in the crowd then exploded into life, and word of a Bayern Munich goal spread through the entire stadium like wildfire. Nowadays, we all know exactly what is happening from one moment to the next. I never again experienced anything quite like that, and there has hardly been a more dramatic moment in this stadium with perhaps the exception of '86 against Fortuna Cologne when we were fighting relegation. The desire of the people to finally see the title return to Dortmund after more than 30 years could be felt during the warm-up and that continued seamlessly after kick-off too.
Zorc: We played the most beautiful football by some distance in the first half of the season. Looking back on it now, I'd almost say the way we played in the 6-1 win in Cologne was out of this world. Incredible attacking football. The same goes for the 4-0 victory in Hamburg. But unfortunately our top strikers suffered serious injuries: Flemming Povlsen very early in the season, then Stéphane Chapuisat and Kalle Riedle. Even though it was very, very close in the end, we really deserved to win that title. It's hard to imagine nowadays that there was such excitement following a Bayern Munich victory (editor's note: said with a wink).
To this day, I still admire Ottmar Hitzfeld's courage
Ricken: And another club that propelled us to the Bundesliga title was Schalke. They had beaten Bremen 4-2 two weeks earlier, which nobody had been expecting. They were very important points that Werder dropped – not only in Munich but away to Schalke too. In fact, that season had so many key moments. The many injuries led to Ibrahim Tanko and myself forming a strike partnership that was christened "Babysturm" (the baby strikeforce).
Zorc: To this day I still admire Ottmar Hitzfeld's courage to play the young lads in attack. They had the speed and were really good technically as well. And Lars was still attending school. That didn't make the whole situation any easier for the coach. He threw the lads on, and they played football in such a carefree way. That did us good.
Ricken: Hitzfeld never used the injuries as an excuse and always emphasised: it's only over when it's over. The way the season panned out, especially the final games, proved that to be true.
Zorc: Ottmar's big strength was that he accepted whatever situation arose and tried to adapt to it as soon as possible. If it rained and the pitch was boggy, he'd say: rain is our weather. If a week later it was bone-dry and the grass was far too long, he'd say: this is our pitch. Ottmar never wanted to use excuses. And he didn't allow the team any excuses either.
Ricken: A short while ago, I had to give an interview about the game of my life. I wanted to do the match against HSV but that wasn't possible because Ottmar Hitzfeld had already taken it for himself. I find that remarkable, because he experienced and achieved a lot in his career.
Michael, you were captain of the team and, at the age of 33, you were in the twilight of your career. Lars was 15 years younger. What was your relationship like? Boss and "apprentice"?
Ricken: I think I enjoyed a good standing with the established players. They could see there was a young lad who could help them with important goals or contributions, and I completely toed the line and respected the hierarchy. That said, I think I did get on Michael's nerves slightly, because I'd sit one row behind him on the team bus and listen loudly to heavy metal music – with headphones, but they didn't contain the sound anywhere near as much as they do today.
Zorc: It was as if I had a radio next to me. Dreadful (laughs).
Ricken: He told me off on several occasions... I'm a Dortmund lad, I used to go to the South Stand myself and watch Michael play. For me, it was a dream to be part of that team and to make a decisive contribution in 1995 to help us become German champions.
Zorc: It was a special situation. I was the oldest in the team, Lars was the youngest along with Ibrahim – and we both came from Dortmund. We covered practically the entire spectrum of ages.
Can Borussia Dortmund be proud that two Dortmund natives are responsible for such important positions?
Zorc: I think it's important that positions of sporting responsibility are occupied by former players who either spent a long time at BVB during their playing careers or – as is the case for us two – are Dortmund born and bred. We have a high degree of identification with the club; we know how the city and the club tick. We stood in the South Stand ourselves as boys and were fans before we became players. That's a unique situation.
Ricken: One of the reasons for our success is that the positions of responsiblity have been occupied by the same people for a very long time: Aki Watzke for more than 15 years; Reinhard Rauball a few months longer; Carsten Cramer has been with us for a very long time too; and we don't even need to talk about Michael. This is a great advantage in difficult times, which we now have with corona. You simply know that these people act in the interest of the club.
Zorc: You don't always need to agree, but you do need to be able to rely on each other. And that's the case.
Has your direct cooperation become even closer and even more important during the corona period? There were five lads from the U23s and U19s on the bench against Hertha.
Ricken: That was definitely down to the difficult personnel situation within the first team set-up on the day. But perhaps it's also a trend for the future that places 18-23 in the senior squad could be occupied by those players.
Zorc: We always try to do so, and ideally with youngsters from our own set-up. I have a soft spot for having many young players in the squad who have exceptional potential and are blessed with talent. Sometimes we do get them from elsewhere, but even in that case I prefer that they then spend a certain amount of time within our youth set-up, where they can learn about the identity of the club, how to interact with one another and what our values are. We will integrate Youssoufa Moukoko into the senior set-up in the coming months, and Nnamdi Collins will join him in the foreseeable future too. That's already in the works.
Interview: Boris Rupert
Year of 1962 / At Borussia since 1978
Honours as a player: German champion in 1995 and 1996, DFB Cup winner in 1989, Champions League winner in 1997, Club World Cup winner in 1997
Honours as an official: German champion in 2002, 2011 and 2012, DFB Cup winner in 2012 and 2017
Year of 1976 / At Borussia since 1990
Honours as a player: German champion in 1995, 1996 and 2002, Champions League winner in 1997, Club World Cup winner in 1997
Honours as an official: German A-Youth champion in 2016, 2017 and 2019, German B-Youth champion in 2014, 2015 and 2018